Sun, Nov 23, 2003 - Page 23 News List

American speedskater gets death threat

AP , COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO

Apolo Anton Ohno competes in the ISU World Cup in Calgary, on Oct. 18.

PHOTO: AP

The US short-track speedskating team pulled out of next week's World Cup event in South Korea after team member Apolo Anton Ohno received death threats via e-mail.

"There was substantial security concerns surrounding Apolo and the majority of the other athletes did not feel safe in competing at the event," US Speedskating executive director Katie Marquard said Friday.

Ohno won two medals at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, including a disputed gold over South Korea's Kim Dong-sung. Kim won the race, but Ohno was declared the winner when the referee ruled that Kim had used an illegal block to stay in front.

The Korean Skating Federation proposed a security plan after learning of the threats, but Ohno said he would only make the trip if those making the threats were caught.

The event is scheduled for Nov. 28 through Nov. 30 in Jeonju, South Korea.

"It has become obvious to myself and those that I trust, that my security cannot be guaranteed," Ohno said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that a few people feel the need to make death threats against me. I am an athlete, not a politician."

It was unclear how many threats Ohno had received or how long he had been getting them.

Ohno gained international fame at the Salt Lake Games with his fuzzy soul patch, flowing mane of hair and aggressive style. Short-track speedskating was one of the more popular events at the games and Ohno became the face of his sport.

He won gold in the 1,500m, but became known more for his gutsy silver in the 1,000m.

Ohno was leading that race when a crash sent him and four other skaters into the wall on the final turn. Despite a gash in his thigh that would require six stitches, Ohno crawled across the line to finish second.

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