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When it's good to have Channel 805

October 19, 2008 |  5:11 pm

Ohno_500

Since we've chosen to stick with our local cable outfit (Cox) for our digital television, there's no picking and choosing our NFL TV games at this house. I would have liked to have seen how it was remotely possible for the Chicago Bears (my lifetime team, Monsters of the Midway always) to score 48 points. In a single game. Watching the Bears struggle for the last few years while not really having a quarterback has led to a fantasy hope that the Cincinnati Bengals would give the Bears Carson Palmer. You know, because Palmer is a really good guy who deserves more than the losing, always-give-up culture that is Bengals ownership.

But otherwise I wasn't much interested in watching the NFL today when it occurred to me to check out the Universal Sports channel (805 in our area). And there it was -- live short-track speedskating from the former Olympic venue outside of Salt Lake City. It was a World Cup event.

The sport fascinates me. It is a contact sport but there is grace and rhythm to the laps, danger with the sharp blades and lots of strategy. Plus, there is Apolo Anton Ohno, who is beginning his serious training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Ohno had crashed out of his Saturday race. I tuned in Sunday in time to see him win his 1500-meter heat, which he won with a neat passing move with about four laps to go. But in the finals Ohno ended up third. He was blocked out of taking the lead from the outside, then from the inside by some well-conceived and purposeful defense by Lee Jung-su and Lee Ho-suk, a pair of Koreans who finished first and second in the finals.

Ohno had earned significant enmity from Korean skaters and fans at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Korea's Kim Dong-Sung crossed the finish line first but was disqualified for making an illegal blocking move on Ohno. The disqualification put Ohno into the gold-medal spot. The United States Olympic Committee received more than 16,000 angry emails (even some death threats) over a decision it had no say about.

It's still a long time until Vancouver and Ohno is just starting to put aside his outside life where he is something of a cult hero and even a Dancing With the Stars winner (the main picture on Ohno's website is of him and partner Julianne Hough holding the disco ball that goes to the winning team).

Anyway, after Ohno's second move was cut off in the final two laps of the 1,500-meter final Sunday, the 26-year-old Ohno pulled back and accepted the bronze. Ohno was smiling at the end. The Korean winners didn't see that, though. They were in front of Ohno congratulating themselves.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: American Apolo Anton Ohno trails Koreans Lee Jung-su, left, and Lee Ho-suk during the finals of the men's 1,500 meters at the short-track speedskating championships in Salt Lake City on Sunday. Credit: Douglas C. Pizac / Associated Press

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