American Apollo Ohno Speed Skates Into Olympic History


By Ryan Sprouls, Web Team Intern & Alexander Haimann, Collections Specialist, Smithsonian National Postal Museum

29-cent Olympic Speed Skating stamp
© United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.

As the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver draw to a close, the international community has the opportunity to reflect upon all the exciting events that have kept the world on the edge of its seat – American Evan Lysacek edged Russian veteran Yevgeny Plushenko for gold in men’s figure skating, Canadian Alexandre Bilodeau won men’s moguls freestyle skiing to give the host country its first gold, and Switzerland’s Simon Ammann dominated the large hill ski jump to win the first gold medal at the Games and the fourth in his career. Yet perhaps the most dramatic conclusion to any event this past week, especially for the United States, was in a winter sport that is quickly gaining more and more attention – Speed Skating.

Don't Forget To Check Out A New NPM Online Exhibit: Playing To Win—American Sports & Athletes On Stamps

Speed Skating's Origins

Speed skating traces its routes back to 1642 when the first official skating club, The Skating Club of Edinburgh, was founded on iron-bladed skates. Then, in 1763, the National Ice Skating Association organized the first official speed skating race on the Fens in England until finally, in 1889, the Netherlands organized the first world speed skating championships under the International Skating Union. A new winter sport phenomenon was born.

15-cent Olympic Speed Skating stamp
© United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.

Speed Skating At The 2010 Vancouver Games

This past Saturday, a new chapter in speed skating and American Winter Olympics history was written at the finals for short track speed skating in which American favorite Apolo Ohno grabbed bronze, leaving Koreans Lee Ho-Suk and Lee Jung-Su to earn silver and gold, respectively. This was a special occasion for Seattle native Ohno, who also took the silver in the 1500m, again, behind Lee Jung-Su, because following this race he became the most decorated US Winter Olympian of all time at seven medals (two gold, two silver, and three bronze). This broke a tie with former Olympian Bonnie Blair who had accumulated six medals (five gold and one bronze) in speed skating in the 1980s-90s.

In the final race, comprised of five Olympians, Ohno struggled a bit – he started out near the back early in the nine-lap race, moved up to second, but stumbled on a turn to put him in last place with three laps to go. In an extraordinary burst of energy, Ohno boosted past Canadian brothers Charles and Francois Hamelin to take the bronze.