When Apolo Ohno won the silver medal in the men’s 1500 meter finals Saturday night, he vaulted himself into the conversation of the greatest American Winter Olympic athlete of all-time; a conversation long dominated by the names of fellow speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden.
The debate between Blair and Heiden is an interesting. Blair is remembered for her longevity. She appeared in four Olympic Games between 1984 and 1994 and won gold in the 500 meters three times in a row.
Heiden is best known for his pure dominance. In his only Olympic appearance at the Lake Placid games in 1980, Heiden won all five of the men’s speed skating events. Heiden’s achievement has never been matched, and with the evolution of the sport, probably never will be.
So, how does Ohno measure up to Blair and Heiden?
Ohno’s 1500 meter silver gave him a sixth career Olympic medal and pulled him into a tie with Blair for the most all-time by an American athlete. Ohno was able to match Blair’s record just one race into his third Olympic Games.
With three more races ahead of him at the Vancouver games, Ohno is a virtual lock to leave the 2010 games as the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete ever.
Furthermore, at only 27-years old, it’s very likely that we will see Ohno again at the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.
It’s easy to argue that when it’s all said and done Ohno might have eight, nine, ten, or perhaps more Olympic medals in his trophy case.
Ohno has never dominated the sport for a moment in time like Heiden did in 1980. However, becoming the all-time American leader in medals won during the course of four Olympic Games is a display of both dominance and longevity.
Both Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden revolutionized the sport of speed skating, and helped introduce the sport and the Winter Olympics as a whole to the American public. They accomplished greatness and will always be remembered amongst the greatest American Olympic athletes.
However, after he decides to hang up the skates, and we take a look back on the Olympic career of Apolo Ohno, it will be clear that he is the greatest American Winter Olympic athlete of all time.