Ahn clapped as he crossed the finish line after leading Russia to Olympic gold in the 5,000-meter relay. His countrymen applauded right back, cheering the speedy skater who delivered the nation’s first medals in short track.
“This will be the best Olympics in my life,” he said in Korean. “I will never forget it.”
“I’m so happy to be able to smile in the end with my teammates,” he said.
His former teammates weren’t nearly as happy. The South Korean men’s team left Sochi without a single medal.
Ahn won two golds on Friday’s final night of short track to tie retired star Apolo Anton Ohno for the most career Olympic medals in the rough and tumble sport with eight. Ahn won four golds at the 2006 Turin Games, and added a bronze and three golds in Sochi.
“He just shows he is the best guy in the world, definitely here,” Ohno said. “He’s got eight medals, six gold. Perhaps the best ever to put short track speed skates on. Yeah, I would say so.”
The 28-year-old Seoul-born skater switched nationalities in 2011 after competing for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-soo in Turin. A career-threatening knee injury in 2008 and multiple surgeries kept him from producing results for his skating club and he didn’t have enough time to qualify for the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Ahn’s team soon disbanded and other teams were already full, leaving him at a loose ends
“I was feeling bad and sad,” he said. “My goal was to participate in another Olympics.”
“I made a decision and I have no regret,” he said. “I would like to thank Russia.”