By Julian Linden
SOCHI, Russia, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Viktor Ahn won two gold medals in less than an hour at the Sochi Games on Friday, triggering wild celebrations in his adopted country Russia and more agony for his native South Korea.
Ahn confirmed his place among the greatest Winter Olympians of all time when he won the 500 metres individual event then returned to the ice about 45 minutes later and helped Russia win the 5,000m relay.
Ahn also won gold in the 1,000m six days ago and now has six Olympic gold medals in total - more than any speed skater either in short track or the more traditional long course.
“This has been the best experience of my sporting career and I will never forget Sochi,” Ahn told reporters.
“Before the competitions started, I just wanted to concentrate on doing my best and show what I could be on the Olympic stage.”
The only Winter Olympians to have won more gold than Ahn are the Norwegian pair of biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and cross country skier Bjoern Daehlie.
But Ahn’s achievements are unique because he did it with two different countries. He won his first three golds for South Korea at the 2006 Turin Olympics competing as Ahn Hyun-soo.
Ahn fell out with skating officials in his homeland after he was not selected for the 2010 Vancouver Games and switched his allegiance to Russia, changing his name after being granted citizenship.
His amazing performances in Sochi have infuriated people in his Asian homeland, the sport’s traditional powerhouse. While Ahn collected three golds himself, South Korea’s men did not win a single medal in any of the short track events.
South Korea President Park Geun-hye has already ordered a government investigation into how one of the country’s top athletes ended up competing for a rival nation.
“Everyone has a different point of view,” Ahn said.
“I will accept it but for me to be able to come here and achieve my goals and be with my team, that is the most meaningful thing and the rest doesn’t matter.”
Ahn set a host of records in Sochi.
The 28-year-old won a medal in each of the four men’s events, which had never been done before, and lifted his career medal tally to eight, matching the sport’s record held by retired American Apolo Ohno who is in Sochi working as a television commentator.
“He has got eight medals, six gold, perhaps the best ever to put short track speed skates on,” Ohno said.
“To think that Russia was going to be a gold medal favourite going into these Olympics was a long shot. If you had asked me that four years ago people would have laughed. But nobody is laughing now.”
Wu Dajing of China won the silver medal in the 500m dash while the bronze went to Charle Cournoyer of Canada, after Chinese world champion Liang Wenhao fell in the four-man final.
In the relay, Ahn teamed up with Semen Elistratov, Vladimir Grigorev and Rusian Zakharov to win the chaotic 45-lap team event.
The United States finished second to claim their only medal in either short track or traditional long track speed skating at the Sochi Olympics.
“It’s so rewarding to be here with the medal and not empty-handed,” American skater J.R. Celski said.
“It’s awesome. It’s not gold but at the same time we worked hard to get to this moment and I am really happy and proud of these guys.”
Park Seung-hi finally gave South Korea something to celebrate after a miserable 24 hours in Sochi when she won the women’s 1,000m.
Competing at the same rink where Kim Yuna was beaten in the women’s figure skating event the previous night, Park won her second gold medal of the Games with a superbly-judged race.
The 21-year-old made a lightning-fast start and although she briefly lost the lead to her 17-year-old team mate Shim Suk-hee, Park regained it with five laps to go and held on to win.
Fan Kexin of China passed Shim on the last lap to win the silver medal while Shim held on for the bronze in the four-woman final at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
“I am in really good shape, but there is no secret - I just worked really hard,” said Park.
”I am also an experienced athlete, which helped me a lot. I was slightly injured during the 500m race.
“I was hit, but I could recover fast thanks to the training and the experience and I showed good results today.”
While South Korea’s men failed to win a medal in short track at Sochi, the Asian country’s talented women’s team racked up five medals, with Park involved in three of them.
The bronze went to China, whose team recovered from a fall on the first bend to edge the Netherlands for the last spot on the podium.
Fan Kexin of China won the silver medal behind Park in the women’s 1,000m final while the bronze went to Shim Suk-hee, who teamed up with Park to win the women’s 3,000m relay on Tuesday.
Britain’s Elise Christie did not win a medal but completed a rare hat-trick when she was disqualified in the semi-finals for her part in a fall after she was earlier eliminated from the 500m and 1500m after running foul of officials.
“They said that I pushed her over,” Christie told reporters. “I will always accept the referee’s position but I don’t agree with it... I can’t believe it’s happened again.” (Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris)