Viktor Ahn has just won four medals at the Sochi Olympics skating for Russia—three golds and a bronze. This amazing performance matches the four medals he won in Turin, when he skated for South Korea under his former name: Ahn Hyun-soo. He is tied with Apolo Anton Ono with eight short-track medals and Ahn is by far the most dominant short-track skater now on ice. Anton calls him “Perhaps the best ever to put short track speed skates on. Yeah, I would say so.”
Ahn’s story is dramatic and inspiring because a career-threatening knee injury in 2008 and multiple surgeries prevented him from qualifying for Vancouver Game in 2010. His former South Korean short-track skating club had disbanded, and other South Korean clubs didn’t make room for him. So he made moved to Russia, where he was welcomed with open arms. (Russia didn’t have a successful short-track program and they hoped Ahn could help them improve.)
But to compete for Russia Ahn needed to become a Russian citizen. And to do that he had to renounce his South Korean citizenship. In the process of becoming a Russian citizen Ahn chose a Russian name, Viktor. He chose it because the name means “victor,” “conqueror,” “winner”—which is precisely what he wanted to be both for himself and his new country.
Every time Ahn won another medal, the mostly Russian audience Sochi chanted “Viktor, Viktor, Viktor” as he took a victory lap with the Russian flag draped over his shoulders. His former teammates on the South Korean short-track team weren’t quite so happy. They’d been shut out in Sochi–without winning single short-track medal.
Ahn’s single-minded pursuit of victory for himself and his new country included the unusual step of becoming a Russian citizen and adopting a new Russian name that meant “victor.” And that’s why Viktor is the biggest “name story” of the Sochi Olympics. For some exciting photos of Ahn, click on this link to NBCOlympics.com.