Why Ohno's the top banana in a bandana

By Sonia Oxley

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Apolo Anton Ohno still has the bandana and goatee he wore when he won his first Olympic gold in 2002 but his weight, technique and equipment have all changed as he has kept up with the times where his rivals have failed.

The 27-year-old American is enjoying watching his former opponents coaching his new ones on how to beat him as he prepares for his third Games where he can become his country's most decorated winter Olympian with two more medals.

"There are always constant changes going on every year and I've been lucky enough to be able to deal with that -- change myself physically, mentally, my technique, equipment-wise, hopefully toward being a better skater," he told reporters on Tuesday.

He said he was not thinking about the American record but nevertheless was better prepared than ever to add to his five medals from two previous Games and beat speed skater Bonnie Blair's tally of six.

"I've never come to any Olympic Games in this type of shape in my life," Ohno, who will race in all four men's events in Vancouver, told reporters on Tuesday.

'FEEL GREAT'

"Physical training, mental training, putting in preparations in terms of watching videos. I feel great, confident in my abilities."

He said he had already achieved all his goals in the sport and was motivated by a love for the sport rather than records.

"I have a sense of calm, I feel very good with where I'm at. I'm doing this sport purely because I still love it, because I feel like I still have a talent and I am still able to reach out and motivate some other people out there," he said, his bandana on the table in front of him.

"My goals are a little bit different than what the media like to portray. Obviously I'm a competitor, I want to do well, I want to podium, I want to win races but this being my third Olympics I'm very happy with my performances to this point."

As a participant in one of the most bizarre Olympic races -- the 1,000-meter final in the 2002 Games where Australian Steven Bradbury won gold after everyone in front of him crashed -- Ohno knows medals are far from guaranteed in Vancouver.

"Our sport is so unforgiving," he said.

"You can train for years for a 40-second race, you have one slip and you go from first to last, it makes it very bittersweet but it also teaches you life lessons that are kind of real."

(Editing by Jon Bramley)