At the top
Three-time Olympian Apolo Ohno has been the top short-track skater in the United States since 2001, when he became the first American to win the overall World Cup for the 2000-01 season. Ohno since has won the overall title twice more, in 2003 and 2005. He also has won eight Olympic medals, including two gold, breaking speed skater Bonnie Blair's record for the most career winter medals by a U.S. Winter Olympian. Ohno has at least one medal in each of the Olympic distances: gold in the 500m; silver and two bronzes in the 1000m; gold and silver in the 1500m; and bronze in the 5000m relay. Ohno has won every national title since 2001, earning his 10th consecutive win in September 2009, and has 12 overall national titles.
Third time around
Ohno again qualified to skate all three individual events in Vancouver, by winning each at Olympic trials and defending his national title. Ohno also will skate on the 5000m relay, giving him four chances at a medal. "It feels really good," Ohno said of qualifying for his third Olympic team. "We have a very, very strong team." In Vancouver, Ohno will be competing about three hours from his hometown of Seattle.
Short track beginnings
Ohno became interested in short track at age 12 while watching the 1994 Lillehammer Games. Despite his late start, it took Ohno only two years to become the best short-track skater in the United States. At 14, after training under Pat Wetland in Lake Placid for just six months, Ohno claimed his first overall title at the U.S. Championships, becoming the youngest national champion ever. Ohno's success made him a likely candidate to make the 1998 U.S. Olympic Team, but he struggled with his fitness after leaving the Lake Placid training center and finished 16th at the Olympic Trials.
After failing to make the 1998 Olympic team, Ohno, 15, had to decide whether to continue skating. Ohno's father feared he would make a rash decision after the disappointment at Olympic Trials and brought his son to a secluded cottage three hours northwest of Seattle. With no distractions from TV or telephone, Ohno passed the time by taking long runs. It was during one of his runs, when he stopped and sat on a rock in the pouring rain, that he realized he wanted to continue skating.
Ohno's unique first name was given to him by his father, who combined the Greek words "Ap," meaning "steering away from," and "lo," meaning "look out, here he comes." Yuki says his son's middle name, "Anton," means priceless. Ohno also goes by "Chunkie," a holdover from his youth, when he was one of the stockier members of his roller skating team.
Ohno became a mainstream celebrity by winning season four of the hugely popular show "Dancing with the Stars" in 2007. Ohno is one of several athletes to win the title, including former Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, NFL player Emmitt Smith and auto racer Helio Castroneves. Ohno and partner Julianne Hough beat celebs Joey Fatone and Laila Ali in the final round. In the final, Ohno and Hough received perfect 10s from all three judges on two of their dances and earned a 28 on the third dance. Ohno also appeared on Bravo's Project Runway as a guest judge in an episode that aired the week before the Beijing Olympics in August 2008. The challenge was to design an outfit for the U.S. Olympic team to wear at the Opening Ceremony in Beijing.
Ohno was raised by his father, Yuki Ohno, who owns a Seattle hair salon called Yuki's diffusion. Yuki was the driving force behind Apolo's skating career, driving him to competitions and encouraging him to push himself. Yuki also persuaded his then-14-year-old son to move to Lake Placid in 1996 to train under Pat Wentland. Apolo was initially not pleased about the move and skipped his flight to New York after Yuki dropped him off at the airport. Apolo had called friends to pick him up, and he remained with them for a week, until Yuki was able to talk him into it. Yuki then accompanied Apolo on the flight to Lake Placid and personally dropped him off with Wentland.
As the pilot for the USA-1 bobsled, I broke a 62-year gold medal drought when my sled, the 'Night Train" won the Olympic title at the 2010 Vancouver Games. A degenerative eye condition nearly caused me to quit my sport in 2008, but corrective surgery restored my vision to 20-20.