Apolo Anton Ohno Biography

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Birth Name: Apolo Anton Ohno
Born: 05/22/1982
Birth Place: Seattle, Washington, USA

Apolo Anton Ohno was born on May 22, 1982 in Seattle, WA to a Japanese father and Caucasian mother. Ohno's parents divorced when he was just an infant, which left his father, Yuki, to raise the future Olympian. Apolo's unique name, which was given to him by his father, was derived from the Greek words "ap" ("steering away from") and "lo" ("look out"). Because of Yuki's hectic work schedule as a hair stylist and salon owner, he was very cautious about Ohno turning into a latchkey kid and signed him up for various extracurricular activities like competitive swimming and inline skating. Growing up, Ohno looked up to athletes like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and Lance Armstrong for inspiration. Ohno won the Washington state swimming championship in breaststroke at 12, but soon realized his passion for skating was much greater. He became interested in short track speedskating and quickly mastered the sport. In 1996, Ohno became the youngest skater admitted to the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center in New York, where he trained with U.S. national speedskating coach Pat Wentland. At just 14 years old, Ohno became the youngest athlete to win the U.S. Senior Championships overall title in short-track speedskating.

After relocating to Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center in Colorado, then 14-year-old Ohno found himself skating alongside senior level skaters. He trained for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, but placing last in the Olympic Trials prevented him from joining the U.S. team. He bounced back the following year at the 1999 Junior Championships with first place wins in the 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter races. Ohno made the U.S. Olympic team in time for the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City and was the favorite to take home multiple gold medals in speedskating. The athlete won gold in the 1,500-meter event after Korean skater Kim-Dong Sung was disqualified for blocking Ohno during the race. Ohno himself was disqualified in the 500-meter race for clashing with a Japanese skater. One of the Salt Lake City Games' tensest moments came during the 1,000-meter race when four skaters, including Ohno, fell in a series of collisions during the final turn of the race. Australian Steven Bradbury won the gold, but Ohno got to his feet and crossed the finish line in time to claim the silver medal. Following the Games, he reportedly received death threats from South Korea, who considered him an "enemy of the state," because of Sung's disqualification and Ohno's subsequent win in the 1,500-meter race. Ohno declined to compete in a 2003 short track event in Seoul, Korea for security reasons. It was quite a different experience for him back in the States, where Ohno became a poster boy for the Olympic Games, which included lucrative endorsement deals with Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and General Electric.

Ohno returned to the Olympic arena in 2006 for the Winter Games held in Turin, Italy. The returning medalist was once again the favorite to dominate in the men's speedskating events. After failing to defend his 2002 gold medal in the 1,500-meter race, Ohno claimed bronze in the 1,000-meter and men's 5,000-meter relay. He capped off the 2006 Olympics with one gold, finishing first in the 500-meter event. Despite rumors he moved before the race started, Olympic officials confirmed that Ohno did not violate any rules and deserved his gold medal. The following year, Ohno showcased his competitive side in a different format - ballroom dancing. As a contestant on the fourth season of ABC's hit reality series "Dancing with the Stars," he was partnered with professional dancer Julianne Hough and competed against former model Paulina Porizkova, singer Billy Ray Cyrus, and former teen idol Joey Fatone, among others. Ohno and Hough received the season's first perfect score of 30 from the judges for their samba routine. The couple ultimately beat Fatone and his dance partner during the finals for the coveted "Dancing with the Stars" mirror-ball trophy. Even while competing on "DWTS," Ohno continued to train in speedskating in preparation for the 2008 World Championships, where he placed first in the 500-meter race, and winning the national title in 2009. Ohno returned for his third Olympic Winter Games in 2010, winning two silver medals in the 1,500-meter and 1,000-meter races. Ohno's performance at the 2010 Olympics held in Vancouver, B.C., broke the record for most medals won by a U.S. Winter Olympian.