Star on Ice

TFK talks to Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno

Dec 13, 2010 | By TFK Kid Reporter Gabe Roy

Imagine trying to prepare mentally for a 40-second race that could change your life. Apolo Anton Ohno deals with this all the time. Ohno is a world-famous speed skater. With eight medals, he holds the record for a U.S. Winter Olympian. Most recently, Apolo competed in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, where he won a silver medal and two bronze in short track speed skating. Ohno has also participated in the 2002 and 2006 Olympics, where he took home gold, silver and bronze medals. He is also a three-time World Cup overall champion.

Being a speed skater means you have to practice a lot—eight to twelve hours a day, Ohno says. But now Ohno is taking time from his demanding training schedule to promote his new autobiography, Zero Regrets: Be Greater than Yesterday. TFK spoke with Ohno at Chester County Book & Music Company in West Chester, Pennsylvania, where the speed skater discussed his life and career.

TFK:

How did you first become interested in speed skating?

Apolo Anton Ohno:

I saw speed skating when I was 12 years old on the Olympic Games with my father and I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life. I didn't think it was real. I thought it was little superheroes racing on a track on blades. That's when I first got hooked.

TFK:

As a kid, did you speed skate? If not, what activities did you enjoy when you were a kid?

Ohno:

I didn't speed skate. I played sports. I was a swimmer. I did inline skating, but I jamskated [a mix of dancing, skating and gymnastics]. I don't know if that counts.

TFK:

When was your first national speed skating race and how did you feel about it?

Ohno:

My first true national championship was when I was 14 years old. I felt pretty good because I won!

TFK:

Before a race, how do you overcome being nervous, or are you not nervous at all?

Ohno:

I don't know if I get nervous anymore. I think it is more that I get anxious. But it happens every time and I try to use it to my advantage. You know, I tell myself it's a natural function and it just means I'm getting ready for the race.

TFK:

What do you most want people to know about you?

Ohno:

If they didn't know me, I'd tell them to buy my book! It pretty much has got it all in there, up to now.

TFK:

What would you like to tell the young athletes of America?

Ohno:

I would say to follow your dreams, and to realize whatever path you want to do. Whether you want to be an athlete, you want to focus full time on school, and to really dedicate 100% of yourself to that. I know it's hard, you're so young, but try and realize you guys have an opportunity to be the best you can be every single day. Believe in yourself and don't listen to anybody who says you can't do it.

TFK:

What do you enjoy doing when you're not speed skating?

Ohno:

I enjoy food tremendously! When I was training for the last Olympic Games, I had to sacrifice a lot of food.

TFK:

Does your new book contain advice that applies to kids?

Ohno:

Absolutely, that's really what the book is all about. But it's not just for kids. It's also for teenagers, young adults, adults—everyone alike. I think a lot of the life lessons that I've been able to learn through my sport are applicable towards anything, not just athletics.

TFK:

If you could make any wish come true, what would it be?

Ohno:

Oh, I'm living a dream, man! I'm living my own personal dream. I wouldn't change anything for myself right now. Everything has happened for a reason. Win, lose, or draw, it's all part of the process. So I try to enjoy every single step of the way.

TFK:

Who is one of your heroes?

Ohno:

My father. That's who the book is dedicated to.