A tally of eight medals makes Apolo Anton Ohno a key figure in Winter Games history. And yet this young man did not really seem predestined for this. He devoted his energies first to the swimming pool before trying in-line skating. Like many children, he enjoyed going fast, very fast, and having fun. The day he discovered short-track speed skating when watching the Olympic Games on television, this adolescent from Seattle discovered his vocation.
His first attempts revealed that Apolo Anton Ohno had huge potential. But it took a great deal of hard work and commitment to reach the highest level and begin a long list of successes, including the Junior World Championships in 1999. The first world championship medal came the same year among the seniors.
Apolo Anton Ohno’s Olympic career began at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, with a gold in the 1,500 metres. Then he won a silver medal in the 1,000m, during a race whose images were watched worldwide: the four leading skaters all fell in the final bend, allowing the last skater, Australia’s Steven Bradbury, to get ahead of everyone and finish first. Meanwhile, Apolo Anton Ohno recovered from his fall to throw himself over the line and take the silver.
During his second Games participation, in 2006 in Turin, the American continued to make a name for himself. Not just because of his look: goatee beard, long hair and bandana, but also because of his performances. He had three podium finishes, firstly as the fastest man in the 500m; then twice in third place: in the 1,000m and in the 5,000m with the US relay team. In the last lap of the relay, by means of a superb manoeuvre, Apolo Anton Ohno passed the Italian skater on the inside and won his team the bronze medal.
After a year off, the top-flight short-track skater resharpened his blades and set off in pursuit of more medals. At the 2010 Games in Vancouver, the competitions were extremely close, with many falls. Apolo Anton Ohno reached the final of all his races. Even if he did not manage an Olympic title, he added three new medals to his tally: silver in the 1,500m, then two bronze medals, in the 1,000m and the relay.
With eight Olympic medals from three editions of the Games, Apolo Anton Ohno is his country’s most successful winter Olympian. What with the 20-or-so other world medals, there is no way that he could hang them all around his neck. But if you do bump into him one evening, you can propose a quick sarabande instead. Because this master of the rink is also a ballroom dancing maestro. Television viewers in the US have already discovered that he is no stranger to the samba, tango and paso doble!