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Apolo Anton Ohno

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Apolo Anton Ohno (born May 22, 1982) is an American short track speed skating competitor, and a two-time gold medalist in the Winter Olympics. Ohno has won five Olympic medals over his career, and is one of only four Americans who have won three medals in a single Winter Olympic games.

Ohno was born in Seattle, Washington to Jerrie Lee and Japanese-native Yuki Ohno. His father, who owns a hair salon, got divorced when Apolo was still an infant, and raised him as a single father. His father, concerned with young Apolo's "free time," got him involved in competitive swimming and in-line skating. He took Apolo to his first short-track ice skating race, where Apolo found his niche.

When Apolo was 14 years old (1997), a year after he had appeared in Sports Illustrated for Kids as a "Hotshot.", he became the youngest ever U.S. Champion. In the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, he finished last in the trials. However, he was the first American to be the overall World Cup champion during the 2000-01 season and, four years later, qualified for the U.S. team in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, winning two medals at the games. He also participated on the U.S. team in the 2006 Winter Olympics, winning three medals.

In Salt Lake City, Utah, Ohno emerged as a popular athlete with US fans, reportedly charming them with his cheerful attitude and laid-back style. He became the face of short track speed skating in the US, which was a relatively new and unknown sport at the time, and carried the medal hopes of America in that sport. Ohno medaled in two events, although there was some controversy associated with the results.

In the 1000 meter race, Ohno was leading the pack after the last corner, but made contact with fellow skater Li Jiajun, taking himself, Jiajun, Mathieu Turcotte and Ahn Hyun Soo into the barriers. The sole man standing was Steven Bradbury, who was trailing behind at the time, and skated through to win the gold medal. Ohno quickly got to his feet and crossed the finish line second to win silver.

In the 1500 meter race, Ohno won the gold medal, with a time of 2:18.541. During the 1500 meter final race, South Korean Kim Dong-Sung was first across the finish line, but was disqualified for blocking Ohno, in what is called crosstracking. The South Korean team was especially upset by the result.

The dissatisfaction in South Korea as a result of his 1500 meter win produced a very negative response which included crashing the International Olympic Committee's e-mail account and thousands of accusatory letters, many of which were death threats.

Ohno continued to perform well in the sport after the 2002 Winter Games. He successfully defended his World Cup title during the 2002-03 and 2004-05 seasons. Ohno also was the reigning U.S. short track speed skating champion since 2001, and won the U.S. men's title a total of eight times.

Ohno declined to participate in a 2003 World Cup short track event in Korea for security reasons. An estimated 100 riot police stood guard at Inchon International Airport to make sure no harm came to Ohno when he went to South Korea for the second World Cup meet in 2005. Ohno won two gold medals, as well as the overall title at the meet.

In the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Ohno stumbled during a semifinal heat in the 1500 m, his first event in the Games. As a result, he finished last in his heat and was not able to defend his 2002 gold medal in the event. In the 1000 m, Ohno won a bronze medal finishing behind Ahn Hyun Soo and Lee Ho-suk of South Korea. Ohno later said he was grateful to recover from his slip in the 1500 m and get back on the podium. As a sign of goodwill, Ahn invited Lee and Ohno to share the top spot with him. The three put their arms around each other, and Ohno shook hands with both his rivals.

Ohno then won gold in the 500 m after taking the lead with an explosive start and holding it until the finish. Some felt that Ohno appeared to move before the start in violation of the rules. However, the race start was validated by the officials, allowing Ohno to keep his gold.

On the same day as his 500 m Gold win, Ohno earned a bronze medal in the men's 5000 m relay, with an inside pass on Italian skater Nicola Rodigari on the final leg to put the United States in third position. Later, during the medals ceremony for the event, the winning South Korean team and the Americans embraced, followed by a group picture featuring the medalists. These actions, along with the individual sportsmanship shown by Ahn, Ohno, and Lee perhaps signified an end to the ill will between the two nations' teams.

Ohno has not decided for sure whether he plans to attend the 2010 Winter Olympics. He did say, however, that if he does attend, it may be in the capacity of a goodwill ambassador rather than as a competitor.

Source: Wikipedia


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