Atomic Youth

Speed Skater

Dec 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

Ohno's medal-winning 1,500-meter Olympic run

Apolo Anton Ohno [20]


Seattle, Washington
With his flowing mane and soul patch, his requisite unorthodox childhood—he was raised alone by his Japanese-American father, Yuki, from the age of one—and his uncanny feel for the ice, Apolo Anton Ohno seemed destined for stardom long before Salt Lake City. Still, no one could have scripted Ohno's wild 2002 Olympic ride: He was leading the 1,000-meter race when another skater fell and triggered a NASCAR-style pileup on the last turn. After a frantic hands-and-knees scramble for the finish line, Ohno emerged with the silver—and a deep gash in his right leg. Four days later, he came back to win the 1,500 when South Korean star Kim Dong-Sung was disqualified for a blocking foul on the last lap. Ohno's gracious words after both races endeared him to fans everywhere—except South Korea, where he remains a pariah. National outrage over the result climaxed during last summer's World Cup soccer match between South Korea and the United States, when a South Korean player, celebrating a goal, mocked Ohno by pretending to speed skate on the field. "I had to look at it humorously," Ohno says. "I was like, Maybe this guy wants lessons or something."

Ohno and the rest of the American short-track team skipped the first stop on this season's World Cup circuit last October in Chuncheon, South Korea. His diplomatic explanation: "The whole team is pretty behind, it being an Olympic year—we all took a little break." Still, Ohno will be ready for this season's world team championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, in March, and will "definitely" go for at least one more Olympics. "I'm only 20 years old," he says. "I plan on a long career in this sport." —Rob Buchanan

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