I saw him in the Vancouver Olympics, after the figure skating was over and done with. I was weary, tired of watching. For me, racing skaters are only momentarily interesting. I didn't know, still don't know much about the 5,000-meter short-track relay.
One of the final games in the Olympics, it appeared to be a mass of confusion. But I kept watching him, picking him out of the confusion. Was it the blue outfit? The easy going smiling look on his face? The kind, supportive way he had as he wended his way through the crammed-together bodies and moved, kept moving toward the finish?
Every time there was a station break, I saw film clips, and heard more about Apolo Ohno.
He's an eight-time medalist (two gold, two silver, four bronze) in the Winter Olympics. He is the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time. Ohno's 28.
He was the U.S. Olympics Committee's Male Athlete of the Month, and Speedskating's Athlete of the Year. Aside from that, he managed to win Dancing with the Stars in 2007. (I watched a film clip of the show -- he was fun, adept, energetic, a skillful and delightful dancer.)
Then, I watched this. It's a bit long -- give it a glance. (Exercise is my thing -- what Apolo says about it reminds me of what I said just the other day about chess, and dancing.)
Like Magnus Carlsen, the Mozart of Chess, (see my talk-blog 3/8), Apolo Ohno started at age 12; encouraged by his Dad, went into Olympic training; was nicknamed "Chunky" -- the hellishness of losing weight while training -- perhaps that's why he has such a laid-back, cheerful, positive, winner's energy.
He doesn't look Japanese, he lo0ks like a plain, ordinary American guy. He's into a lot of things that have to do with helping people. He supports HIV/AIDS charities, The Salvation Army, Clothes Off Our Back Foundation; he used his fame to raise funds for Japanese elders; he joined Senator Ted Kennedy in D.C., to show the importance of math and science education and helped launch the "Math Moves U Hippest Homework Happening," that gave students opportunity to do math homework online with celebrities and athletes.
Using his fame and his look-you-in-the-eyes personality, Apolo got himself sponsors -- McDonald's, General Electric, Vicks, and Coca-Cola. Ohno's dad, Yuki, said, "He's not a professional athlete with a multi-million-dollar contract with a team -- he needs sponsorships to pay the bills." (Alaska Airlines, sponsoring him at the 2010 Winter Games, has a Boeing 737 jet with Onno's image painted on the side.)
That man in the film clip, wearing the blue suit, headband and the Olympic Gold Medal, smiles. It's his last Olympics. He's thinking of going into the entertainment business. I like him.
I like him a lot.
Hey Media, Apolo Anton Ono is another guy you should tout and promote -- a hero for kids to emulate, for us to emulate -- he inspires us all.