Ohno chases gold, history

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Emma Carroll writes, Whether it’s because of the soul patch or the fiery dancing on Dancing With the Stars…

Whether it’s because of the soul patch or the fiery dancing on Dancing With the Stars, Apolo Anton Ohno has become one of the most recognizable figures in the Olympics, occupying the prime time spots in every race. He’s catapulted his sport in to explosive popularity, all the while donning his trademark facial hair. His journey from a nobody to The One has been an eventful one, and, should he succeed in these 2010 Winter Olympic Games, one to be remembered for the ages.Ohno was born in 1982, a surprising early date versus the time he began short track speed skating in 1995. He became interested in the sport at age 12 after watching it in the 1994 Winter Games. He was admitted in to the Lake Placid Olympic training facility in 1996, then relocated to the training facility at age 14, the same year he claimed his first overall title at the U.S. Championships. This success, which should have made him a quick bid for the 1998 U.S. Olympic team, didn’t transcend, and he finished 16th at the Olympic Trials. Neither did it transcend in his first World Championship (junior level)appearance, where he placed 19th overall. Disappointing defeats led him to return to the training facility at Lake Placid, where his training and his luck took a turn for the better.His return to the World Championships (again at the junior level), this time at Montreal, would be a spectacular one. In 1999, he won gold in the 1000 meter, Super 1500 meter, and overall, as well as silver in the 500 meter.World Championships (at the senior level) that followed would turn out to be highly successful for Ohno. Between 1999 Sofia, 2001 Jeonju, 2003 Warsaw, 2005 Beijing, 2007 Milan, 2008 Gangneun, and 2009 Heerenveen, he would win nine golds, seven silvers, and seven bronzes, including one overall title in 2008.The 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City would make Ohno a household name after winning gold in the 1500 meter and silver in the 1000 meter. The silver medal 1000 meter race became a race for the ages, where a multiple-person crash would define the standings. Around the final corner of the race, Korean Ahn Hyun Soo fell attempting to pass Ohno and Chines Li Jiajun, who were first and second, respectively. The attempted inside pass took down Ohno, Jiajun, Soo, and Canadian Mathieu Turcotte, leaving Australian Steven Bradbury, who had been in last place, still standing and able to skate across first for gold. Ohno, realizing the urgency of the situation, got the his feet and threw his foot across the finish line for silver.The 2006 Games in Turin brought him more success, with a 500 meter gold, a 1000 meter silver, a 1000 meter bronze, and a 5000 meter relay bronze. He was unable to defend his 2002 gold.If he wasn’t a big enough star already, Ohno took up some alternate training by participating in and winning the fourth season of Dancing With The Stars with partner Julianne Hough. His winning dances were the Pasa Doble, the Hip Hop Freestyle, and the Rumba. He received five perfect scores out of a possible fifteen. The disco ball trophy must have fit nicely next to his medals.In these 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Ohno has already won a silver medal in the 1500 meter. He also has his sights set on becoming the most decorated American Winter Olympic champion by beating fellow speed skater Bonnie Blair’s record of six. The pair are currently tied. He claims he’s never trained harder than he did for these games, losing twenty pounds on a strict nutrition and work out regime. He says, “Come these games, there’s no one who’s going to be fitter than me. There’s just no way.”Hopefully he’s fit enough to win gold, and carry the hopes of an entire nation on his slimmed-down shoulders.

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