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Olympian offers advice to students

By Angelica Rodriguez
On April 24, 2013
Olympic medal-winning speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno relayed his experiences in
sports and in life at the Performing Arts Center Monday night, speaking to a crowd
of students, faculty and local speed skaters assembled at Rockwell Hall.
 
Drawing upon the major points in his book, Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday,
Ohno regaled the audience with his story of growing up in the Seattle, Wash. area
with his father, Yuki.
 
"I had such an abundance of energy that I was always getting into trouble," he said,
adding that his father tried to use sports as a positive conduit for his energy.
 
Ohno got involved in speed skating after seeing it in the Olympics when he was 12
years old. He spent his weekends skating in Vancouver, where scouts and coaches
took notice of his ability and sent his father invites to skating programs, including
the U.S. National Junior Development program in Lake Placid.
 
At first, Ohno resisted, skipping out on his place in New York and essentially running
away for two weeks. But his father dug his heels in, eventually pushing him to go,
and soon Ohno realized he enjoyed what he was doing, channeling his competitive
spirit. He became the youngest ever U.S. Senior Champion overall at 14 years old.
 
Before the 1998 Olympics in Japan, his commitment level dropped. He gained 25
pounds the summer before, went to Colorado Springs to train with the national
team, and went from first to dead last in the 1997 Worlds, in the span of less than a
year.
 
At this point in his career, Ohno's father gave his son an ultimatum.
 
"He took this massive devastation and disappointment in my life and turned it
around," Ohno said. "He said, 'I will not allow my son to pursue something that he
does not believe in.'"
 
He dropped Ohno off at their former holiday cabin south of Seattle - a remote area
where it rained 300 days out of the year - and left him there, with nothing but food
and some clothes, to make his choice. Ohno began training to keep himself occupied,
and nine days later, he made the decision to try speed skating one more time.
 
14 years after he made that choice, Ohno has eight Olympic medals, including two
gold medals (2002 in Salt Lake City and 2006 in Torino), and is at peace with the
decision he has made. In addition to his medals, he won a championship on the
popular dance competition "Dancing with the Stars," has a diet supplement line
called 8 Zone, and also works with at-risk, inner-city youth to "spark an interest" in
sports.
 
USG president Sara Garfinkle believes students can learn a lot from Ohno's motto of
"zero regrets."
 
"I think that as college students, we're so worried about what the final goal is, but
we don't take the chance to say, 'What am I doing?'" she said. "Even if you don't
get exactly what you want, if you did everything that you could do, then you're
successful."
 
For his part, Ohno said he will not be competing at the Sochi Olympics in 2014,
but he will be with NBC as a special "behind the scenes" correspondent. He is also
focusing on philanthropy and entertainment, but says all of his success can be
attributed to one phrase.
 
"One world, one life, one chance - your choice," he said. "There's only one world, you
have one life, and one chance to do something - it's your choice what you're going to
do with it."

 

Angelica Rodriguez can be reached by email at rodriguez.record@live.com. 


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