Olympic short track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno skated for gold in the XXI Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. What kind of athlete would skate at 35-miles per hour on razor sharp blades only one millimeter wide, with five other skaters just inches away? This biography answers that question and more! Why did Japanese American Apolo Ohno ever try such a dangerous sport in the first place? What rebellious stunts did he pull that almost cost him his Olympic dream? And how did he turned his life around?
Born in Seattle, Washington on May 22, 1982, Apolo was raised by his dad, Yuki Ohno after his mom left. While his relationship with his dad is fine today, Apolo was very rebellious as a boy. “I was rough,”
Apolo says. “If my dad said yes, I said no.”
He stayed out all night with gangs and got in trouble at school. In-line skating and swimming became the only ways for him to release his uncontrollable energy. Then one day, while watching the Olympics hosted in Lillehammer, Norway, he saw a new exciting sport called short track speed skating. It had lightning fast speeds, spectacular crashes, and hair-raising finishes. Apolo was hooked!
Even at a young age Apolo showed natural ability for speed skating. His early performances on the ice earned him the rare opportunity to train at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. But Apolo was still wild and rebellious. During five-mile training runs, Apolo would sneak away from the other runners and stop off at Pizza Hut!
“If you don’t want to occasionally crash into the boards and lose, then you shouldn’t do short track.”
– Susan Ellis, head coach for the U.S. Olympic short track squad.
As the saying goes, no guts no glory. And it takes a lot of guts to skate this sport. One of the most dramatic moments in this biography falls in Chapter 7. It was Salt Lake City in 2002. Ohno was competing for the gold medal against four other world-class speed skaters from China, South Korea, Canada and Australia. At the final lap Apolo was leading when China slipped and bumped into South Korea, who crashed in Apolo, who knocked down Canada. Australia, previously skating in last place, crossed the finish line first. Amazingly the injured Ohno staggered across the line for a silver medal.
Several full-color photos in the middle of the book show Apolo Ohno in action. The back of the book features Quick Facts About Apolo (he’s 5’7” and likes hip hop and R&B music), his Competitive History from 1997 to 2002, and a history of Olympic Short Track Speed Skating. This is an interesting, easy-to-read biography that introduces young readers to one of the world’s most fascinating athletes.
For another biography about other Olympic athletes, read TIME for Kids: Jesse Owens: Running Into History
and Wayne Gretzy: Hockey Hero
(see links below).