Olympic speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno talks to KARE 11

May 19th, 2011

5:18 PM, May 19, 2011
Written by KARE 11
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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Apolo Anton Ohno is in the Twin Cities for the Treehouse Gala Thursday night, a fundraiser for the non-profit which helps at-risk teens. Before the event, the two-time Olympic gold medal winner sat down with KARE 11’s Julie Nelson for a special interview.

Nelson: So tonight, when you’re downtown, what do you hope that group takes away?

Ohno: For the kids, hopefully that they have a spark in their eye and that they realize they are special but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. Perhaps if they have taken a wrong turn, they can immediately take a u-turn and get back on the track that was meant for them.

The bottom line, I like to help people whether it’s helping kids, whether it’s helping people get into shape or helping people reach their goals. It’s not so much about quantity but about the quality of life.

Nelson: I read somewhere that your dad actually put you into sports, got heavily into sports because he was afraid you’d be a latchkey kid.

Ohno: Well, I was a latchkey kid. I think he put me in sports to keep me out of trouble. Hey look, I came from a single parent household. I faced the same struggles that you faced. I know that maybe there’s other challenges that maybe you have and similarities. But you can grab hold of whatever you want to, whatever your passion is, whatever you want to do as a kid, just make sure that they have a spark in their eye.

Nelson: How did you discover skating?

Ohno: Like most Americans, I saw it on TV during the Olympics in ’92 and ’94. I thought it was the coolest sport ever.

Nelson: How wonderful of your dad to say go for it.

Ohno: I think if I said I wanted to try anything, my dad would have said go for it. And that’s the same message I push. I don’t care what the kids choose as long as they’re choosing something. Sports, for me, saved my life, like many kids.

Nelson: There are so many wonderful things that have happened in your life because of this wonderful title of being an Olympian. Are there any downsides?

Ohno: I can say it’s very difficult to do the things I once did before, before I was even an Olympic athlete; go to the mall, go shopping with friends.

Nelson: This might be a stupid question, but do you ever get scared? [Speed skating] looks scary to me, going that fast on the ice and everybody’s skates are this long and they’re sharp.

Ohno: No, never. I have no fear.

Nelson: Maybe that’s why you’re an Olympian and I’m not!
So you’ve had interesting opportunities because of all of this, the medals you’ve won, and one of them was Dancing with the Stars.

Ohno: I was very nervous the very first time I went out there I blacked out. I couldn’t even remember. I didn’t even know if we danced yet or what happened. It was crazy. I was more scared for that first dance than any Olympic race for sure!

Julie Nelson will serve as master of ceremonies for Thursday night’s Treehouse Gala.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)