Ohno’s excellent on & off the ice By Yoon S. Park
For the Northwest Asian Weekly
What comes to mind when you hear the names Britney, Lindsay or Kobe? It seems hardly a week goes by without some young high-profile celebrity making news with a misstep born of an inflated ego or bad judgment. Apolo Anton Ohno has certainly been making news lately — as a crowd favorite on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
Ohno’s candor and ready smile, coupled with a refreshing dose of gratitude to those who have supported his career — most notably his father — charmed those present at the 24-year-old’s recent appearance at Seattle’s Asian Resource Center. Ohno acknowledged the importance of his father’s support in both skating and dancing.
Ohno said his dad told him to just “go for it.”
Given his extraordinary speed-skating career, one would expect Ohno, who is originally from Federal Way, to be resting on his laurels. However, with a dogged determination befitting that of a two-time (going on three-time) Olympic athlete with five Olympic medals, he continues to collect accolades from judges and fans for the quality of his ballroom dancing with dance partner Julianne Hough. Ohno and Hough, who accompanied Ohno to Seattle, became the first couple to receive a perfect score this season and are among the favorites to win the competition.
Thankfully, Ohno’s talents translate well to the dance floor, as they “only have about three to four days to learn a new routine,” he said last Thursday evening at a news conference. He confessed that he found speed skating to be much tougher than ballroom dancing.
When asked if dancing helps his skating at all, he explained with amusement that one of his coaches from Korea thought it would help him by relaxing his skating.
Ohno went on to say that he is “too serious, too focused” as he trains for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. Dancing, he said, has become a form of self-expression.
Prompted by a photographer from the Northwest Asian Weekly, he and Hough even demonstrated a few of their dance moves at the news conference.
Ohno was in town April 26 to be inducted into the Asian Hall of Fame. Organized by the Seattle-based Robert Chinn Foundation, the Asian Hall of Fame honors “Asian Americans who have contributed to their heritage by breaking new ground or achieving excellence in their fields at both a national and international level.” Past inductees include former Gov. Gary Locke and the late artist George Tsutakawa.
Attorney, businesswoman and Filipino American leader Loida Nicolas Lewis was the other honoree that evening.
For Ohno, it’s significant that the Asian Hall of Fame award is not limited to any one ethnicity. He said he appreciates that it is not just for those of Japanese descent or any other group. It is the Asian Hall of Fame, “with no boundaries,” Ohno noted.
His success in the sports arena and popularity on “Dancing With the Stars” have certainly opened other doors for Ohno. He has received movie scripts and other acting opportunities, as well as offers to be a spokesperson for various products. Not surprising when you consider that the viewership of “Dancing,” according to Ohno, is larger than the Super Bowl’s.
As he looks to the future, Ohno, who is based in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the U.S. Olympic Training Center is located, expresses a desire to return to Seattle. He appreciates the area and what it has to offer, like rainbows.
He also wants to form his own foundation one day. Its focus will probably be youth and sports.