Apolo Anton Ohno training hard to capture Olympic and 'Dancing' gold
By Christopher Rocchio, 04/26/2007
Apolo Anton Ohno has won two gold medals and five medals overall as a speed skater at the last two Winter Olympics and he's currently trying to capture Dancing with the Stars' fourth season mirror ball trophy as one of the remaining celebrity contestants on the ABC reality competition series.
"In a non-Olympic year, showcasing an Olympic athlete on a show that has millions of viewers... it's never heard of," said Ohno in the April 30 issue of People.
The 24-year-old Seattle native isn't just representing Olympic athletes during his run on Dancing with the Stars 4, he's also impressing dance enthusiasts across the country. Ohno and his partner -- 18-year-old Dancing with the Stars newcomer Julianne Hough -- have been among the Top 3 couples based on the judges' scores during all six performance episodes of the competition. In addition, they are also the only duo to have recorded a perfect 30 out of 30 from the judges so far on Dancing with the Stars 4.
"He's solid," Ohno's Dancing with the Stars' fourth season rival Joey Fatone told People. "He tries hard and has fun with it... you can see it." Added Dancing with the Stars' judge Bruno Tonioli -- who previously picked Ohno as one of his favorites to win the fourth season, "He's pure entertainment. He should be a ride at Disneyland."
If Ohno appears solid as a competitor, that's because he is. As a speed skater, he competed in both the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City as well as the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. Other than his five Olympic medals, he's also amassed 14 from the World Championships, including one gold and four bronze at the 2007 games in Milan. A little over a week later, he and Hough scored a 21 out of 30 from the judges for their performance of the cha-cha during Dancing with the Stars' fourth season premiere.
"In my sport, performance is based on how I finish in the race, not how I 'wow' the audience," explained Ohno to People. "[On TV] if I can emotionally pull the people watching into the dance, we have a winner!"
While Ohno conceded that the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will probably be his last, he said his trainers aren't giving him a break from his work-out regiment while he's participating in Dancing with the Stars.
"They want to see me training year-round," Ohno told People, mapping out a typical day. "Eat, train, dance rehearsal. Then eat, train for my sport, eat again and dance training again."
While recently eliminated contestant Heather Mills -- who also picked Ohno as her favorite -- had to worry about her prosthetic left leg during the competition, Ohno just has to worry about standing-up straight and moving correctly after being conditioned as a speed skater since he was 12-years-old.
"I've modeled my body into this shape for the past 12 years of my life," Ohno told People. "So my posture has been a big deal."
Ohno's father Yuki is partially responsible for his son's success as a speed skater, sending a 14-year-old Apolo to the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY to train full-time for short track. So how did Yuki feel upon seeing his son ditch the skates for dancing shoes?
"My dad saw the dress rehearsal and was calling everybody, going, 'It's amazing! Apolo can really dance!'" Ohno told People.
While Ohno and Hough might not seem similar on the surface, she said both have a passion for what they do which has translated well in Dancing with the Stars.
"We're so focused on our careers and we know what we want," Hough told People. "He listens and does what I tell him. It's wonderful."
Other than training as both a dancer and speed skater, Ohno is also busy as a spokesman for Gap's Product (Red) campaign. He's apparently taken some of the fashion sense he's learned from the campaign to Dancing with the Stars.
"I'm not wearing those belly-baring V-neck things and I'm not going to wear ruffles and I will try to stay away from sequins if at all possible," he told People.
Ohno said he's "accomplished everything I've ever wanted to" as an athlete, but didn't rule out the possibility of continuing his career in the world of reality television.
"The [Olympic] games are sacrifice, heartbreak, drama," Ohno told People, "everything reality shows try to capture. Maybe I should make my own reality show about that?"