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Speed Skating Athlete – Apolo Anton Ohno
Apolo Anton Ohno, born May 22, 1982 in Seattle, Washington, to American Jerrie Lee and Japanese Yuki Ohno, is an Olympic short track speed skating competitor.
When Apolo was 14 years old (1997), he became U.S Champion, the youngest ever. A year before, he had appeared in Sports Illustrated for Kids as a “Hotshot.” In the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, he finished last in the trials. But in the 2002 Winter Olympics Ohno became the first U.S. male to win the gold medal. Ohno won the gold medal in the 1500-meter race in Salt Lake, in addition to the silver medal in the 1000-meters.
However, Ohno’s gold medal was controversial because he was actually the second to cross the finish line in the 1500-meter final. He had received the gold medal because Korean Kim Dong-sung, who had been leading in the race, was disqualified by judges for crosstracking–a disqualification many thought was unfair.
The controversy was aggravated by accusations that Ohno, after several failed attempts to cut in front of Kim, play-acted a near miss with Kim and then stood up and held his hands in the air to attract the attention of the judges. While he has tried to defend himself by stating that he was forced to stand up to avoid a collision with Kim, he has nevertheless earned himself the hatred of other skaters and millions of South Koreans, most notably shown when 16,000 emails about his medal, mostly from sources in South Korea, crashed the US Olympics Committee’s Internet server.
A re-enactment of the scene mocking Ohno was performed by the Korean football team for a goal ceremony after Korean striker Ahn Jung-hwan scored a goal in a match against the US during 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.
The prevailing anti-American atmosphere in South Korea did little to help him, and an estimated 100 riot police also had to stand guard at Incheon International Airport to make sure no harm came to Ohno when he went to South Korea for the second World Cup meet in 2005. During his stay in Korea, Ohno has tried to clear up misunderstandings about himself to the South Korean people, but the Korean media was unresponsive.
Ohno has continued to be at or near the top of his sport since the 2002 Winter Games. Having become the first American overall World Cup champion during the 2000-01 season, he repeated this feat in the 2002-03 and 2004-05 seasons. Ohno has been the reigning U.S. short track speed skating champion since 2001, and has won the U.S. men’s title a total of seven times.