A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Saturday, February 18, 2006

This Man is a Class Act

I first heard of Apolo Anton Ohno, a Seattle native, when, as a 19-year-old phenom, he skated in Men's Short Track Speedskating at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

He always wore a bandanna under his helmet and a "soul patch" on his chin.

He was amazing. Still is.

During one of his races, he was involved in a bit of a controversy. You can read more about it here. In short,

In the men’s 1000m final, Ohno was part of a four-way crash on the last straightaway that wiped out the leaders and allowed Australian Steven Bradbury -- who was so far behind that he avoided his sprawling foes -- to become his country’s first Winter Olympic champion. In a frantic scramble, Ohno lunged across the finish line to take silver.

But no race had a more far-reaching impact than the men’s 1500m final. Late in the final lap, with South Korean star Kim Dong-Sung holding a slight lead on Ohno, the American saw an opening and tried to surge past Kim on the inside. But when the gap closed, Ohno threw up his hands to indicate he felt Kim had illegally cut him off. At the finish line, it was Kim crossing in first, Ohno second.

Before the skaters could leave the ice, though, the judges huddled to discuss whether Kim had interfered with Ohno. The crowd at the Salt Lake Ice Center, which had booed the initial result, went quiet with expectation before the announcement finally came -- Kim had been disqualified. Ohno kissed the ice; Kim threw down his country’s flag in frustration and disbelief.
Since then, the South Koreans have hated Apolo. When he skated in competition there, he had to have bodyguards surrounding him. He even received death threats.

Today, Apolo had to skate against his South Korean rival (a new one, not Kim) three times, two heats and the final, of the 1,000m.

Included in the five finalists were another South Korean skater and American Rusty Smith.

In speedskating, working as a team is illegal, but the rules regarding that are rarely enforced. Apolo is so good, that many people gun for him, in particular the South Koreans.

Tonight, Apolo finished with a Bronze in the 1,000m, behind the two South Korean skaters.

I saw him give an interview to NBC after. Such class. He is proud to have won the Bronze and was happy with himself. You can read about the race here and here. You can watch the race here.

Apolo is sort of soft-spoken, humble, and very peaceful to listen to. He showed such class in his interviews and his attitude toward the South Koreans and their fans. Not only that, but his work ethic is top-notch. His regimen and dedication are awe-inspiring.

He is definitely someone to emulate.

He has two events left in these Olympics: the 500m and the Team Relay, both of which are next Saturday. The preliminaries for the 500m are Wednesday, 22 February.