Heart of a lion…
At 27 years old, most of us are just starting our journeys. We’re shedding the training wheels of home and school, and coming into our full selves. But at this age, speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno’s journey has come full circle, becoming an Olympic champion eight times over. He is the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time.
I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do follow speedskating. I’ve followed the torque powered unpredictable world of short track since the ’92 Olympics, the year Bonnie Blair crushed records and Kristi Yamaguchi won the gold for Figure Skating. Apolo Anton Ohno came on to the scene in the ’02 Olympics. Not only was he my age, he brought a different element to the ice, with his red bandanna and infamous soul patch. He was just a cool kid with his headphones before he took the ice, and he had a proud dad cheering him on the stands. When he raced it was magic, as he dusted everyone in his path.
Perhaps the most memorable race was when he fell during a wipe out, got back on his feet and won silver despite his fall. He showed fearlessness and sportsmanship toward long time rivals, the South Korean team. Amidst death threats and beefed up security, he cheered on every South Korean player. And Friday night when he won his seventh Olympic medal, he jumped over a spill and made the podium. It’s that kind of heart and excellence that young skaters like J.R. Celski look up to. Even the South Korean team call him “the light of our sport.”
Throughout his career, Apolo has shown such grace in a frenetic sport that’s a burst of mayhem on ice. He is undecided on returning to the Olympics in ’14. He says that 8 is a lucky number in many ways, it resembles a complete circle, and he is ready to pursue new things. He’ll be sorely missed on the ice.
Apolo is good friends with speed skating champion, Shani Davis. Shani, also 27, defended his title in the 1000m long track race, winning a gold and silver medal in these Olympics. He is part of an organization called ICE, Inner City Excitement, in Washington, D.C. It’s a place where children interested in winter sports without access to a skating rink can practice. When Shani won gold, the kids at ICE were screaming with excitement, one of the sweetest moments of the Olympics.
Apolo and Shani are really what the Olympic spirit is all about. It’s the sportmanship and heart of extraordinary people. And maybe they help us discover the superhuman within ourselves.
And 27 year olds are pretty amazing.