LBS had the pleasure of speaking with two-time gold medalist and eight-time Olympic medalist speed skater Apolo Ohno Thursday. Ohno is in the Fort Worth area for Subway and announced he will be competing in the upcoming NYC Marathon, accepting Jared’s challenge. We talked about a number of subjects including preparing for the marathon, preparing for the Olympics, and of course we had to ask him his thoughts on the Michael Phelps bong pictures that came out two years ago.
Ohno has a busy upcoming schedule — he’s in Ft. Worth, going to New York, Las Vegas, and then he has a few other stops on the West Coast all in the next few days. He said he’ll be rooting for the Steelers on Sunday because of his trainer, John Schaeffer, who’s a Steelers fan. During our conversation, what stood out most to me about Ohno were his values of hard work and being a proper role model.
I was curious how much being an Olympian was the product of talent and how much came from working hard. Ohno told me it’s a combination of both, saying “talent can get you on the right track, but it doesn’t mean you’re doing it the right way.”
Working hard has never been an issue for Ohno, and in fact he pridefully states that “I’ve seen hundreds of athletes who were more talented than me, but if you beat me, it wasn’t because you outworked me.”
Moreover, he considers his hard work an important part of the message he disseminates to fans. When asked about his long-term goals, Ohno said he wants to “inspire as many people as possible,” adding that “hopefully I’m able to get more people involved [in speed skating].” Ultimately, Ohno would “love to leave a long lasting legacy of hard work, very good work ethic, and being honest.”
While Ohno embodies and represents all the core values for which LBS is a proponent, we had to ask him his thoughts on Michael Phelps, who in the past was viewed as more of a partier. Phelps has been wildly successful as a swimmer in the Olympics, but he was photographed with a bong two years ago.
Asked about the incident, Ohno said “I think it was unfortunate. He’s so unbelievably talented — what he’s done won’t happen again.” The talented skater continued, “athletes are looked at with a double standard — we’re all human, we all make mistakes and nobody is perfect.”
Ultimately though, “becoming an Olympic athlete, responsibility comes with that” and that’s a role Ohno has embraced. “I really started to understand that we as Americans, just as important as the performance on the field, we really care about your performance off of it. We care about what you have to say; there are a lot of kids out there watching what you say. But you shouldn’t feel afraid to say what you have to.”
His observations are spot on, and it makes sense why he’s been able to develop into such a popular figure. And with all the success he’s had as a speedskater, one of his goals is to make the sport more popular.
I was curious how Ohno got into speedskating int he first place, and he said it came from watching TV, the same way many other athletes got hooked. In fact, Apolo said he wanted to box and play football growing up, but his dad didn’t want him to.
After seeing speedskating at the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehamer, Ohno was hooked on what he thought was “an amazing sport.” Luckily his father was able to support him, and it wasn’t long before Ohno realized he had plenty of natural talent.
Keep your eye out for Ohno who will be running in the NYC Marathon against Jared from Subway, and many thanks to him for the interview.Google+