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Apolo Ohno Talks Gold Medals, Dancing, and Scars

You may remember speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno for a couple of reasons: he's got an undeniable soul patch, and he's the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time. We caught up with the athlete and subjected him to the same 10 questions we ask everyone (we suspect he was wearing skates the entire time).



So you’re an eight-time medalist in the Winter Olympics, which is incredible. What was that like for you?
Oh, it was amazing. You know, I competed in three Olympic Games. I’ve been competing for 15 years of my life and it was very rewarding, but I think the life lessons that I learned from the sport were equally rewarding. I have had some incredible experiences along the way.

When did the interest come about?
I started speed skating when I was 12; that’s when I first saw the sport. I made my first team when I was actually 14-years-old. When I first started I didn’t know anything about it. It was one of those sports where, I think, most Americans don’t really know really much about it or how to start, but I literally saw it on TV and that’s how I began my career.

Would you ever consider competing again?
Absolutely. I haven’t made a decision either way if I’m going to go toward 2014, you know, next year, in Sochi, Russia. But I’m always competing for something. I’m always training for something no matter what it is, whether it’s a marathon, whether it’s another event. I’m always in training.

If you were ever going to participate in the summer Olympics, what event would you want to partake in?
I would do the 100 meter dash. You’re in a stadium of 70,000 people and it’s probably the most anticipated race of the entire games, but it only last nine and a half seconds now. Kind of wild.

You won Dancing with the Stars in 2007 and you competed again in 2012. Have you always been interested in dancing?
I don’t know if I have been interested in dancing, but it’s one of those shows where it was very challenging the first time, and the opportunity to go back on for a second time was equally difficult. I always thought I could dance until I went on the show and realized how hard it really was.

What made you take that gig in the first place?
I just can’t say “no;” it’s a challenge! I had a really good experience the first time I was on the show, so I thought, why not, let’s give it a shot one more time.

How were your partners, Julianne Hough and Karina Smirnoff? 
They were amazing, both of them are so incredibly talented. My first experience was with Julianne, and she was such a sweetheart, just amazing to work with. Karina was just such an incredible dancer. I mean just so, so good.

What did it feel like to win? Was it a surprise since it was so new?
It was a big surprise, yeah. I mean, the show was one of those things where you’re not really sure what to expect when you’re going into it, but, you know, with all the hard work and the time you put into it, you trained your best. So I was happy just to make the final, let alone to win it.

You’ve recently opened up about your experiences with EIB, could you tell me a little bit about that?
EIB, or Exercise induced Bronchospasm, is a narrowing of the airways during exercise. It affects an estimated 30 million Americans daily. I didn’t know I actually had EIB until I was diagnosed in 2000; my doctors had told me that [I had] a lot of the symptoms: tightness of my chest, difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing, and just overall a significant decrease in my exercise endurance. I thought they were a byproduct of me just naturally being out of shape and not being able to train enough, so when they told me I was not performing at my full potential, it was a major issue, so we addressed it right away. We introduced a protocol and the same year I performed very, very, very well.



AND NOW: THE SAME 10 QUESTIONS WE ALWAYS ASK EVERYONE

What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
I think last night I bumped into somebody on the way out from dinner with my dad.

What's your favorite curse word?
I don’t really have one.

So you don't curse?
No, I do, I just don’t know if I have a favorite one. I’d rather not.

What’s the worst hangover you've ever had?
When I turned 21. I think it was more people just handing me shots. It was in New York City.

What was your first car?
My first car was a Toyota 4Runner when I was 17. I paid for it myself. I was very happy.

Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have a scar on my left thigh, kind of almost near my knee. I essentially fell in the 2002 Olympics and when I hit the wall - because of the impact - my right leg kind of came in at like a knife-type angle and stabbed my leg with my own skate blade.

Do you have a party trick?
It’s supposed to be like a psychic trick, but you need assistance from somebody who is in on the trick. You take a napkin, and you tell somebody that you can feel or read the energy on the napkin if they touch a corner of the napkin, and you turn your back and when somebody touches the corner of the napkin (only one person can touch it), you run your hand over the napkin to pretend like you can feel the energy.  And when you’re looking at your friend, whether your friend is drinking from the left hand or the right hand, or he puts his cup down on the left or right of the table, that signifies which corner the person touched. So you know beforehand, because somebody knows, but then the rest of the group does not know. So it’s a party trick if I don’t tell you how it’s done. Now I did, so I can’t ever use it again in my life.

We won’t tell anyone. What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
Earthquake burger at the Puyallup Fair in 1993. It’s funny I remember that. It was a five pound hamburger. I didn’t fit the whole thing, but as much as I could.

What’s the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
That there’s no winner at the end!

Who was the last person to see you naked?
It was for the ESPN Bodies issue. Wait, wait, wait, wait, that’s not exactly true, but…

So it was a full room of people.
Yeah.

Wow, ok. Finish this sentence, “If I ruled the world for a day, I would…”
I guess I would try to cure all diseases, but you can’t really do that because you’re not really granted that power. I mean, yeah sure, if I ruled the world I could do whatever I want.

Learn more about EIB and enter to win a free meal with Apolo at eiballstars.com.

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