Apolo Ohno is ready for the Winter Olympics! The speed skating icon dishes on anthem protests, his fave events and why Michelle Kwan would be ‘great’ for ‘DWTS.’
Though he retired in 2013, Apolo Ohno, 35, still feels the rush whenever the Winter Olympics roll around. The 8-time medalist (and Dancing With The Stars Season 4 winner) has been a commentator for NBC since the 2014 Sochi Games. He returns to NBC for the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Fans will also see him star in a pair of 24k commercials for Hersey’s Gold. Ahead of the Olympics kick off on Feb. 8, Apolo took a moment to EXCLUSIVELY chat with HollywoodLife.com about his career, his opinion of any athlete who takes a knee during the games, and Michelle Kwan’s chances of winning Dancing With The Stars.
HollywoodLife: Still being so young, and with the Olympics coming back, how much do you miss the competition?
“I miss it a lot, I miss it a lot. I miss the lifestyle. I miss the constant grind and struggle and I know that sounds kind of wild but there is a real strong sense of value and purpose when you are training for an Olympic games obviously. It is very specific and your results are given to you on a daily basis. You are achieving those specific goals and it is enhancing your progress to achieve your ultimate goal which is stepping on the stage at the Olympic Games, performing in front of billions of people and potentially winning a medal for the United States.
It is very powerful. So, yes, I miss it. But would I want to go back? No! But. of course I miss it. Sure, I spent fifteen years of my life truly dedicated towards the sport and didn’t think about anything else. I thought there was no life after the sport, so I put in my time. But there is huge life afterwards, a real life.”
What are you looking forward to this time around with the Olympics?
“Every time I go to the games, there is snowboarding and skiing…obviously speed skating, both long track and short track — which is my sport — along with all of that there is hockey and figure skating. I love all the sports.
I am actually a winter person and I live in LA but I love the cold. I always have loved the cold. And when I go to the games, it is like a homecoming for me. I see all my friends and I see my past coaches and my teammates. I love covering short track so I will be working with NBC during the games. I will be covering all the races and I will be doing all the behind the scenes, with all the analytics and stories. My number one goal is to really just enhance everyone who is basically watching at home and making sure everybody thinks that it is badass. I want people to love that sport and I want them to learn more. If I can do that I am happy.”
What advice would you give athletes that are going to be dealing with instant fame, whether they want it or not after the games?
“As you know, more now than ever, media consumption is entirely different and it’s significantly bigger. With bigger media, there are bigger opportunities and so any athlete has those opportunities. Whoever grinds the life for this one chance in reaching gold that is behind the curtain and no one knows who this person is… you better grab that lightning bolt! And you better hold on as tight as you can and you ride it as hard and as fast and as high as possible.
That is my personal advice to people. If you don’t want it, the media…that is everyone’s personal perspective but you…have the opportunity to be a real shining star. Looking back on my career, I was blessed to have great people around me and a team to show me that there was life after sports but most athletes don’t realize that because you live in a bubble. Literally, like that it is over and people don’t know you or remember who you are and you are no longer competing and you have to find out another passion and career that speaks to you similarly in the same way that your sport does.
And most likely, you will never find it. So using those attributes and skill sets in success that you had from sport and transferring it to the real world and real life is what’s going to make or break you as an individual. But, the one thing that all athletes have is that I consider them all warriors and they have the strength to always get back up after they have fallen down. So hopefully they all can reach to that and take that with them.”
How do you think winning athletes will take the National Anthem this time around since their is so much kneeling in other sports?
“I think the possibilities of that happening are higher than ever before but, we are at a time which I believe our country needs to unify. The Olympic games is that unification. One time every four years for every other games…I will always stand, personally, and that is my personal belief but I respect any individual who chooses what he or she wants to do in that timeframe. For me I will always stand.”
Michelle Kwan is a good friend of yours, should she ever do Dancing with the Stars?
“I would love Michelle to do it and have her be on the show. I think it would be great for her. Michelle is awesome. She is a really good person. She is multi talented and she has a beautiful personality that I think the world deserves to see more!
Besides just the figure skater, the superstar… all the philanthropic stuff she has done, her political career. She is just a badass, you know what I mean. She really is so I try to push her. She doesn’t need to do it, that’s the thing, you know. But I tell her that it is more than that.
Obviously on the surface level it’s a produced reality show but inside that show, people find a lot of value. It’s really cool. People go through huge transformations and I have seen that from the beginning. Some people think this part is cheesy or that part is cheesy but at the end of the day, you have gone through the process and really poured your heart out. You come out as a different person and a stronger person. I owe a lot to Julianne Hough who is a near and dear friend of mine. She has gone on to crush it in the entertainment space. I always have known that she would and her brother the same thing… I think you learn a lot about yourself.”
To learn more about the United States’ athletes, visit teamusa.org. The Olympics begin live on February 8!
HollywoodLifers, are you psyched to see the Winter Olympics?