Short-track speed skating is the rollerball of the Winter Olympics, anarchy around an oval – and the sport’s freest spirit is Apolo Ohno. When he was younger, he’d even detour from training runs to get pizza. Ohno’s father, a hairstylist, raised Apolo as a single parent in Seattle; his mother walked out on the family when Apolo was one year old. After seeing the short-trackers at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994, Yuki Ohno pushed his son into speed skating as a way to keep him out of gang life.
It worked. Apolo was just fourteen years old when he won his first U.S. short-track championship. On the short track in Salt Lake City, Apolo turned his aggressiveness into a gold, a silver, and a dizzying array of bumps, crashes and disqualifications, shrugging off an event he lost because of a rules infraction by saying he deserved to be bounced from it. The nineteen-year-old followed that performance by blitzing through New York – making sure to party at the China Club while he was in town.
So are you rich now?
No way. Not yet, anyway. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to focus on the opportunities. Right now, I’m just doing errands with a buddy who’s looking for a car. I love cars. If I get rich, I’d love to be on MTV Cribs: “I live in an apartment, but I have fifteen cars – check out the whole parking lot.”
So what kind of car is your friend buying?
He’s just looking, doing test-drives. I want to go to the Cadillac dealer and the big dogs – you know, Mercedes, Lexus, BMW. But I’ve got shorts and sneakers on, so they’re going to look at me like I’m crazy.
What kind of car do you drive now?
A Toyota 4Runner.
If you could get any car you wanted, what would it be?
Can I get two? I really like the LX 470, the SUV Lexus. And then a top-line big-dog sedan. I’m a luxury guy. I like automatic stuff. I’m still crazy, but when I’m driving, I like things comfortable. That’s the way I dress: comfortable. I’m not a tight-neck-shirt-wearing guy.
What music do you play in the car?
R. Kelly, Craig David, the new Nas. And I like Tupac. When I’m working out, I like the Rocky soundtrack.
Where do you live now?
I live in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It’s rent-free, and they’ve got freefood in the cafeteria. It’s like dorm rooms. They’re nice rooms, but I could use some more space.
How did you decorate your room?
I’ve got a poster of Muhammad Ali, a poster of Crazy Horse and some meditation posters. And posters of lions – that’s my animal. I love big cats.
What’s always in your fridge?
Strawberry Quik. In the summer, me and all my friends go out for long bike rides. Everybody else takes water, but I bring two bottles of Strawberry Quik. It heats up in the sun, and it gets nasty. I always end up having to borrow somebody’s water bottle.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve bought since the Olympics?
I love jewelry, that’s my thing. I’m looking at some chains, maybe a watch or two. Yellow gold; platinum’s too much for me. I can’t rock the thirty-five-inch chain – my neck’s not strong enough.
And the gold will match your medal. You showed me the mark from where you bit it – when did you do that?
Right when I got off the ice. If it’s gold, you’ve got to take a bite out of it. I took a little chunk.
Where do you keep it?
It’s in a secure place, very secret, where it’s not going to get lost. You don’t want to forget where you put your gold medal.