Apolo Anton Ohno, an American short-track speed skater, is the most-decorated American athlete in the history of the Winter Olympics. In three Winter Games (2002, 2006, and 2010) he accumulated a total of eight medals—two gold, two silver, and four bronze.
Ohno’s Japanese-born father encouraged him from an early age to participate in sports. He experienced success in competitive swimming and in-line roller skating before taking up short-track speed skating at the age of 12. His talent on the ice was recognized almost immediately, and at age 14 he became the youngest skater ever to be accepted into the residency program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. He won the first of his numerous U.S. championships in 1997, and by 2001 he had emerged as an elite competitor on the international short-track circuit, winning the overall World Cup title that year—the first American skater to do so.
At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, Ohno was among the favorites in the 1,000-metre event. On the race’s final lap, however, China’s Li Jiajun caused a pileup that knocked everyone down except Australian Steven Bradbury (then skating in last place), who safely bypassed the other skaters for the gold. Ohno managed to lunge across the finish line to earn the silver medal. Ohno later won a gold in the 1,500-metre competition; although he finished the race second behind South Korea’s Kim Dong-Sung, Kim was subsequently disqualified for having obstructed Ohno’s path. Ohno claimed his second overall World Cup title in 2003 and achieved a third in 2005. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, he was the only American to win a short-track gold medal, in the 500-metre event, and earned bronze medals in the 1,000-metre race and the 5,000-metre relay.
In 2007 Ohno made headlines off the ice by appearing as a contestant on the televised dance competition Dancing with the Stars, which he won with his professional dance partner, Julianne Hough. After returning to skating, he quickly regained his winning form. At the 2008 short-track world championships in Kangnung, South Korea, he captured the 500-metre and overall world titles. Ohno arrived at the 2010 Games in Vancouver with high expectations. After capturing a silver medal in the 1,500 metres, he won a bronze in the 1,000 metres. It was his seventh career Olympic medal, and Ohno surpassed speed skater Bonnie Blair for most Winter Games medals won by an American. Ohno also led the United States to a bronze medal in the 5,000-metre relay.