On many Colorado Springs mornings, Apolo Ohno rode 10 miles on his Cannondale R2000 road bike from the Olympic Training Center to the Manitou Incline.
“That was my home, my sanctuary,” Ohno said.
When he arrived at his sanctuary, he only had started his workout. For most of us, one trip up and down the incline is more than enough. Make that immensely more than enough.
Not for Ohno.
He climbed, he says, those fiendish, absurdly steep steps “two, three, five times” in a row, and then pedaled his bike 10 miles back to his OTC dorm room.
And the brutal work was worth it.
On Tuesday morning, Ohno spoke to 825 fans at the Peak Vista Breakfast of Champions. The crowd listened intently for various reasons, but the prime reason was Ohno used his obsessive training to win eight Olympic medals, including two gold.
These are harsh days for the America Olympic Movement. Scandal has overtaken glory as the dominant theme. A monster named Larry Nassar abused hundreds of gymnasts and created a sinister, dark cloud that’s hanging over the movement.
That’s the ugly side.
Ohno stands as a reminder of the beautiful side of the movement, the side that beckons to promising, youthful athletes, the side that can lift a kid named Apolo from Federal Way, a modest suburb of Seattle, to a world stage. His is a story that never gets stale.
“It changed everything,” Ohno said of his Olympic ride, which included trips to the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Olympics. “It changed everything. Look, I was blessed enough to win medals, which obviously magnifies that change significantly.
“I learned so much, and those lessons are the most important, regardless of the color of the medal. I’m very grateful. I take those lessons with me as I go to the next chapters of my life.”
As a child, Ohno watched Olympic speedskaters and was instantly hooked. The sport is not wildly popular, except during Olympic competition, but when Ohno saw the elite skaters, he immediately saw himself out there skating and battling beside them. The skaters became his super heroes.
He laughed when talking about the sport that made him famous.
“You go in circles wearing a ridiculous skin-tight outfit,” he said.
That’s what others might see.
“To me, it was beautiful,” he said. “I fell in love with the sport.”
Ohno’s story is a rare one. He saw super heroes on his TV screen, and he skated and battled alongside them and, finally, conquered them. He became a skating super hero.
His Olympic ride carried him all over the globe. He was smiling at a podium Tuesday morning at one of his favorite stops.
“I feel like,” he said, “I’m back home.”