Apolo Anton Ohno was born May 22, 1982 in Seattle, Washington, to American Jerrie Lee and Japanese-born Yuki Ohno. When Apolo was only a year old, his parents divorced and custody was given to Yuki. The popular hairdresser sacrificed a career in Hollywood to raise his son.
Apolo, however, had become a latchkey kid at eight, making his own meals, doing his homework, and going to bed before his father came home. By the time he had reached 13, he had fallen into a bad crowd, hanging out with rough, 20-year-old guys who were constantly getting into trouble. Yuki had already tried everything to keep him occupied, including choir and swimming. Apolo took up rollerblading and started winning championships, but it wasn't until he and Yuki saw the 1994 Olympics on TV that he was introduced to short track speed skating. He soon made the transition from inline to short track. Apolo and Yuki traveled from race to race--and Apolo was winning them. He won three age-group titles, but was still out of focus, argumentative, and disinterested. Patrick Wentland, of Lake Placid's Olympic Training Center, spotted Apolo one day in '95 and invited Apolo to train there although he was two years underage. Wentland brought his case to the USOC and asked if Apolo could be given special permission, but it was Apolo who didn't want to go. So much so that, when Wentland finally got permission, Apolo didn't board the plane and sneaked off to a friend's house for a week without Yuki's knowing. When Apolo finally returned home, Yuki escorted him to Lake Placid personally and dropped him off at the Center, warning Wentland of Apolo's behavior. Sure enough, Apolo hated training and skipped practice runs to go to Pizza Hut. But soon it caught up with him. Wentland issued a body-fat test and Apolo finished dead-last, hence his nickname "Chunky." Apolo was angry. He told Wentland, "I don't want to be the fattest. I don't want to be the slowest. I want to be the best." Apolo became the best. He started eating right, training right, and winning. He became the U.S. Champion in 1997, even though he was only 14. Everyone expected this young phenom to go to the '98 Nagano Olympics, but Apolo, still rebellious as ever and even more inconsistent, finished last at the trials. He and Yuki flew back home, but Yuki dropped his son off at a cabin on the coast, alone, for eight days. With no outside connections, Apolo was left to sort out his thoughts...and his life. He realized he had to shape up, get serious about training and his career in general, unless he wanted to become like his "friends" back home in Seattle. Apolo started to turn his life around. He patched things up with his father, who is now his mentor, friend, and, as Apolo calls him, the "greatest influence." He started winning again, starting with the U.S. Title. And he hasn't stopped since.