Olympic medalist inspires students to persevere


Marisa Vasquez

Olympic speed skating medalist Apolo Ohno speaks about his life experiences in the Texas Union Tuesday evening.

Tiffany Hinman

For eight-time Olympic speed skating medalist Apolo Ohno, the development of his personal definition of perseverance didn’t come easily at the beginning career.

Ohno discussed his achievements as early struggles at “An Evening with Apolo Ohno” at the Texas Union Ballroom Tuesday night.

“Growing up, I didn’t always know what I wanted to do,” Ohno said. “But after sticking with speed skating, I now know more than ever exactly why I am doing this sport. It is important to be excited about the passions you have in life.”

As an adolescent, Ohno said he was not fully committed to speed skating and would run away from home and training, staying with friends to avoid committing to the sport. But he won his first Olympic medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.

“My dad would get so angry with me, because I wasn’t giving this great opportunity a solid chance,” Ohno said. “My coaches and I eventually came up with the quote, ‘One world, one life, one chance, your choice.’ The choice truly is yours. You can have opportunity, but until you’re serious, focused and driven, you will remain at the same level.

It is up to us to carry our struggles forward and to keep pushing.”

Jennifer Zamora, director of student programs for the University Unions, said the Student Events Center staff brought Ohno to campus as part of a larger effort to encourage students to visit the Union. The Union was partially closed last semester because of renovations.

“We felt the Olympic racing theme would be a great way to bring students back into the Union,” Zamora said.

Ohno’s visit to campus sparked excitement among participating students. Ohno didn’t take the stage until 7 p.m., but lines were spread far past the West Mall entrance before 6 p.m.

Biochemistry senior Nida Khawaja waited after the lecture in an attempt to get a picture with Ohno.

“I have loved Apolo Ohno since I was a child,” Khawaja said. “He’s so inspirational and a very positive public figure.”

Ohno encouraged students to focus on the present rather than the future.

“You can’t control tomorrow,” Ohno said. “You can only control today and now. Everyone is good at something. Stay driven, and I hope to see all of you at the top.”

Advertising junior Michael Todd said he felt ready to take on the stress of a new semester after hearing Ohno’s lecture.

“I know I am going to struggle,” Todd said. “But I know that everything is going to be all right as long as I try.”