Apolo Ohno mentors a contestant at Next Olympic Hopeful in Colorado Springs, Colo.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – On Season 3 of “Milk Life presents, The Next Olympic Hopeful,” contestants received a surprise visit from a very special guest – Olympic speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno.
Ohno is the most decorated U.S. winter Olympian, winning eight Olympic medals in short track speedskating across three Olympic Winter Games. In addition to his Olympic medals, Ohno has won eight gold medals at world championships along with world cup overall titles in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Most recently, he was inducted in the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame earlier this fall.
Now retired from the sport, Ohno felt Next Olympic Hopeful was a great opportunity to give back to his Olympic family.
“This is a life-changing experience,” said Ohno. “Now whether you are selected and become part of that invite list to this team or not, it gives you a shot. Sometimes in life you just need one shot.”
Next Olympic Hopeful is the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s talent-identification program aimed at increasing and enhancing the pipeline of world-class athletes pursuing Olympic sport.
A one-hour broadcast of Season 3—featuring Ohno as a mentor—will air this Sunday, Dec. 29, at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.
As mentor, Ohno was able to provide athletes with advice and guidance throughout the three-day training camp at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center – a place Ohno called home for many years during the prime of his career.
“Being here at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center has been beyond anything that I possibly could have asked for,” he said. “When I first came here at 15 years old, I didn't understand what I was going to be doing, what it was going to take, the time and hours I was going to dedicate or the type of person I was going to become. And through sport, I believe John Wooden said it best—'sports reveals character’—and I think that’s why we as Americans love sport.”
One winner selected for each sport goes on to attend national team training camps with the opportunity to advance in that sport. The winners will be revaled during the broadcast.
“This program is special,” said Ohno. “We’ve got untapped talent here in this country we didn’t even know existed. We see raw, natural, pure genetic talent and skill being displayed and this program is meant to accomplish and curate all of their skills and their genetic talent to bring out their best, and hopefully they can go on and make Olympic teams.”
Ohno took the time to really get to know the athletes, their personalities and their reasons for attending the camp.
“I want to observe and motivate them to really attack these tests,” said Ohno. “To really show themselves with no fear, to put themselves 100 percent out there. To me, that showmanship of character is really important. I can see just a snippet of their personality and see what happens when they’re pushed a little bit.
As an Olympian himself, Ohno knows the hard work and dedication it takes to make your Olympic dreams a reality.
“I want to deliver messages that motivate them beyond the physical traits and allows them to believe they can do something beyond their potential,” he said.
He also knows it’s much more than just the physical traits that makes someone a good athlete. It’s their mentality that makes a good athlete great.
“The ability to overcome obstacles, challenges, insecurities and self-doubt, that’s where the real diamonds are made,” said Ohno. “We want those individuals who are not afraid to fail, who are not afraid to take the risk, take the plunge and do so in a way that puts themselves out there and makes them a better athlete.”
Ohno said his advice to the winners is simple.
“Life is about chances and many times in our lives we are given the chances and sometimes we don’t see them, we don’t recognize them and we don’t emotionally feel the opportunity at hand,” said Ohno. “All six of you have the opportunity, you have the chance to achieve something a fraction, a miniscule population of the world can accomplish – so take it. This is your moment. This is your time. You are in control and you can create your own destiny.”