Ohno has another day in the sun
YESTERDAY was Apolo Anton Ohno day in our fair city. Why?
"It's not every time that we have an Olympic champion to come to our community," Mayor Mufi Hannemann said.
We have "a large Asian-American population," he said.
Also, "We want him to keep coming back," Hannemann said.
OK, good reasons.
YOU KNOW OHNO. He's that Winter Olympics American short-track speed skating star -- I can still hear Bob Costas saying his three names over and over and over again.
"He's won five medals," Hannemann said. "He's been to two Olympics."
He's ticked off an entire country.
Of course, you know Apolo Anton Ohno.
He was an NBC golden boy who, over the course of the last two Olympiads, was involved in all kinds of drama (mostly involving South Korea), took home a handful of medals and, judging by yesterday's turnout, set female hearts fluttering all over the world.
He's been embraced here -- figuratively, literally -- since he got off the plane.
At the airport -- at the airport! -- he called a friend, saying, "I thought Italian people were friendly ..."
"To be so embraced," he said, "it's hard for me to describe the feelings I get."
It's affected him. You can see it.
"I think me being half Japanese," he said.
Oh, yes. He's hapa. He's home.
IT WAS CRAZY, being the target of the hatred of a nation. But South Korea wasn't kidding. The e-mails crashed the USOC's server. There were threats.
In 2003, he skipped a World Cup event in Korea, thought it was better for him to just not show up. No joke.
But then in 2005, he went to Korea for the World Cup.
"It was interesting," he said. "When we got there there was hundreds, hundreds of security guards. I'm not kidding. I'm like, ooh, is this a good idea, I don't know. We didn't know how I was going to be accepted."
Then they were in the airport, and there was ... nobody. No protesters. No rioting. Just security ... and TV cameras.
So he raced. "The Koreans are fierce competitors," he said. But by the end he'd won the overall title. And something had changed, by then.
As he was leaving, the vice president of the Korean skating union stopped him, shook his hand. He'd made a big difference by coming, Ohno was told. He actually had fans in Korea, now.
It was like when Morgan Pressel came to Hawaii to play on Michelle Wie's turf. They could see him as a person now, not as some evil caricature. They knew him now. They liked what they saw.
At the 2006 Olympics there was more controversy. But on the medal stand, he and his Korean competitors embraced.
HE IS IN town for the semisecret Victor Awards, a to-be-televised sports awards show that taped last night. There are all kinds of names of sports figures who may or may not have been coming to the private event. I guess we'll have to tune in to see who was here in our town.
But Ohno is out there, in the sun. He ate Hawaiian food, yesterday.
"It's ono at Ono's!" he said. (And also Ohno at Ono's.)
He ran out of autographed pictures. He signed Wheaties boxes. He was awarded the key to the city.
"Wow," he said.
Didn't he know he was getting the key to the city?
"Still," he said.
The key to the city! How cool is that? How many of those does he have?
"Not many," he said.
"A couple," he said.
A couple. This is the life of Apolo Anton Ohno, three-named speed-skating star. But he'll remember this one, Honolulu's key. Honolulu's heart. He doesn't know yet if he'll skate in another Olympics, but he's already making plans to come back here.