Apolo Ohno ready for short track analyst debut at Olympic trials

Apolo Anton Ohno
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Apolo Ohno has a simple goal as he ventures into commentating.

“Hopefully, I can bring a little bit of an inside perspective given my previous history in the sport,” he said.

That likely won’t be a problem.

Ohno, the most decorated Olympic skater and U.S. Winter Olympian of all time with eight medals, will call the action rather than taking part in it for the first time this weekend.

Ohno signed on to be NBC Olympics’ short track speed skating analyst for Sochi after retiring last year. He’ll get his feet wet at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Kearns, Utah, beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN and streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra (full trials schedule here).

The 31-year-old is well prepared.

He already has TV credentials from winning “Dancing With the Stars” in 2007, serving as an NBC Olympics reporter at the 2012 London Games and hosting the game show “Minute to Win It” earlier this year.

Ohno did more homework, talking to Ted Robinson, the NBC Olympics short track play-by-play voice in 2002, 2006 and 2010, and Dan Jansen, the long track analyst at the last three Winter Games.

He also went into the archives, watching Olympic short track action from as far back as 1992, its debut as an official Olympic sport.

“Just to refresh my memory,” Ohno said, “and get that different perspective from being on the other side of the camera.”

What was short track coverage like 20 years ago?

“Minimal,” Ohno said. “The analysts, it was their first time ever seeing the sport. They were as much in the dark as anyone watching. The sport was still growing. The speeds weren’t as high as today. The equipment wasn’t the same.”

Ohno had a laser focus during his three Olympic Games and hopes to delve into the mental side of the sport.

“What goes into the mind of an athlete, four years of training and now trying to perform and gain their place on the Olympic team,” Ohno said. “What goes on in the psyche and the last moments before the final.”

The technical side won’t be lost, though. Ohno said the most popular questions he was asked by fans during his career — outside of “Aren’t you that dancer guy?” — were about equipment, technique and the ability to stay upright while bending his body on race turns.

But avoiding jargon and confusion is key, something he’s learned from watching Cris Collinsworth and Ato Boldon in other sports.

Ohno goes into his first short track meet as an analyst with no fears. He also has no desire to jump back on the ice, even though he felt that competitive itch watching Michael Phelps swim in London.

“I would be lying if I did say that I didn’t miss training and competing and being at the top of my game,” Ohno said. “I actually got so excited [in London] that I thought about coming back and competing in ’14. But I think I made the right decision.”

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2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships
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2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

Chelsea Sodaro
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Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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