Remember when we all cheered for Asian Americans Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan? Gone are the days when we sat as a nation, riveted in front of our TVs, watching women’s figure skating during the Winter Olympics. So what’s there to cheer for in 2010?
A lot! Two men have stepped into the shoes of Yamaguchi and Kwan as Asian American athletic heroes. And they’re both local guys. The new sport to watch is short track speed skating.
Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski were both raised in Federal Way and trained at the same skating center. They earned Olympic silver and bronze, respectively in the men’s 1,500 meter race in short track speed skating.
It is the first for half-Filipino Celski and the sixth in half-Japanese Ohno’s career. Ohno has tied Bonnie Blair for the most medals won by a U.S. Winter Olympian. He has a few more chances to beat Blair’s record.
Number seven may come in the men’s 1,000 meter race.
Asian Americans are not the only ones with decorations. As of press time, the South Koreans have dominated speed skating, getting three of their current five gold medals in the sport from Lee Sang-Hwa, Mo Tae-Bum, and Lee Jung-Su.
Japan is no slouch in the speed skating department either. Nagashima Keiichiro won silver in the men’s 500 meter race. Kato Joji won bronze.
As of press time, China has three medals. Tong Jian and Pang Quin won silver in pairs figure skating and Wang Beixing won bronze in speed skating.
But perhaps the greatest Cinderella story of the Olympics is the husband and wife skating pair Zhao Hongbo and Shen Xue. At ages 36 and 31, respectively, Vancouver was considered to be their last Olympics.
They made it count. This year, they became the first Chinese skaters to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in any figure skating category, ending the Russians’ half-century run. They are arguably one of the best pair skating teams of all time as they hold the record for pairs’ score in the short program.
There are many lessons to be gleaned from these accomplishments. Perhaps the most obvious is to never give up on one’s dreams. Another lesson is that with will power, a dream, talent, and an incredible work ethic, amazing things can be achieved.
However, maybe the best reaction to all of these great accomplishments is not to over-analyze them, but to just appreciate them and take a moment to bask in it all. We should remember the elation of these athletes, the looks on their faces as they cross the finish line or finish their program, and we should allow ourselves to be inspired by that. ♦