The Mystery of the Ohno Diaries

By Charlie Snyder // // March 4, 2002

We didn’t even know what we had.

Late in 2001, we were redesigning the U.S. Olympic Committee site, moving files over from the old server to the new server, when the question came up, “What do you want to do with those year-old Ohno diaries?”

My first thought was “What Ohno diaries?” I began as producer of in late September and hadn’t as yet committed the entire site to memory.

Turns out in January and February of 2001, Apolo Anton Ohno provided the site with four diary entries; a total of 751 words.

I made the decision to bring the old diaries over to the new site. Our site is all about the U.S. Olympians. I thought, “Maybe we can get him to write a few more.”

When the Olympic Games began, I still hadn’t read the diaries and I wouldn’t have been able to tell you how to find the diaries for a million dollars. (Well, I guess for $1 million, I probably would have told you to use the search function.)

At any rate, the Apolo Anton Ohno Diaries weren’t on my mind’s front burner.

In the first week of the Games, we started to receive a trickle of ‘best wishes’ e-mails for Apolo. We figured out that we had listed an “Apolo” e-mail address on that diary page. That trickle – as you may have heard – became the aquatic equivalent of Niagara Falls as we were bombarded with thousands of e-mails that really couldn’t be considered fan mail.

Some viewers were mad at Ohno for a decision made by an official. Like 16,000 viewers.

Short track speed skating and Ohno, specifically, became a sensation. His gracious comments and level-headed response to the crazy final-corner pile-up in the 1,000-meters made him a fan favorite. At the Salt Lake Ice Center, fans sported fake ‘soul patches.’

Even my two-year-old son would mimic Ohno, skating around the kitchen floor a few times before doing a baseball slide into the refrigerator, announcing to all, “Now I get the medals.”

After yet another wild finish in the 1,500-meters and Ohno’s subsequent gold medal, Ohno and his Diaries really took off.

Fans wanted more information on the young star and searched the Internet. On virtually every major search engine, the Ohno Diaries page was the first from our site to pop up in the results, including the Yahoo Buzz index and our own site. So the year-old diaries blew up.

By the end of the Games, was an unqualified success driving more traffic than the Atlanta, Nagano and Sydney Games combined. The Ohno Diaries intro page was our fourth most-viewed page with well over 100,000 visitors.

But maybe Ohno’s on-ice excitement and search engine success aren’t the reasons for the popularity of these diary pages. Maybe there’s a “Dead Sea Scrolls” wisdom found within the words of Apolo Anton Ohno … some sort of “Who Moved My Cheese” fable that keeps viewers bounding back for more, telling their friends and so on.

Perhaps Ohno is the Neo of short track … could he be “The One?”

I wondered, so now that the Games are over, I have read the Ohno Diaries. On the surface, the diaries read like any other athlete diary about training and competing. However, on second and third reads, I believe I have unlocked the mystery … the Mystery of the Apolo Anton Ohno Diaries!

January 2001

OHNO SAYS: “Training and sickness just don’t mix well.”

Mystery Revealed: Much of life can be made simpler by putting round pegs into round holes. Water and oil don’t mix. Don’t force the issue. Explore life, yes. Take calculated risks, of course. But if you wake up one morning puking your guts out, maybe take a pass on hitting the weight room on that day.

OHNO SAYS: “I am a human being trying to reach a goal which so many people cannot attain. It’s a path not easily taken … but it’s the one thing in my life that makes me the person I am.”

Mystery Revealed: One needs to keep one’s eyes on the road for if one is disturbed only for a moment from one’s goal, one can lose the path. Let’s say the goal is to not be late for a dinner reservation and one attempts to ascertain the time by looking at one’s watch in the dark while driving and then plows into the car directly in front … the City of Manitou will still slap you with a “reckless driving” ticket even if your car suffered most of the damage and the guy in front of you drove away without a scratch.

(Editor’s Note: I crashed my car on the way to dinner because I was looking at my watch.)

OHNO SAYS: “Speed skaters can lose their ‘feel’ for the ice if they are not continuously practicing.”

Mystery Revealed: Practice makes perfect.

OHNO SAYS: “I will just do my best.”

Mystery Revealed: Ohno is crafty in his use of understatement. On the surface, “just do my best,” sounds like maybe all you should do is your best. But upon further review, here is the hidden message: “It’s a good thing we’re wearing these helmets because for about half of my races, I end up on my ass.”

February 25

OHNO SAYS: “I have to be more consistent with my arm swing.”

Mystery Revealed: Who said the exciting world of short track speed skating and bowling have nothing in common? First and foremost, there’s the arm swing. In both sports, a consistent arm swing is vital. Second, of course, is the nail-biting, heart-pounding excitement of crossing the finish line in short track and approaching the foul line in bowling. And lastly, the crashes … the question isn’t if the skaters/pins are going down, the question is how many.

OHNO SAYS: “The constant focus on technique and mental attitude (is) what I live for.”

Mystery Revealed: With this statement, Neo (Ohno) is commenting on the preparation and maintenance of his exquisite soul patch. You don’t grow facial hair like that overnight and you certainly don’t craft a patch of soul on your chin without a certain dedication to technique and a proper mental attitude.

February 26

OHNO SAYS: “Positive self-imagery is very important in every athlete’s life.”

Mystery Revealed: In the words of the immortal Nature Boy Ric Flair: “You can like me or hate me … it just doesn’t matter … but you better learn to love me, because I’m the best thing going. Whoooooo!”

February 27

OHNO SAYS: “I still get a little nervous.”

Mystery Revealed: The typical short track skate blade is 18-inches long and razor sharp.

OHNO SAYS: I have put in the hard work and now I can just let everything else take care of itself.

Mystery Revealed: That’s short track.

This article originally appeared on
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