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(Tribune file photo) Apolo Anton Ohno competes during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Ohno staging debut short-track event at ESA
Speedskating » Olympian returns to arena where he helped sport take off.
First Published Sep 02 2014 05:22 pm • Last Updated Sep 02 2014 11:31 pm

Since retiring from speedskating, Apolo Ohno has reinvented himself as a dancer, broadcaster, game show host and triathlete, among other pursuits.

And now he’s becoming a event promoter, hosting a first-of-its-kind competition in the building where he became an Olympic star in 2002 by winning the first two of his eight career medals.

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The Apolo Ohno Invitational, scheduled Nov. 21 at EnergySolutions Arena, is a short-track speedskating showcase, bringing together athletes from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and China.

Ohno created the event in partnership with the Utah Sports Commission, US Speedskating and ESA.

Skaters will compete for prize money in 14 individual and relay races (counting semifinals and finals) in an event that may televised by the NBC Sports Network. Negotiations are ongoing.

This is Ohno’s latest venture since he retired from speedskating. "My life has been pretty crazy," he said Tuesday, detailing a long list of creative opportunities that he keeps discovering.

And it makes sense to him to stage this event in Salt Lake City, where Utahns "fell in love with the sport in 2002," said Ohno, who lived in South Jordan for several years while training in Kearns.

He initially thought of such an event several years ago as a way to promote the sport, maximizing the dynamic, explosive nature of short-track competition — "all the elements that we as Americans love in action sports," he said.

Ohno, 32, views the invitational as "my first step in hopefully showcasing the sport and making it more popular globally," he said.

It’s also designed to be more entertaining in person, with the races compressed into a two-hour schedule of continuous action.

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Ohno is training heavily for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in October. He completed the Ironman 70. 3-mile event — swimming, cycling and running half the distances of the full Ironman — in Boise, Idaho, in June.

Training for that kind of endurance event is a contrast to the "40 seconds of pure mayhem and chaos" of short-track speedskating, as described by Ohno. "It’s completely flipping the switch," he said. "That’s an interesting conversation with myself, while I’m riding along the Pacific Coast Highway and up the canyon."

Twitter: @tribkurt

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