Speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history, hasn’t strapped on a pair of blades even for a quick pleasure spin since winning his last medal at the Vancouver 2010 games.
“Partially I don’t because I miss racing so much. When I won my first Olympic medal at 18, I would have said I was going to live and die on the ice rink,” Ohno tells SUCCESS.
But going from Olympic athlete to regular guy isn’t easy. Aside from giving up something you’ve loved, there are other pressures. “With professional athletes, they have a large financial reservoir to weather the storm of good and bad decisions while they figure it out,” he says. “Olympic athletes are out in the cold right after competing because there is no safety net. You’ve dedicated maybe 10 years of your entire young life to earn an Olympic medal that may never bring any financial reward whatsoever.”
Ohno, 31, had no shortage of opportunities after hanging up his skates. In addition to providing commentary for NBC at the London Olympics and again this year at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Ohno has waltzed his way to a win on Dancing with the Stars, appeared in cameo roles on TV, and hosted the game show Minute to Win It.
Ohno says the discipline and strong work ethic developed as an athlete have served him well in life after sports. “As I got closer to Vancouver, the more I realized there’s a new life post-athlete, and that’s really when your life begins,” he says. “I may fail at some things; I may succeed at others. But I won’t know what I’m best at until I fully try everything life has to offer.”