Today, Olympic gold-medal winning speed-skater Apolo Anton Ohno freely admits he once had a discipline problem.
Speed-skater Ohno embraces 'zero-regrets mentality'
The closing keynote speaker at the American Health Information Management Association convention today, Ohno said he'd been a champion swimmer at age 12 and almost wandered into short-track speed skating, his specialty, after seeing some racers dressed up “like superheroes.”
Ohno started skating so fast so quickly that he was invited at age 14 to move across the country from his native Seattle to join the junior development skating program in Lake Placid, N.Y. But instead of getting on the plane after his father dropped him off at the airport, he called a friend to pick him up, spending a week hiding out from his father, hanging out with friends and sleeping over at their homes—until the New York coach called his father.
His father rode with his son all the way to Lake Placid the next time.
A year later, Ohno he was ranked No. 1 in the country in his sport, but due to a lack of discipline, by 1998 his ranking had dropped to 16th.
“My father saw the mentality,” Ohno recalled. “He saw an opportunity missed.” That's when his father took him to a wooded “resort” that was “so desolate, so isolated, where it rains 24/7. It's the kind of place where people go if they're part of the witness protection.” And, his father dropped him off there to think.
“If you're going to continue with skating,” Ohno said his father told him, “you have to give it a true commitment.”
Ohno said he spent nine days there, contemplating, why he was there and what he should do.
He emerged with a new dedication, having found the beginnings of what would develop into what he described as “the high-performance mechanism we all have. It's a simple instance of turning it on.”
In the run-up to the 2010 Olympics, Ohno said the philosophy matured into what he now calls the “zero-regrets mentality.”
At the end of each grueling training day, he said, he'd lie in bed and ask himself, “Did you do everything today to be the best?” In time, he said, “I started saying, yes.”
“That became my mantra,” he said. “That was the only thing I had control over. It's somewhat similar to life. We prepare as best we can, but we can't control it.”
“And that's what I want to share with you, that zero-regrets mentality, that every day you're going to do the best that you can do.”
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