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Oh oh, here's Ohno

Apolo Ohno is seven minutes away.

Apolo Ohno is now in the parking lot.

Apolo Ohno is in the hallway.

With the anticipation of Ohno’s visit Thursday to the state capitol building, one would have thought Elvis was visiting.

The whirlwind tour of hurricane Ohno blew through Olympia Thursday as Governor Gary Locke affixed his “soul patch” to his chin and pronounced March 14 as Apolo Ohno Day in Washington.

“Ohno-mania has prevailed,” Locke said. “He’s an inspiration not only in the state of Washington, but around the world for people of all ages. He’s a role model who possesses tenacity, focus and discipline. We’re pleased with what he’s done personally and in sports.”

Ohno looked up and pointed at his dad, Yuki. Yuki smiled and shook his head.

Locke lauded Ohno’s father for serving as a role model to other dads.

“Yuki nurtured his son through very difficult times,” the governor said. “Any Olympic athlete requires support and inspiration from parents and others. Mr Ohno, we’re proud of what you have done to carry him along the way.”

On the Senate floor, Ohno was greeted by a standing ovation from government officials — and autograph-seeking interns and pages — as he was honored with Senate Resolution 8761, recognizing the Olympic achievements of Ohno and his father, Yuki.

Before the Senate, Ohno stood and shifted nervously with his hands in the pockets of his slacks. He reached out to adjust the microphone and addressed the Senators. “I, uh, I just want to say thank you to everyone for having me here. It’s a huge honor,” he said. He sat back down as they applauded.

So how does a kid from Federal Way end up becoming a world-wide celebrity, hanging out on late night TV talk shows, splitting time between New York and LA?

“It’s been a long journey,” Ohno said. “Then it happened so fast. It was overnight.”

Ohno’s life has been hectic since leaving the relative anonymity of the world speedskating stage and becoming an Olympic hero and media magnate.

“Coming here yesterday I was trying to keep it quiet,” Ohno said. “I’ve been so busy since the games I haven’t had time to relax. I’ll take a couple days off and hang out with friends in Seattle and Federal Way, then return to Colorado Springs.”

Ohno said he’ll be in the Seattle area until Sunday, possibly stopping by Federal Way’s Pattison’s West skating rink where he got his start inline skating.

“I have a lot of these little things to do, a lot of appearances,” Ohno said. “I’m only here for a couple days. I’ll be sleeping there (in Federal Way), but that’s about it.”

Even if he couldn’t see them in person, Ohno did offer advice for young athletes in Federal Way.

“Just have fun with it,” Ohno said. “If you want to pursue something like this, just go for it. Do your best — there’s nothing else you can do.”

Ohno said he plans to go to college after taking last year off to train for the Olympics.

Until then, he will keep busy speedskating. He heads to Milwaukee on March 26 for the World Team Championships. Then he travels to Montreal in April for the World Short Track Championships.

“This is the beginning,” Ohno said of his Olympic experience. “It’s just one chapter of the book of my accomplishments.”

Sports editor Cole Cosgrove can be reached at 925-5565 and ccosgrove@fedwaymirror.com.

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