Apolo Anton Ohno's next event: Ironman 70.3 Boise

The two-time Winter Olympic gold medalist will compete in his first triathlon Saturday in Boise.

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comJune 6, 2014 

He is the most decorated American Winter Olympian in history and even won a season of Dancing With The Stars. But Apolo Anton Ohno's next challenge — as a triathlete — is a daunting one.

And he's getting his start in Boise.

The former short track speedskater is now a triathlete, and his debut is Saturday's Ironman 70.3 Boise, which begins at noon with the swim portion at Lucky Peak Reservoir.

"I'm not nervous at all because I have no idea what I'm getting myself into," Ohno said. "It's going to be interesting."

On the ice, Ohno's individual events were done in less than 150 seconds. To cover the 70.3 miles Saturday, he'll need to push himself for a few hours.

The 32-year-old is under no illusion about his rawness in his new sport. Though he did run the 2011 New York Marathon, Ohno said he otherwise rarely has run more than two miles at once before his triathlon training. He was an accomplished swimmer until the age of 12, but "never touched water again unless it was frozen."

"I've never really done open water swimming, and I went from heavy resistance, explosive training with lots of rest to almost no rest while going constantly at less wattage," Ohno said.

Ohno has received some top-notch training assistance — he's worked closely with eight-time Ironman world champion Paula Newby-Fraser the last three months and has sought input from three-time champion Craig Alexander.

Newby-Fraser helped train former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward last year, taking him from triathlon newcomer all the way to a finisher in the grueling 140.6-mile Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

"Apolo's just a beastly athlete," Newby-Fraser said. "He has more of a background and knowledge of endurance than Hines did, and is a lot less beat up. I'm very, very keen for him to get out there and experience it. He's so talented, but it's going to be a shock, and he'll need it to grasp what's ahead of him."

Ohno initially was approached to do the Ironman early last year, right around when he opted to retire from speedskating. He said his schedule was too busy at the time, but had the chance again this year through Team Chocolate Milk, the same one that supported Ward.

After serving as a television analyst at February's Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Ohno turned his focus to training for the triathlon. However, he admits his training has been "sporadic" with a still-busy appearance schedule.

"It hasn't been as consistent as I'd have liked, but I think once that light switch goes on in my head that it's training mode, I think my experience has helped," Ohno said. "It's a once in a lifetime chance to test myself in a whole new way."

Though his ultimate triathlon goal is to compete in Kona on Oct. 11, Ohno is trying to work his way up to the 140.6-mile level, starting in Boise, where the terrain and timeliness are a good match. He jokes that "maybe a mini-triathlon would've been a nice start," but is eager to jump in headfirst.

"When we'd train, we'd watch the Ironman on TV and say 'these guys are absolutely insane,'" Ohno said. "It's the furthest departure athletically I could think of. Now I'm here doing it. It's not easy, but it's kind of fun. I know I'll get passed (Saturday), but I'm OK with that. Hopefully they say hi when they do."

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