Archive for February 2010
The fascination with Olympic short speedskater Apolo Ohno’s estranged mother shows no signs of abating.
The obsession is stoked, in part, because so little is known about her. It’s been reported that her name is Jerrie Lee, she is Caucasian, and she and Apolo’s dad, Yuki Ohno, divorced in 1983 when Apolo was only a year old.
It was unusual for the time, but when the couple divorced, it was the father who got full custody of the son, rather than the mother. This, despite the fact that Yuki owned a hair salon in Seattle, Wash., worked 12-hour days and had little time to take care of a small child. (One Halloween, little Apolo sat in his father’s salon wearing his costume, waiting to be taken trick-or-treating as it got darker and darker, and later and later. His father couldn’t leave; he had to tend to his clients.)
Why did Apolo’s father get custody? Why not his mother? Didn’t she want her baby?
One clue is revealed by a 2002 newspaper article which states that Apolo’s mother was only 18 years old when she married Yuki Ohno, a Japanese immigrant who was 37 years old at the time. When they divorced a year later when Apolo was still a baby, Yuki got custody. Maybe his teenaged mother knew she was ill-equipped to raise a child at the time.
Whatever the reason, it appears Apolo was raised with little or no contact with his mother, and hasn’t talked to her for decades. “After 19 years, it would be strange,” Apolo told the St. Petersburg Times in 2002. “I don’t have any (lost child) hotlines out for her.”
Yuki wants to keep his ex-wife out of the picture. ”There’s no story about her,” Yuki told Sports Illustrated in 2002. “No story. It’s insignificant to what he is now. We’ve got to keep it that way.”
Insignificant? No mother, whether estranged or not, is ever insignificant to a child. She may have had nothing to do with his becoming an Olympian, but as the person who gave birth to Apolo, she cannot be dismissed. Her non-presence has got be a factor in his life. It must affect him in some way that he did not experience a mother’s love while growing up.
As for the mysterious Jerrie Lee, does she watch Apolo on television when he competes in the Olympics? Did she watch several years ago when he won Dancing with the Stars? Does she think, “There is my child.” Or does she change the channel?
If you watched closely during the Winter Olympics where South Korean figure skater Yu-Na Kim took gold, you’ll notice she did something familiar and peculiar before her free skate competition.
As she glided to the center of the ice to begin her routine, Yu-Na quickly made the sign of the cross, clasped her hands together and closed her eyes for a second, as if praying.
Turns out, Yu-Na is Catholic. “She converted two years ago,” my mom tells me, by telephone, the day after Yu-Na won the gold medal. “Her Catholic name is Stella.”
Stellaaaaaaa! (ala Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire).
Catholics are a religious minority in South Korea and only account for some 5% of the population. The rest of the South Korean population is mostly Buddhist, Christian or Protestant.
Yu-Na’s mother, who also converted to Catholicism, couldn’t watch her daughter skate during the final. She was too nervous. Yu-Na’s mother stayed in a hallway in the ice rink with her eyes closed, praying fervently.
All that praying seems to have worked.
Hah! Despite his lengthy, televised apology last week, Tiger Woods has lost yet another sponsor.
“Add Gatorade to the list of endorsement deals that Tiger Woods has lost,” the Associated Press reported on February 26.
It’s not that one is glad Tiger is losing sponsors, but if Tiger thought his emotionless and defiant apology on February 19 would be sufficient to begin repairing his public image, he needs to have some new people advising him.
Last November 25 — two days before the fateful car accident outside Tiger’s home — it was reported that Gatorade would be discontinuing the Tiger Focus drink. It had nothing to do with revelations of Tiger’s numerous extramarital affairs as the decision had been made months beforehand.
But Gatorade confirmed to the Associated Press on February 26 that it has ended its relationship with Tiger, except for continuing some work with his foundation.
“We no longer see a role for Tiger in our marketing efforts and have ended our relationship,” a Gatorade spokeswoman told the Associated Press. “We wish him all the best.”
Even before she thrilled the world and gave a gold-medal winning performance at the Winter Olympics, rumors were swirling that South Korean figure skater Kim Yu-Na might have gotten plastic surgery. The 19-year-old athlete appeared too beautiful, too perfect.
Ridiculous websites posted pictures of Yu-Na as a young teenager wearing braces and compared it to current photos of the celebrity athlete — still in her teens — speculating whether she had gone under the knife.
Has Yu-Na gotten plastic surgery? No! It’s called make-up, you morons.
Japanese figure skater Miki Ando’s green Egyptian dress looked more like a Halloween costume than a figure skating outfit — right down to her matchy-matchy green eyeshadow.
“I LOVE that Miki Ando looks like she just got off work serving cocktails on the casino floor of the Luxor,” tweeted one viewer. Hi-larious!
She did it! South Korean figure skater Yu-Na Kim had the weight of an entire nation on her shoulders tonight as she skated in the final of the Winter Olympics.
When it came her turn to take the ice, she performed like a diamond under pressure and won the first ever figure skating medal for South Korea. And she did it with a record-breaking score of 150.06 for the free style (long) program, giving her a total score of 228.56. (This was after scoring a record-breaking 78.50 points in the short program on Tuesday night.)
Wearing a bright, royal blue halter dress trimmed with sparkling rhinestones and a glittering crystal collar, Yu-Na seemed composed as she readied herself; the only sign of nerves showing when she quickly crossed herself before skating onto the ice to begin her performance. “My heart just beat a little faster,” confessed NBC commentator, Scott Hamilton. “This has been so anticipated.”
As piano music began tinkling over the speakers, Yu-Na began to skate — twirling, jumping and gliding to Concerto in F by George Gershwin. “Oh my goodness, this is glorious,” the female NBC commentator exclaimed as Yu-Na neared the end of her routine. “It’s one of the greatest Olympic performances I have ever seen!”
Seconds after striking her final pose, Yu-Na’s face briefly crumpled as she became overwhelmed with emotion, her eyes filling with tears. She had given a flawless performance; a gold medal worthy performance. But would her main rival, the Japanese skater, Mao Asada — skating next — overtake her for the gold?
No. Though Mao landed both her Triple Axels — the first woman to land three during Olympic competition — it would not be enough to best Yu-Na. Mao made several small, but costly, errors during her routine. As Mao continued to skate — knowing that she had probably lost the gold medal — the music she had chosen, a dark, dramatic piece of classical music filled with thundering, deep notes, seemed only to dramatize the Japanese skater’s downfall.
Final results: Yu-Na won gold, and she did it by blistering the competition. Mao won silver, more than 20 points behind Yu-Na. Canadian skater, Joannie Rochette, whose mother suddenly died of a massive heart attack two days before the figure skating competition, won bronze.
On the podium, it was the South Korean flag that was raised the highest. And as the Korean national anthem played, Yu-Na mouthed the words to the song, keeping her composure. But it became too much for the 19-year-old Korean skater. Her eyes welled up and tears streamed down her face. She wept. She wept for a job well done, for making her country proud, and because it was finally all over and she had won. Gold.
On the shoulders of two young women rest the hope and pride of two nations. Tonight, figure skaters Mao Asada of Japan and Yu-na Kim of South Korea will be battling to see which will take home the gold medal in the Winter Olympics.
For many who will be watching tonight, the sporting competition will take on historical significance. Will South Korea, once dominated by Japan, triumph over its one-time aggressor?
Japan officially occupied the Korean peninsula for more than three decades beginning in 1910 — before there was a North or South Korea. The Japanese made Koreans change their names to Japanese monikers and forbade them to speak Korean, essentially trying to wipe out the Korean culture and peoples.
At the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, Sohn Kee-chung set a world marathon record to win the first Olympic gold medal by a Korean, but because Korea was at the time occupied by Japanese forces, Sohn had to qualify for the Japanese team, adopt a Japanese name, endure the sight of the Japanese flag being raised and hear the Japanese national anthem being played to celebrate his victory. He bowed his head in protest during the ceremony.
— Reporter Beverly Smith of The Globe and Mail
There is also some research that suggests Korea was once spelled “Corea,” but the spelling was changed by the Japanese colonial government so that Korea would follow Japan alphabetically. (The French still spell it “Corea.”)
Is it fair to thrust all this history upon Korean figure skater Yu-na Kim — in the hopes that a victory over Japanese skater Mao Asada will symbolize the Korean nation’s triumph over Japan? No, it’s not fair. But it is reality.