Empowering New York’s Asian American Community Since 1989

Apolo Ohno'S
Seattle

“I wanted to illustrate Seattle as a multicultural hub of different communities while paying tribute to Apolo and his deep appreciation for that. A lot of the values and principles he upholds as a person are tied to his father, and I really wanted to honor that connection between father and son. Another detail that really struck me was how Apolo both values his Japanese background and finds a deep appreciation for other cultures. I wanted to emphasize that in my illustration.”

—Bianca Austria, Illustrator

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About Apolo Ohno

Apolo Ohno is a Japanese American entrepreneur and TV personality known for his gold-medal-winning career as an Olympic speed skater. He grew up in Seattle with a single father, Yuki, who instilled strong self belief and motivation in him from a young age. His Japanese American cultural identity comes primarily from those values his father taught him.

WHERE AM I REALLY FROM?

“Sometimes people who ask that question have ill intent. They’re looking to isolate a singular moment in time—that person is not from the US or exporting this idea that you’re not from here or welcome here. I was always trying to figure out where I fit in. I wish I could show you my ninth-grade yearbook. All I wanted was to be accepted.”

—Apolo Ohno

Nature Drawings

“My father would sit me down and have me draw scenes in nature—water, a tree trunk, cherry blossoms. He told me later that he’d been trying to sharpen my focus to do one thing at a time and dissolve the world around me. That’s a superpower. That ability to really concentrate on the smallest of details for long durations of time allowed me to do the same in high-stress situations later in life.”

School Lunch

“This kid’s eating enchiladas. Another kid’s eating chicken tenders. Then, here’s Apolo breaking out this salted fish and umeboshi sour plum situation at lunch. To me, it felt very normal. But that was the first light bulb—wow, no one else is bringing this type of food. That’s when I first saw myself as someone who was half Japanese.”

Yuki’s Diffusion

“My dad’s hair salon has been in downtown Seattle for 40-plus years. Even during the pandemic, he’d get up at four in the morning, turn the shop’s lights on and clean. There was a sense of pride and ownership. He’d say, ‘It’s my shop. It’s my responsibility.’ He’s like the local community psychologist. When you sit down in his seat and you’re getting your hair done, you just start to regurgitate all the problems and challenges and excitement in your life.”

Roasted Mackerel

“Korean food was a very big part of my upbringing. I think because there’s a strong Korean population on Federal Way. I don’t remember the name of this restaurant, but my dad and I used to eat there literally twice a week. It was very homey, very tasty Korean food. They had godeungeo gui, which is this roasted mackerel fish. All the banchans, all the side dishes. Korean food is one of those things where even if I’m full, I continuously keep eating it.”

Onsen Hot Springs

“A Japanese onsen is either a natural hot spring, or it’s your own personal very hot bath. You’re just melting away all your anxieties, your challenges, your stresses. When I actually started making some money, I took my dad, and we did a Japanese onsen hot springs tour through old-world Japan for two weeks. It was incredible. Some of these places are like eighth-generation family owned, and they’ve never seen someone who doesn’t speak Japanese. I was the only person who had ever walked through that door that wasn’t a full-blooded Japanese person.”

Evergreen Forests

“To me, Seattle—and the Pacific Northwest—is about nature. When you really get down to it, yes, you can go eat and it’s incredible. But it’s not like a city city. It’s where you go and explore. You visit these beautiful evergreen forests, and you get to be deeply rooted and see what real green looks like.”

MEET THE ARTIST

Bianca Austria

Bianca Austria is a Filipina American illustrator based in Los Angeles. Her art explores identity, travel and joy through simple visuals filled with texture and details. She believes in art as a powerful tool that communicates universally and transcends barriers—much like sport has in Apolo’s career.

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