Sometimes Yoopers can feel isolated from the world. Hundreds of miles of frozen Lake separate us North and South. We’re influenced by media celebrities mainly via uber gadgets, network gizmos, and boob tubes, and we don’t often see how our community affects the National spotlight. What could hometown Locals have in common with high-profile Olympic athletes, entertainment celebrities, or hit Hollywood TV shows? How did a local restaurant impact the Winter Games? Not only did our community train Olympians, we feed them, housed them, educated them, and in many cases, befriended them. We even taught one how to dance, helping him become one of the most famous celebrities in the world.
Apolo Anton Ohno and Shani Davis once called Meyland Hall on the campus of Northern Michigan University home. During their training stints in the Upper Peninsula, Davis, a USOEC athlete, and Ohno, an attendee of Olympic training camps at the Berry Events Center, both stayed in dorms. The two Olympians were known to frequent the Rice Paddy, a local Thai cuisine favorite in Marquette, MI. Shani Davis still refers to the owner Aoy LaChapelle as a good friend, and his ‘second mother’. Rice Paddy’s Yelp page has some great photos of the Olympians cooking Thai. Shani Davis’ favorites – plum chicken, chicken shrimp, and Aoy’s renowned cheese and crab Rangoon.
It’s a carb-load that might have done the 1,000 meter two-time defending champion some good in Sochi. Davis finished a disappointing eighth. A silver medalist in the 1,500 meters in the previous two Olympics, this year he placed 11th. Using the event as a warm-up, Shani Davis finished 24th in the 500.
Shani Davis will be 35 years old in 2018. He still wants to finish college. “It would be nice to just be normal for a bit, but then I think after a while I’ll probably get bored with that,” he told an AP reporter in a recent interview. Shani is considered college junior, and he’s explored the idea of possibly becoming a coach.
Now what? What happens after the Olympics? A good example can be taken from his friend Apolo Anton Ohno.
This week, Apolo Ohno’s record-setting eight career medals were matched by Russian skater Viktor Ahn. Apolo Anton Ohno told ESPN yesterday that he believes Viktor Ahn is the best the sport has ever seen. “He just shows he is the best guy in the world, definitely here,” said Ohno. “He’s got eight medals, six gold. Perhaps the best ever to put short track speedskates on.”
Within three Olympics spanning eight years from 2002 to 2010, Ohno won two gold, two silver, and four bronze medals. He then retired from short-track speed skating after the Games in Vancouver, Canada. Ohno participated in the 2014 Sochi games not as a competitor but as a television broadcast commentator. He was confident that Ahn would tie his record, and applauded Viktor as he crossed the finish line, who medaled in all four of his events.
Ohno’s move into broadcasting continues his love for the sport, and he says it’s a natural progression for him because he has so much passion for sports.
In a January interview with USA Today he talked about his decision to retire from Olympic endeavors. “When I officially made the announcement that I was going to retire from Olympic pursuit, my first thought was ‘I obviously still love the sport; I love the Games. How do I make sure that I have a role in some capacity?’”
The eight time medalist has worked as a motivational speaker, philanthropist, and started a nutritional supplement business called 8 Zone. Before winning the fourth season of the show Dancing with the Stars on ABC, he was taught to tango by Kristin Frak, owner of Superior Dance Academy in Marquette, MI.
Kristin Frak was born and raised in Marquette and began dancing at the age of three. She trained at Dawn Dott Dance, Third Street Dance Company, and Interlochen Fine Arts Camp. Before graduating high school in 2000, she was a member of the Marquette Senior High School Dance Team. Kristin then went on to become the co-founder of the Northern Michigan University Dance Team. She opened Superior Dance Academy in April of 2006, which has grown to two state of the art dance studios serving over 200 students.
One day, no more than a year into her operation, Apolo Anton Ohno walked into her studio as she was teaching a class. Ohno said he found the studio driving on Washington Street towards US41 after noticing the new dance company’s signage. He stopped in, unannounced, and asked Frak if she could teach him a few dances for a competition. Not immediately realizing she was talking to the world famous celebrity athlete, Frak casually asked him, “Sure, what competition?”
“Dancing with the Stars,” Ohno replied.
Assuming he was joking, Frak laughingly told him to “Shut up,” as she brushed off his answer with a playfully jocular shoulder shove. She paused, focused, looked up, and realized it was Apolo Anton Ohno. Star struck aside, Apolo and Kristin began a five week regime to learn the Tango, Waltz, Cha-Cha-Cha, Quickstep, Jive, Samba, Rumba, and other dances.
His natural athletic ability enabled him to perform the new dance moves with ease. The only reoccurring obstacle was a struggle to move his hips in the opposite direction of his step. In short track speed skating, skaters lean to the left and crossover in the same direction. The unfamiliar juxtaposition of ballroom dancing took some time for him to master. Skating in left circles since the age of 12, Ohno had to suppress more than a decade of muscle memory to adopt new habits. Kristin said he took to the lessons eagerly, and learned quickly.
“He’s one of the most down-to-earth, humble persons I’ve ever met,” said Frak. “Friendly, totally. I even baked him cookies!” In a mutual trade, Frak provided Ohno lessons in exchange for using Apolo’s image and likeness on promotional and marketing materials for the dance studio. After training camp in Marquette, he was paired with dancing partner Julianne Hough on ‘Dancing with the Stars’. Together, they received the competition’s first perfect score of 30 for their samba routine on April 16, 2007. The dancing duo became finalists in the competition, and went on to become the champions in May 2007.
During the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2009, Ohno returned to Marquette to win the overall meet title and defended his national title at the Berry Events Center. A year later, he would earn two bronze medals in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics 1000 meter, and the 5000 meter relay. Ohno received a silver medal in the 1500 meter.
Apolo Ohno is currently the host of the new edition of Minute to Win It on GSN. Minute to Win It airs new episodes on GSN Tuesday nights at 8/7c. The first season of GSN shows began in June 2013. Last week Ohno also made a cameo guest appearance on the sitcom ‘Men at Work’ on TBS.
Dancing with the Stars season 18 will kick off Monday, March 18 at 8pm on ABC with 12 new celebrities competing for the Mirror Ball Trophy. It’s unknown when the cast will be announced, but all three judges will return, except Brooke Burke. Burke announced she won’t be returning to the show in a tweet last Friday. “Weird day…. Shocking pre-season elimination #DWTS… ME. Tom Bergeron didn’t even read my name. I won’t be returning to the show this season.”
— Brooke Burke-Charvet (@brookeburke) February 22, 2014
Marquette County’s own Dancing with the Stars event welcomes back Kristin Frak as a judge for the second annual fundraiser “Dancing with the Stars Marquette County Style”. All monies raised from the event support a local hospice foundation. The foundation sponsors programs like “Make-A-Memory”, which is a mini-version of the nationally recognized Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Organized by the Upper Peninsula Home Health, Hospice and Private Duty, the DWTS event supports the company’s efforts in home health care, skilled nursing, and medical therapy services. U.P. Home Health was the first provider of hospice services in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well as one of the first three hospices established in the nation.
The 2014 “Dancing with the Stars Marquette County Style” is scheduled for Thursday, May 22 with tickets going on sale Monday, March 10. It will take place at Forest Robert’s Theatre on the campus of Northern Michigan University, just up the path from Meyland Hall.
Funds from ticket sales will help support UP Hospice patients and their families. The Second Annual DWTS event features eight Marquette County dance couples, considered local “celebrities”, and their choreographed routines will be scored and judge in a quest for the Marquette version of a Mirror Ball Trophy.
Last week, the organization unveiled the four local dance professionals who will be assisting the dancers. This year’s fundraising event will be led by choreographers Alexandrea Holley, Katie Boyle, and Maggie Barch, and Apolo Anton Ohno’s personal photographer Camilia Mingay. Each will choreograph and teach two ballroom style dances for two of the eight Dance “Star” Couples.
Alexandrea Holley has choreographed and directed community dance performances, held private dance lessons, and taught ballroom dance classes over the past nine years in the U.P.. Katie Boyle is a backup dancer for local pop-star Adam Whittington. Boyle choreographed Adam’s first Kaufman Concert. She is also a dancer in his music video “Make the World Love Again.” This is Maggie Barch’s first year as a dance professional on “Dancing with the Stars Marquette County Style.” Maggie says, “I am really looking forward to the opportunity to help my star couple discover their talents and to see the joy that dancing can bring.” She has choreographed for community productions such as the Nutcracker, the Blueberry Dance Festival, the Halloween Spectacle and the Peter White Library’s Bollywood Night.
Camilia Mingay’s participation in the event brings us full circle with Ohno, who is still the most decorated American winter athlete of the Olympic Games. Mingay had the honor of working behind the scenes with Apolo Ohno as his personal photographer. Several of her photographs have been published in Ohno’s book ‘Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday.’ She also fit Ohno with his first pair of ballroom shoes & provided him with preliminary advice prior to his win on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
You can keep up with UP Home Health’s announcements by visiting their website at www.uphomehealth.org or following them on Facebook. Event organizers will soon be announcing participating competitors, and a Meet-n-Greet / Cast Reveal is planned for later this week.
Tickets for the event will go on sale Monday, March 10, 2014.