“It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.” That was the message Winter Olympic gold medalist and Dancing with the Stars contestant Apolo Ohno was spreading at his book signing Saturday afternoon.
Ohno signed approximately 600 books and a few helmets, skates and t-shirts in just over an hour at the Schine Student Center bookstore. He also posed for plenty of pictures.
The event was so popular that the store exhausted its supply of Ohno's books. However, Ohno and the tour employees were prepared with plenty more from the tour bus, so no one had to be turned away.
Ohno’s visit to Syracuse University is part of his whirlwind nationwide book tour. The book, Zero Regrets: Be Better than Yesterday, which was released on Oct. 26, chronicles some of his struggles as a child and how he became the most decorated American in the history of the Winter Olympics.
“I think people should buy the book because I think there’s a lot they can relate to, like the struggles I had with my father. My childhood upbringing was not always smooth, there were a lot of rocky battles,” he said.
Apolo Ohno signed copies of his new book, Zero Regrets, Saturday at SU. (Photo: Alyssa Greenberg)
Ohno elaborated on his relationship with his father. “He’s taught me a lot of lessons. One of the most important things is to just not go through the motions in life…to give 100 percent of who I am as a person,” he said.
The event drew people from all across the Syracuse community and beyond. Some anxious fans came from as far away as Long Island to get a few seconds and a photo with Ohno.
Leah Deyneka, the academic support coordinator for the bookstore's general book department, noted that some autograph seekers showed up at 9:30 a.m., nearly six hours before the signing began. “There aren’t a lot of big, big celebrity authors who we’ve had come to this bookstore, so it was big draw,” Deyneka said.
Owen Wagner, 10, got a chance to meet his hero after waiting in line for just over an hour. Wagner, from Pittsford, N.Y., is a member of the Rochester Speed Skating team, and looks to Ohno as his inspiration to skate.
“He taught me to never give up and work hard till the end. I like to go fast, just like him,” Wagner said.
While Wagner likely is not the only one who has been inspired by Ohno, the skater turned author said his fans inspire him, as well. “I know everything can be taken away tomorrow just like that so I’m very, very grateful and very humble. So when I can come in person and relate to these people, it inspires me to be better for tomorrow,” Ohno said.
Political science senior Elizabeth Zarecki and her sister Jessica, an advertising junior, decided that meeting Ohno was more important than watching the Syracuse football team take on Louisville, although they were a little overwhelmed by the scene inside the bookstore.
“It was crazy in there,” Elizabeth said. “They’re just really pushing people in and out as fast as they can.”
Mary Jennings, 29, a Syracuse alumna from Oswego, was so excited to meet Ohno that she teared up. “I only cried a little. It was really exciting, though, even if it was so quick,” she said.
While the book signing may have appeared chaotic, over 30 bookstore employees were present to make sure the event ran smoothly. Bob Burke, a part-time employee of the store, was responsible for directing the line of autograph-seekers that snaked throughout the student center. “This is one of the better book signings we’ve had,” Burke said. “We haven’t had any problems with the crowd really.”
Ohno is also using his book tour to promote a program called "Ask, Listen, and Learn" that encourages children to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.
When Ohno's hour in the Schine bookstore ended, he was whisked back to his tour bus to head to Buffalo for another signing session.