Olympic athlete wants to promote healthful foods
By MATTHEW WEAVER
When five-time Olympic medalist Apolo Anton Ohno started looking for local sponsors, he turned to the Washington State Potato Commission.
The Seattle athlete uses potatoes as part of his training for short-track speed skating.
"We have shared values in the respect we have for the nutrition potatoes provide," commission Assistant Executive Director Karen Bonaudi said. "He likes cooking with them, he appreciates the fact they have not only energy, but also nutrients and that they're easy to cook up in different ways."
Ohno and the commission also feel strongly about conveying that message to youths, she said. Ohno is in the process of setting up a foundation to help educate and encourage children to lead a healthy lifestyle through proper diet and exercise.
The response has been positive from the commission's growers.
"They like who he is and the image that he has," Bonaudi said.
During the commission's one-year agreement with Ohno, the organization has the ability to use his image in publications, such as a book of recipes for children. A photo session took place in Seattle prior to Ohno's involvement in the Olympic trials and the World Cup.
The commission also gets two events with Ohno, which have yet to be scheduled. Bonaudi said they will probably occur after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Bonaudi said commodity commissions often sponsor athletes, although this is a new undertaking for the potato commission. The commission used to sponsor an athlete in a wheelchair during Spokane's Bloomsday, she said.
"It's not unusual, but it is very unusual for us to do," she said.
Matthew Weaver is based in Spokane. E-mail: email@example.com.
Access the Washington Potato Commission website at www.potatoes.com
Access Apolo Anton Ohno's website at www.apoloantonohno.com