Wed, Dec 09, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Ohno not sure why Davis is upset over ‘jerk’ Colbert’s joke


Responding to criticism of mock pundit Stephen Colbert by US speedskating star Shani Davis, Apolo Anton Ohno said on Monday he was amused by Colbert’s antics — including a contrived feud with Olympic host Canada — and is glad that the TV star stepped on board as the primary sponsor of the US team.

That effort has raised more than US$250,000, nearly making up a shortfall that resulted when the previous sponsor went bust.

Last week, Davis, a 2006 gold medalist on the long track, called Colbert “a jerk,” apparently in reference to the comedian making light of actual complaints that Canada has limited training time for foreign athletes at the Vancouver venues in hopes of gaining a home-ice advantage during the Olympics.

The host of The Colbert Report recently launched a letter-writing campaign urging the Canadians to quit being “ice-holes.”

Ohno, a two-time Olympian who has won two golds and five medals, said he’s a fan of Colbert.

“I think he’s funny,” Ohno said. “Our country is kind of in need of some humor right now, and it’s all for a good cause.”

What about Colbert’s shots at Canada, which have included calling the neighbor to the north “syrup suckers?”

“It was a joke,” Ohno said.

US Speedskating is certainly enjoying its relationship with Colbert, who offered his Web site to raise funds after Dutch bank DSB went bankrupt in October. In return, most US skaters are wearing the “Colbert Nation” logo on their suits.

In addition to the letter writing, Colbert recently brought out retired Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek to put the Canadians near the top of his “On Notice” board.

Robert Crowley, executive director of U.S. Speedskating, said more than 8,500 individuals have gone on Colbert’s Web site to make donations ranging from US$1 to US$5,000. The organization is just US$50,000 from making up the US$300,000 deficit caused by DSB’s pullout.

“It’s bringing great attention to our sport,” Crowley said. “The man is brilliant. He sees the humor in all this.”

Katherine Reutter, the top US woman in short track, said there was some trepidation that Colbert might use the relationship to make fun of speedskaters. But she has no problem with what she’s seen or heard so far.

“We all need to realize that we skate in tiny circles wearing spandex,” she said. “That can be humorous at times.”

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