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Originally published June 23, 2013 at 5:53 PM | Page modified June 23, 2013 at 7:47 PM

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Apolo Ohno to host ‘Minute to Win It’

Apolo Anton Ohno talks with The Seattle Times about “Minute to Win it,” the game show he’s hosting on GSN beginning June 25.

Special to The Seattle Times


‘Minute to Win It’

8 p.m. Tuesdays on GSN.

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Olympic speedskating eight-time medalist Apolo Anton Ohno knows about racing against a clock. So he can sympathize with contestants on “Minute to Win It,” a game show that aired on NBC in 2010-2011 that’s being revived on Tuesday by GSN with Ohno as the new host.

In each one-hour episode, contestants face up to 10 challenges using household items; each challenge has a one-minute time limit and contestants can win up to $250,000. (Ohno’s favorite, “Face the Cookie,” involves placing an Oreo on your forehead and wiggling your face until the cookie makes it into your mouth.)

Ohno, who grew up in Federal Way, said he watched the previous version of “Minute to Win It” and was a fan. But he had to prove himself to the show’s executives.

“You see this guy who’s a speedskater his entire life wearing these ridiculous outfits, skating in circles and they do wonder if I am going to be able to deliver something watchable,” Ohno said. “The first question is always, ‘We loved him on “Dancing with the Stars,” we loved him in the Olympics, but can he speak English?’ Yes, I can speak English. Yes, I can.”

Ohno said he liked the show’s previous host, Guy Fieri, and was impressed by his ability to maintain enthusiasm.

“His energy level was through the roof. I don’t know how he kept it up through so many shows,” Ohno said. “Mine is more laid back. I try to be as personable as possible. I really want [contestants] to win the money, but I can’t give them tips. I try as much as possible through brain-wave patterns. My eyes twitch and my eyebrows are all over the place.”

About 40 episodes were produced for the new season of “Minute to Win It” over three-and-a-half weeks (about two or three episodes per day).

“You really have to pace yourself,” Ohno said. “You interact with so many different people and your energy level has to be consistent with each person. ... I lost my voice halfway through taping. I wasn’t used to being that excited and yelling over the crowd so many times.”

Although his home is now in Los Angeles, Ohno still has ties to Seattle and plans a trip home in August.

“My father is still there and he’ll probably bounce back and forth between Seattle and L.A.,” Ohno said. “I’ll probably give him a condo in L.A. next year so he can [spend time] in both places.”

Ohno has been transitioning from the world of competitive sports to entertainment for several years now, logging two appearances on “Dancing with the Stars” and guest spots on scripted programs (CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” in 2012, the Syfy movie “Tasmanian Devils” earlier this year).

“I’ve always liked game shows, the competitive aspect and the character-driven personalities you see,” he said. “This is very different than anything I’ve done in the past. And I get to give away free money, so I can’t complain.”

Although he’s done with Olympic competition, Ohno won’t completely leave speedskating behind: He’s already signed on to be an on-air presenter for NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next year.

And if GSN’s revival of “Minute to Win It” takes off, he’s prepared to have fans yell the show’s catchphrases (“Every Second Counts!”) at him when he’s walking through an airport. After all, he’s already been “that guy from ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ ”

“They leave out the Olympics,” he said, understanding that viewers’ attention spans are short and your latest media appearance is what people remember first. “It’s just a byproduct of this industry.”

Freelance writer Rob Owen: or on Facebook and Twitter @RobOwenTV.

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