Ohno was born in Seattle, Washington, to a Japanese-born father, Yuki Ohno (大野 幸 Ōno Yuki) and a European American mother, Jerrie Lee.
Ohno's parents divorced when he was an infant, and he was raised in Seattle by his father.
As I've said since the moment of these accusations, they were untrue and I did nothing wrong".
At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, Ohno emerged as the face of short-track speed skating among American fans.
His father chose to name his son Apolo after the Greek words "Apo," which means to "steer away from" and "lo," which means "look out; here he comes." When Ohno was very young, his father meticulously researched childcare providers to care for his son during his long work hours.
As he grew older, his father became concerned his son would become a latchkey kid, so he got his son involved with competitive swimming and quad-speed roller skating at age 6.
His father wanted to encourage Ohno to develop his skills and, although Ohno was underage, he got him admitted to the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center in 1996 to train full-time for short track. Ohno adjusted his training and made a comeback winning the 1997 U. Senior Championships overall title, taking a gold medal in the 1500 m, a silver in the 300 m, and came in fourth in the 500 m races.
When Ohno was 12, he won the Washington state championship in the breaststroke but preferred inline speed skating over swimming.
He has stated that by the time he turned 13 years of age he attended parties with older teenagers if he did not have competitions on the weekends.
His father has stated that it was a struggle balancing his son's desire for independence while helping him reach his potential as a young athlete.
At first, Ohno's commitment at Lake Placid was low until his teammates nicknamed him "Chunky", which motivated him to train harder. Ohno then relocated to the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center to begin training with the senior level skaters, despite being only 14 years old.
However, Ohno would struggle at the 1997 World Championships in Nagano, Japan, finishing 19th overall.