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Ohno, Cheek to grace Wheaties boxes

Speedskaters combined for five medals during Turin Winter Olympics
/ Source: The Associated Press

Apolo Anton Ohno and Joey Cheek soon will join millions of Americans for breakfast. Wheaties today announced the release of two new special-edition packages commemorating the speed skaters' outstanding performance on the world stage in Torino.

The 23-year-old Ohno distinguished himself and continued his prolific career achievements by winning gold in the 500 meter, bronze in the 1,000 meter, and rallying his U.S. team to bronze in the 5,000-meter relay. He became only the fourth American athlete to win three medals in a single winter games.

Ohno also won gold and silver medals in Salt Lake City and has finished atop the World Cup rankings in three of the past five seasons. A seven-time U.S. short-track overall champion, he became the youngest American ever to win gold in the World Cup at the age of 17. No American short-track speed skater has won more medals.

"Every young athlete strives to one day see himself on the Wheaties box," Ohno said. "For me, this proves that all of the hard work and training has paid off. I remember reading the stories of the great American champions who were on the box when I was growing up, and now it's very gratifying for me to be a part of that same Wheaties tradition."

Cheek has emerged as an elite speed skater. The 26-year-old became the country's first multiple medalist in Torino by taking gold in the 500 meter and silver in the 1000 meter. In addition, he took bronze in the 1000 meter in Salt Lake City, won the 2006 World Sprint Championships, and finished third in the 2005 World Sprint Championships.

But perhaps what distinguishes Cheek most is his single-minded focus on giving something back. He announced last week that he will contribute his $40,000 medal bonus earnings to Right To Play, an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play as a tool for the development of children and youth in the most disadvantaged areas of the world. Cheek's donation will go toward projects in the war-torn Darfur region of the Sudan.

"I've been blessed to have been put in a position to help make a difference for others, and to have the support of my family and friends," Cheek says. "For an athlete, being on the Wheaties box is a quintessential honor. My heroes growing up were Eric Heiden and Michael Johnson; to join them as part of the Wheaties family is more than a dream come true."

Wheaties also announced that it will make a donation to support Right to Play as part of Cheek's package appearance.

The soon-to-be-released 18-ounce packages will be available nationally beginning in the middle of March. The new packages continue Wheaties' storied tradition of honoring great American champions dating back to Johnny Weismuller and Babe Didrickson in the 1930s. Through the years, many of the greatest American athletes have graced the box, including Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe and Lt. Billy Mills. Notable winter sports honorees include Sarah Hughes, Kristi Yamaguchi, Eric Heiden, the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team, and the 1998 U.S. women's hockey team.

"American sports fans witnessed many compelling performances over the past two weeks, but Apolo and Joey really distinguished themselves with their outstanding efforts," said Wheaties Marketing Manager Eric Treschuk.

"All of our athletes performed well, and we applaud their efforts," Treschuk said. "At the same time, we feel Apolo and Joey represent the very best of the championship ideals that have made Wheaties 'The Breakfast of Champions' for 80 years. Their passion, commitment and conduct have inspired us all."