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Olympian Apolo Ohno joins Thunderbirds in flight ahead of USAFA graduation

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Hours before Air Force One arrived in Colorado Springs Wednesday, there was another special flight at Peterson Space Force Base. Speed skater Apolo Ohno, the most decorated Winter Olympian in American history, joined the Thunderbirds in a special flight.

An Olympian joining the Thunderbirds has been an annual event since gold medal skier Mikaela Shifrin first took flight in 2019.

Ohno said taking to the sky was fulfilling a childhood dream. Wednesday, he flew just one Mach 1, the speed of sound.

"It was a bit surreal, right, because you never really dream that you actually have an opportunity to jump into one of these," said Ohno.

He got to go through the same series of twists and turns that the solo jets fly during the actual air show. His pilot, Major Jeffrey Downie told KRDO he was impressed with how well Ohno held up.

"It was a testament to how he did on the flight.  he just did an incredible job," said Maj. Downie. "It is a very physical endeavor, but he really crushed it."

The flight was also special for Maj. Downie, he's an Academy graduate himself.

"I graduated ten years ago, almost to the day. And to get to be back here and to get to be a part of that experience for them is just really special for us," said Maj. Downie.

You can watch the 2023 Air Force Academy Graduation and the Thunderbirds Air Show here.

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