Colonie student teacher aims to meet skater, raise awareness of disease they share

A Colonie student teacher is one of 10 national finalists in a contest to meet Olympian Apolo Anton

A Colonie student teacher is one of 10 national finalists in a contest to meet Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno — and he needs votes to win.

Student teacher Robert Stranahan is also doing his part to raise awareness of a disease that afflicts both him and Ohno: exercise-induced bronchospasm.

The contest is being run through, a website dedicated to spreading the word about the disorder.

According to the site, more than 30 million Americans have the disease, characterized by a narrowing of the airways during or after exercise or exposure to cold air, but many don’t know they have it.

Stranahan, 22, said he didn’t even know he had it until a couple of months ago, when he got himself checked after watching an episode of the TV show “The Doctors.” The episode featured Ohno talking about his struggles with the disorder.

“He’s such a great athlete in peak physical condition, yet he’s got this, which can hold you back,” Stranahan said of learning about Ohno. “I was shocked.”

Stranahan said he has known he has asthma and has been treated for it since he was about 5. Though the treatment for EIB is similar, at least now he knows he has that as well. He also now knows why cold air can trigger an attack. He uses an inhaler to stave off the symptoms prior to exercise.

Stranahan isn’t an Olympian, but he is active. He has to be: He’s a student teacher in physical education, expecting to graduate this month from Sage College of Albany. He then expects to go on to get a master’s degree. He’s also maintained a 4.0 GPA while working two part-time jobs and volunteering.

Learning about Ohno led Stranahan to discover the contest to meet him. Voting ends Friday.

According to, symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, trouble getting a deep breath, wheezing or noisy breathing, coughing and decreased exercise endurance.

It is common in people with asthma, with about 80 to 90 percent of that group also having exercise-induced bronchospasm.

The contest is being put on by Teva Respiratory, a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which focuses on treating asthma, exercise-induced bronchospasm and other respiratory illnesses.

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