17-year-old US speedskater Jordan Stolz is medal contender in Beijing Olympics – Sports Illustrated

    beijing: jane stolz is a dental hygienist by trade, but in the last twelve years she has also become an expert on car interiors and ice rink parking lots. “I sleep, I eat, I work, I do my taxes, everything, sitting in my car,” she says. whatever she fills in the hours until she finishes another practice.

    This afternoon in late January, however, the Kewaskum, Wisc., mother of two just returned home from nearby Madison, where her 17-year-old son picked up a new four-pound game, coated of diamonds. , steel whetstones to send abroad for her star-studded Winter Olympics debut. This is the first indication that speed skating’s next prodigy is nothing like other kids her age, let alone the world-class athletes she will soon share the oval with in Beijing. “He sharpens his own equipment on his own,” explains Jane Stolz. “even us speed skating, it’s like there’s no olympic athlete who does all his work with the blade.”

    Reading: 17 year old speed skater

    Of course, it wasn’t always like this. When Jordan Stolz was around 7 years old, he was showing such promise that a trainer offered to bend his blades to help him spin better and go faster, a tactic typically reserved for older skaters. Retrieving the sword from him, Stolz demanded to know what the trainer had done. “The guy winked at me and said, ‘I just put some pixie dust on them,’” Jane recalls. “It was a running joke until Jordan was winning national titles: We never watched TV, so he never knew what the pixie dust was, but every time [the coach] touched them, he was like, ‘Did you put that pixie dust on? ? again?’”

    despite the deception, stolz was always curious about the process, to the point that several years ago he decided to cut out the middleman and turn it around. “These blades are over $1,000,” Jane explains. “I said, ‘You’re not just taking out your blades and bending them. if you’re going to try it, take [sister] hannah to the attic.” she spent two weekends playing and got two different types of devices, one old school and one new school. no one else has touched her gear in three years.”

    practicality is inherited. For example, Jane and Ella’s husband Dirk run a taxidermy business in part to help cover Jordan’s speed skating costs; Before leaving for China, Jordan filmed an interview for a local TV station in which he sharpened his skates near a giant teddy bear in the living room. The family also used to maintain a deer and elk farm, and every summer he travels to Alaska to fish for halibut and salmon and hunt elk, shipping it all back to Wisconsin to satisfy Jordan’s teenage appetite. “He’ll end up with a two-pound elk burger like that,” Dirk says. “It’s an everyday thing. eat a lot.”

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    Away from the oval, outside of his skintight tracksuit, stolz is just another teenager in many ways. he loves to ride a road bike, but he got into a fight when his mom, worried about the mileage she was logging alone, wanted to put a gps in the frame. “It’s like, ‘Come on, Mom, you can’t follow me,'” Jane says. Asked after a recent training session in Beijing to share his favorite places to explore in the Olympic Village, Stolz replied, “Uh, probably the pizza shack, I guess.” Then again, how many gen-zers can claim to have survived most of high school without a cell phone? “He got the first one in October,” says Dirk.

    but none of these tidbits explain why stolz is the next big thing in america. uu. speed skating, scheduled to compete in the 500 meters (Saturday) and 1,000 meters (February 18) after breaking previous long track records in both events in the US last month. uu. olympic trials at his home track, milwaukee’s pettit national ice center. “In the second half of last season, he really took a leap,” says national team head coach Ryan Shibukuro. “Then it was like, ok, he has legitimately thrown his hat in the ring.”

    like so many others, jordan returned to the sport after watching apolo anton ohno run short track during the 2010 vancouver games; Before long, Dirk was behind the wheel of an ATV, clearing the frozen pond in his backyard to build a makeshift oval. Of the two children, Hannah, who is a year older, caught on quicker at first; dirk has a video on his phone of little jordan, frustrated that he fell, complaining that the ice is too slippery. Still, Jordan was determined. “He never did any other sports,” says Dirk. “I don’t think he ever threw a baseball or a football. I’ve always been skating, skating, skating.”

    The obsession manifests itself in many ways. After Dirk bought him a pair of inline skates at a garage sale, young Jordan spent hours pacing the driveway, bending over and putting his hand on the concrete like Ohno. (From time to time, Jane says, Jordan still practices short track to help strengthen his corners). he’s also constantly watching videos on his ipad, both of his fellow long track skaters, notably russian pavel kulizhnikov, a five-time world champion who’s entered the same events as jordan in beijing, and of himself: after he I know. uu. testing, dirk recalls, “we came home and the first thing he does is look at the video on my phone and say, ‘i screwed this up…it could have been better at…'”

    Along the way, Stolz’s devotion and potential caught our attention. legend shani davis, sparking a mentorship that continues today. “It has really helped me a lot,” says Stolz. “just [on] not thinking too much, just trusting skating, trusting everything it’s taught me.” part of this guardianship takes place in person: every time stolz travels to events on the utah olympic oval, he and his family stay at davis’s house in salt lake, play video games and talk about skating techniques of speed But Davis also watches from afar during the Olympics, says Stolz, reminding him in texts and calls “just don’t worry about the other skaters, worry about what I can do, and then I’ll be fine.”

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    not that jordan cares much in general. “he’s relaxed,” shimabukuro says. “fresh like a lettuce.” How else to explain the world cup qualifier at salt lake last may when jordan, faced with a locker room malfunction in the middle of the 1,000 meters, burst into a straight while at the same time worrying about his zipper? ? “It’s clear as day on the video,” says Dirk. “yet he ended up getting a junior world record [in 1:07.03] from it.” or how he delivered that dominating performance in the usa uu. tests despite a stomach full of kefir and protein drink that he threw up shortly after crossing the finish line? “He’s so relaxed,” says Jane. “all the energy, all the motion and force goes into the ice”.

    A recent growth spurt, coupled with the roughly 30 pounds of muscle he put on through weightlifting and cycling, has positioned Stolz ahead of schedule in terms of his Olympic dreams. “The dutch coaches were talking to him in calgary [at another world cup event last december], asking him what his plans are, and he doesn’t even mention beijing,” says jane. “It’s almost like he’s looking past that.” this follows the way stolz responded to a recent question about the pressure he feels to perform here in china: “no, i don’t really feel any pressure, because whatever happens, it doesn’t really matter. I just hope to get a good experience, have fun and try to skate the best race I can.”

    As for everything else beyond skating, her parents aren’t sure what’s next. Dirk recalls that Jordan once expressed an interest in becoming a lawyer, until he learned about the amount of schooling and studying that would require; earlier this year, jane says, he casually mentioned that one day he might want to participate in qualifying for the summer olympics in track cycling. “His idol is shani, who participated in five olympics, so for 20 years of his life he never did anything else,” says jane. “I told jordan that he has to have a plan b, in case he breaks his leg or doesn’t win all the medals. but this has been the life goal of him. ”

    However, those are conversations for another day. In the meantime, it’s best to appreciate Jordan Stolz for who he is right now, at these Olympics: a burgeoning talent, turning the corner from his youth and heading straight for stardom, with a future so bright it might as well be sprinkled with fairy dust.

    more coverage of the olympic games:

    • nathan chen caps four-year quest for redemption with olympic gold• chloe kim avoids the pitfalls of pressure in beijing• after an infamous mistake 16 years ago, lindsey jacobellis finally gets his olympic glory

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