Speedskater Jessica Smith poses for a portrait during the NBC Olympics/United States Olympic Committee promotional shoot on April 23, 2013 in West Hollywood, California.
SALT LAKE CITY – Jessica Smith visited a youth group Friday in Salt Lake City to talk about her dreams, but also the hard stuff that's gotten her close to securing a spot on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi.
"You can find something that you enjoy, and chase whatever dreams you have in that sport," Smith told a
|Jessica Smith skates in the women's 1,000-meter semifinal at the
U.S. Single Distance Championships on Aug. 25, 2013 at the Utah
Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah.
group of kids at the Lied Club, part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Salt Lake. "But it's also about working with each other; being a team player even if it seems like you're doing an individual thing."
The 30-year-old short track speedskater doesn't just talk the talk. She lives it.
Smith missed the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games by less than a blink of an eye but she had little time to cope with the disappointment since the very next weekend she had to race in a world cup event in Shanghai.
"It wasn't easy,” Smith said. “I'm not going to lie. I had a 20-some-hour trip to pull myself together, think about what I wanted to do, who I was going to be in that moment. But I kind of came to the conclusion that this was the experience I need to get better."
She has said that she had to remind herself that she was still a champion and she fought to reach the 1,000-meter final and left Shanghai with a bronze medal.
Smith’s motto — "Champions pull themselves together and continue to fight” — was a message she shared with the kids in Salt Lake.
These days, besides training full time with hopes of making the team in Sochi, she is part of the Team for Tomorrow cast of U.S. Olympians and Paralympians who spread the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect to various groups around the country, especially among youth organizations.
Now, nearly four years after suffering the disappointment of missing the 2010 U.S. Olympic Team, Smith has been able to look back at that time with different lenses. Had she qualified for Vancouver, she would not have been in the running for a medal. She was new to this style of skating, anyway. An in-line champion who wanted to become an Olympian, she switched modes and found the "alternate" experience of not winning all of the time humbling — "not being on a team I thought I would be on."
The setback turned out to be motivating, not destroying.
She decided to go full speed ahead at the next opportunity, convincing herself this was the four-year setup to become an Olympic medalist in Sochi.
She has become a three-time world championship medalist and is readying to compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Short Track Speedskating Jan. 2-5 at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah.
Reaching these goals is no easy task. Smith described to the kids in Salt Lake about her rigorous training. Her typical day includes eight hours of training, nearly five hours spent on the ice. She has a nutritionist to improve her efficiency.
She also showed the kids her helmet, shin guards and skates. The kids laughed when asked why she didn't pass her skates around. They're $2,800 beauties, and sharp as can be. Not worth an injury to either a kid, or equipment.
But her sharp message resonated.
Jason Franchuk is a writer from Salt Lake City. He is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.