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Jon Tobon Earns Team USA's First Youth Olympic Medal In Speedskating

By Gabrielle Scheder-Bieschin | Jan. 13, 2020, 12:45 p.m. (ET)

(L-R) Silver medalist Pavel Taran of Russia, gold medalist Motonaga Arito of Japan and bronze medalist Jonathan Tobon celebrate at the mascot ceremony for the men's 1,500-meter at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 on Jan. 13, 2020 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

 

ST. MORITZ, Switzerland -- Long track speedskater Jon Tobon made Team USA history Monday. With his podium finish in the men’s 1,500-meter event, Tobon became the first American to earn any speedskating medal – in long track or short track – at the Youth Olympic Games.

“I’m feeling great… I’m kind of shocked at the moment,” he said when asked for his reaction. “I’m overwhelmed.”

Tobon competed Sunday in the 500, finishing eighth in 37.78 seconds, just 0.44 seconds behind fellow American and fifth-place finisher Jordan Stolz. For Monday, he knew he had to skate his best to have a shot at the podium.

Of course, life does not always go smoothly.

“I was ready to perform and try my hardest, but something was off after the first lap and a half. I wasn’t going as fast as I possibly could have gone.”

The wind had picked up from yesterday, and the ice was a little different from what Tobon usually races on – no doubt because races are usually held indoors, rather on the natural frozen lake of the historic St. Moritz. While beautiful, the venue can also be a little unpredictable.

Nonetheless, Tobon was able to push and stick with his pair, Russia’s Pavel Taran, throughout most of the race. On the last lap, Tobon fell slightly behind, but their quick speeds throughout the 1,500 still meant the American was able to place third with a time of 1:55.67 as Taran took second in 1:53.74. Topping the podium was Japan’s Motonaga Arito, with a time of 1:52.24. 

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While there are some lessons he wants to take away from this race to improve for the future, the American is also trying to keep things in perspective by looking to the past.

“I tend to overthink things. I’m a perfectionist, so if something doesn’t go perfectly, I can stress out about it. That race, I’m still thinking about how it could have been better – but I just need to allow myself to accept it,” he said. “It took so much work to just get here to begin with. That was my goal at first – to just come. That was the goal originally, and now I won a medal – it’s incredible.”

Tobon will recenter and refocus for his next race on Jan. 15, the mixed-country team sprint. For now, though, he is just trying to take it all in and appreciate all the years of hard work that went into this day.

“I can’t find the words to describe it. There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment,” Tobon said.  “And I think it’s absolutely incredible to be able to represent the United States – and to show up not just to the competition, but on the podium.”

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Jonathan Tobon