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With Laser-Sharp Focus, Teenage Speedskater Jordan Stolz Strides Towards Olympic Trials

By Kelly Feng | Dec. 31, 2021, 7:06 p.m. (ET)

Jordan Stolz competes at the ISU World Cup- Long Track in December 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo courtesy of US Speedskating.

 

These days the pond behind speedskater Jordan Stolz’s home remains covered in snow. 

The 17-year-old’s tight training and competition schedule doesn’t give him much chance to get back on the frozen surface, but it’s how he started his Olympic journey from his Kewaskum, Wisconsin, home.

Next week, Stolz will take the first real step in becoming an Olympian by attending the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Long Track Speedskating in Milwaukee. 

After watching Apolo Ohno, the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian, in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Stolz was determined to learn how to skate, telling his parents he wanted to try it out. 

His father, Dirk Stolz, took a look at their snow-covered pond and shoveled off a section of the three-acre reservoir to allow his 5-year-old son to skate. 

The playful skating turned to formal lessons, with Stolz training with a nearby club before graduating to more rigorous training at Milwaukee’s Pettit National Ice Center. That same arena is where the trials will be held Jan. 5-9.

The long track skater has been incrementally building momentum for years, with 2021 being a breakthrough year.

“I think it was just — I was always good, and I had good technique,” Stolz said. “I started building up my strength over the summer, and then it just went straight into the ice with the technique.” 

Stolz credits his improved times with weight training and cycling and “just naturally getting stronger from age.” He said the combination of conditioning and the gradual build-up of power gave him a big jump. 

His stratospheric year began in March when he competed at the U.S. championships in Utah. He set a national junior record and won the U.S. title with a time of 34.99 in the men’s 500-meter. 

Having the same coach as Olympic champions Bonnie Blair Cruikshank and Dan Jansen by his side didn’t hurt. Coach Bob Corby came out of retirement to train Stolz. 

“(Jordan) has trained really hard all year and continued to lower his times, so we expected to go really fast in Salt Lake because it is such a great track,” Corby told U.S. Speedskating after the U.S. championships. “He is a really hard worker.” 

Since the U.S. championships, Stolz has competed in numerous timed trials, the American Cup, and two world cups, where he continued besting personal records and a set a new junior world record. His last event was on Dec. 10, during the world cup in Calgary, Alberta, where he earned his first world cup medal, winning silver in the 1,000-meter with a time of 1:06.968. He also set a new junior world record in the 500-meter in Calgary at 34.110, placing seventh.

With an especially packed schedule this last year, Stolz remains focused on the race. 

“I (try) to remember what I've been doing the whole year, and it's not that much different from the race,” Stolz said. “It's the pressure of what's going to happen. That's about it. I don't see anything different.”

Stolz started training in short track — the discipline in which Ohno competed — but trained long track once or twice a week. After a few years, he began moving towards the long track.

“I was fast in the short track, but I felt I could be faster in long track,” he said.

Around that time, coach Bobby Fenn, the same coach of four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis, approached Stolz and marveled at his speed and work ethic. Fenn would eventually coach Stolz for three years before passing away in 2017. 

After Fenn’s death, Davis stepped in as an interim coach and mentor to Stolz. They remain in touch, with Stolz staying at his residence during Salt Lake City competitions and occasionally training alongside Davis’ group.

Around the age of nine, Stolz began winning national championships, and he and his parents decided to homeschool him.

The family work hours made it possible for Stolz’s father and mother, Jane, to drive him the 45 minutes each way from Kewaskum to the Pettit National Ice Center. Dirk works as a Washington County third-shift sheriff, ideal hours to drive his son to daily ice sessions. While he’s had the chance to move to more conventional hours, Dirk stays with the third shift because that works best for Stolz’s schedule. 

Jane works part-time as a dental hygienist two days early in the week, ending her shift and picking up Stolz after practice finishes. With availability towards the week’s end, she’s also nearby to help organize her son’s 35-hour weekly practice. It’s tag-team parenting that reflects their support and dedication. 

Talking with Jordan Stolz, one can't help noticing his calm personality. His matter-of-fact answers are direct and humble, remaining on topic with a quiet focus. Dirk thinks the constant training and competitions have played a part in his son’s demeanor. 

“Jordan’s so calm and relaxed, and nothing bothers them. Because when he was little, it's a constant racing, racing and you’re under pressure, and eventually it just fizzles out, and it’s like ‘this is just another race,’” Dirk said. 

With a high school online curriculum and traveling to world cups, one has to wonder how Stolz is balancing his many commitments. 

“I try and get it done the best I can with the skating,” Stolz said. “It’s not too difficult but still something to get done. I’m trying to space it out a bit and get it done at a rate I can that doesn’t mess up my skating.”

Kelly Feng

Kelly Feng is a sports journalist based in Wisconsin. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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