Hailey and Jay Choi share a love for speedskating and the Special Olympics

July 30, 2019, 12:42 p.m. (ET)

Hailey Choi is one of the newest members in the Short Track National Training Program. She showed up at the Utah Olympic Oval today for her first practice with the team.

Hailey is very involved with the Special Olympics and coaches her brother, Jay, who is a speedskating Special Olympian. Here are some questions we asked Hailey and Jay about speedskating.

Hailey -

What’s the best thing about being on the national team? Being able to say, “I’m on the National Team!” and having the easy access to mentors that specialize in many different fields is extremely helpful.

What are you looking forward to this year? I’m looking forward to many things this season. I’m excited for the upcoming competitions, specifically, AmCup 1 and earning a spot for the 2020 Youth Olympics Games. Also, starting this season, I’m finally old enough to compete in the World Cup circuits, so I’m looking forward to experiencing and learning new things at the highest level of this sport.

Who do you look up to? Apolo Ohno is my role model. He stands out to me because his drive and hunger for this sport is like no other. He’s not only an Olympian with 8 Olympic medals around his neck, but he’s also a Special Olympics Ambassador. His puts in the hard work and dedication into two things that are important to me, and inspires me to also do the same.

What are some goals you have this year? I have many goals set for myself. I hope to make the 2019-2020 Fall and Spring World Cup team, 2020 Junior World Championships team, earn myself a spot at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games, and most importantly, to have fun and improve from my mistakes.

What’s it like working with the Special Olympics team? Working with the Special Olympics team never fails to make me feel happy. Every athlete is so cheerful and unique in their own special way. It’s nice to see everyone get along as a team and giving their 100% at every single practice. Their smiles and enthusiasm bring high energy off and on the ice. After working with the team, it made me believe every Special Olympic athlete is so much stronger than the intellectual disability that he/she is struggling with. They’re all so talented and hardworking, it’s very motivating to me.

What’s your biggest strength? My biggest strength is my empathy for others. Whether it’s in skating or school, I’m always happy to help my peers. It makes me feel good and lending a hand is never a bad thing to do.

What’s your biggest challenge?

Special Olympics: My greatest challenge is deepening my connection with the athletes to figure out how each one of them can learn effectively.

Skating: My greatest challenge in this sport is developing a stable, strong mentality. For example, at the 2017 U.S. Long Track Age Group Nationals, I had a fever. However, I drank a bottle of the free Core Power Chocolate Milk that was being provided before one of my races, and ended up breaking an Age Group National Record as well with bringing home a National Champion title. Ever since that race, I now ALWAYS have to drink a Core Power CHOCOLATE milk bottle before every competition. I’m not even sure if it even helps me, but like I said, it’s all mental.

 

Jay -

What do you love about speedskating? I like to go fast. I love cool equipment, especially gold blades. I love to race and win.

What is your favorite speedskating accomplishment? My favorite speedskating accomplishment is that I got healthier by doing speedskating training. Speedskating Training made me stronger. Many people get surprised when they hear that I am a heart patient. It also made me to focus. I used to get distracted a lot by many things.

My favorite race was when I competed with two boys, same age but a head taller than I was, back in 2013. I raced hard and won against them.

Who are your role models? My friends, Kyler Reese and Max Hershburger, are my role models. They are both very active in Special Olympics. Kyler is a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics. Max is training for a Marine Corp Marathon. They always try their best and I want be like them.

Why should people get involved with the Special Olympics? People should get involved in Special Olympics. Athletes need to get involved to stay healthy and to keep an active life. Special Olympics also give a sense of being in a team and it gives a chance to compete in an environment where they can be competitive within their own groups.

 

We wish Hailey and Jay all the luck this speedskating season!