Jae Jae Yoo finds challenge in the balance

March 26, 2019, 2:27 p.m. (ET)

Balance is an integral part of speed skating, and Jae Jae Yoo is a balancing pro. Not only has Jae Jae trained with the National Short Track Team for four years, he’s also a business owner as well, pursuing a degree in business at the University of Utah.

The 22-year-old Virginia native started skating with the Potomac Speedskating Club when he was 13, after his aunt convinced him to give it a try. “It wasn’t my favorite thing when I first started,” he says. “but it was a progression and I slowly got the hang of it. I even started to excel in the sport. I like how you’re in touch with the elements of your whole body. There’s so much that goes in to making the perfect race.”

The more he skated, the more thrilling he found the racing aspect of the sport. He loves the excitement of not knowing what would happen during a race. To improve his racing strategy, Jae Jae uses visualization techniques to imagine every part of a race, but he says it all comes down to taking it one race at a time, especially at team selection events which can be mentally tough.

“I’m a skater who does well in practice and then overthinks my race,” he says. “It’s a mental balance between overconfidence and humility, and I’m trying to find that middle ground. I’m trying to focus on enjoying the sport and enjoying the moment.”

As part of the national team, Jae Jae trained with Olympian J.R. Celski, and the two quickly became friends. In 2017, they teamed up to create their business, Nalza, a company that creates high-quality skating gear that combines functionality, durability and effective design.

It all started when Jae Jae made a custom blade cover and brought it to practice. He and J.R. started talking and the light bulb went off. Since then, they’ve improved the design to offer a better product.

The pair plan to use their platform with Nalza to create a bigger audience for speedskating by having their fans build a love and appreciation for the sport. Now, Nalza products can be found in every short track speed skating country with the hope to create a global movement. “Through sports you can create a life-lasting bond,” he says.

The Jae Jae/J.R. team also creates video content for US Speedskating’s social media pages, especially Instagram where each post is carefully crafted before sharing. “We want to relate how cool our athletes are,” says Jae Jae. “To Team USA, we’re just a small sport, but we have the potential to be big.”