Julie Letai is a new face on the National Short Track Team

May 28, 2019, 12:42 p.m. (ET)

What’s been the hardest thing for Julie Letai since moving to Utah to train with the National Short Track Team? All the downtime.

Last year, during her senior year at Medfield High School in Medfield, Mass., Julie was the president of her class, served in various clubs, societies and organizations, and played several sports. It’s been strange for her to go from frenetic activity to a much different schedule of high-level speedskating training and recovery.

Under the leadership of National Short Track Head Coach Wilma Boomstra, Julie now trains full-time with the team. She’s using this experience to get some intense preparation while giving herself a chance to dig deeper into her strengths. She’s also watching a lot of Nailed It! on Netflix and getting to know her fellow skaters.

“I’m constantly inspired by my teammates,” she says. “They all have their own strengths, whether it’s attitude, leadership or work ethic.”

Julie will be 19 in June and has been skating since she demanded her first pair of clip-on skates at the age of 2. She would go to the ice rink with her older siblings and watch them skate, but then wanted to get on the ice, too. “My mom said the biggest tantrum I ever had was when I wanted to skate with them.”

She eventually started figure skating, but decided she just wanted to go fast – and tutus weren’t her thing. So she signed up with the Bay State Speed Skating Club when she was 7. “Bay State has a lot of loyal members. Former Olympians would come to coach at the club and they impressed me. Any advice they gave me meant the world to me.”

She continued short track speedskating but was also involved in all other sports, including soccer and basketball. She didn’t begin to specialize in speedskating until she was 16. A turning point for Julie was at a 2-week ASE summer camp in Milwaukee that Olympic medalist Katherine Reutter helped coach. The next summer, Julie trained in Milwaukee for two months. “It was my first time training full-time in the summer and having ice training sessions twice a day. I had fun training because I felt I was good at it.”

During her senior year (2018), Julie made the U.S. World Junior Short Track Championship team and competed in Poland, finishing better than she ever expected. In the 2018-19 season, she recovered from knee surgery and was back to full-time training in October. When she didn’t make the fall world cup team, she was devastated.

“I was super upset about it but now I’m glad I didn’t make it. I was not ready for that level of competition.”

The 2018-19 season brought Julie her best skating so far. Her training took place at ASE in Milwaukee, under coach Hongyang Wang. She once again made the U.S. Junior Short Track World Championships team, and made the World Cup team after the U.S. Short Track National Championships. She skated in the 1500m semi-finals during World Cup 5 in Torino, an accomplishment that was a complete surprise to her that left her wanting more success.

Julie’s biggest strength is her positive attitude. Being mentally tough allows her to work hard, even when she’s tired, and under Coach Wil’s training program, Julie’s been tired a lot. She’s focused on technique as she trains for the world cup qualifier in October.

“I’m really strong but my technique needs work. [Coach] Wil said she didn’t realize how strong I was until she saw how bad my technique was,” Julie says with a laugh.

Moving to Utah from Massachusetts has been an easy change for Julie and her easy-going personality has allowed her to fit right into the team.

“Julie is a great asset to the team,” Boomstra says. “Her work ethic is tremendous and her attitude and personality bring so much positivity and energy into our group.”

Even though she misses her parents, she enjoys living with speedskaters and finding her own rhythm and schedule. She’ll be starting classes at the University of Utah this fall as she pursues a career in global health and international relations. Her father’s career as a cancer researcher has inspired her to solve health problems around the world.

Music is also a big part of her life and family. She plays a couple of instruments, but primarily the drums which she’s played since middle school.

Julie is grateful to her parents for supporting the opportunity she has to train with the country’s best speedskaters. “They’ve been great about allowing me to recognize my own passion and goals. They let me have this freedom, even when they wish they could see me more.”