Aaron Tran and his Season of Yes

Nov. 19, 2019, 12:02 p.m. (ET)

Aaron Tran might describe himself as chill and quiet, but he radiates an optimistic energy that’s helped him become the top short track skater in the country. As the reigning U.S. Short Track Champion, Aaron grew up watching Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski and has spent the last 10 years dedicated to short track speedskating.

Originally from Seattle, the 23-year-old Olympian loves the power and speed of the sport. “There’s a lot of real-time strategies and split-moment decisions you have to make. It makes the sport really exciting to watch.”

He moved to Utah five years ago to work with the national team and skated in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, training and competing with his hero, J.R. “When I wasn’t skating, it was surreal to think I was skating with J.R., but once I was on the ice, we were just teammates. He is such a cool guy.”

Since the Games, Aaron has been fine tuning his technique, even trying a new racing style this season. He’s reaching top speeds during practice with 8.1 second laps with the intention of taking that speed into the world cup circuit this season. He’s had three top-20 individual finishes so far this season with the expectation he’ll be on the podium soon.

“Aaron is a strong athlete who brings a lot of positivity to the team,” says National Short Track Head Coach Wilma Boomstra. “He is always ready to lead the laps in training and do what’s best for the team. Aaron is a strong medal contender in the 1500m, the 1000m and the relays.”

Aaron enjoys working with the national team, and likes to “subtly inconvenience his teammates” through minor practical jokes and low-key humor. He has an innocent outlook that is endearing to those around him but he can’t imagine he might be a role model to an up-and-coming skater.

He sets a high standard for himself by exercising focus and mental strength while training and competing, setting small goals, daily and weekly, to keep on track as he travels the road to Beijing 2022.

“I’m going into practice trying to improve where I can and I try to stay motivated. Our team has a lot of potential. Compared to last season, people say we look much stronger. The first two world cups were kind of disappointing. It’s just learning how to get past those and get better.”

When he’s not spending 10 hours a day at the Utah Olympic Oval in skating, dryland and strength sessions, Aaron connects with friends and family in Seattle through gaming. It allows him to step back from the grueling training it takes to get where he is today. “Stepping out of the world of skating is very refreshing,” he says.

He also enjoys singing along to songs by Michael Buble or Andy Grammer, taking online business classes, and would eventually like to own a business. “But I should probably get some work experience first,” he says.

If he had to describe this speed skating season in one word, that word would be “Yes!” Although it can be exhausting, he’s grateful for what the sport has brought to his life, and is looking forward to what comes next.