Team USA brings home three medals from the Youth Olympic Games

By Katy Ralston | Jan. 27, 2020, 1:51 p.m. (ET)

The 2020 Youth Olympic Games came to a close on January 22, where US Speedskating’s five athletes, Jenell Berhorst, Hailey Choi, Jonathan So, Jonathan Tobon, and Jordan Stolz, enjoyed numerous successes on an international level. They each raced their hearts out, while gaining valuable racing experience against competitors from around the world. Fresh off their Youth Olympic experiences with a renewed sense of confidence, they continue to train hard in preparation for their next competitions.  

With this being her first big international competition, Jenell Berhorst had some amazing races. She had a fantastic 500m, winning her heat and advancing to the quarterfinals. She placed third in her quarterfinal and did not advance to the semifinals, but skated a great race, nonetheless. Unfortunately, Jenell was penalized in her 1000m heat, so she was not able to progress in this round. She finished 9th overall in the 500m, and 29th in the 1000m due to her penalty. In the Mixed NOC Team Relay, Jenell and her team finished third in their semifinal and qualified for the B Final of the relay, and were then penalized in their final. Overall Jenell had a great experience and some fantastic races that she should definitely be proud of.

Jenell’s thoughts about her overall experience at YOG:

“The Lausanne 2020 YOG has been one of the best experiences and times of my life. Staying in the village and at The Vortex was really fun and pretty cool. The first thing we did when we got there was take a bunch of videos and photos of the place. The food there was pretty good; I definitely ate way too much chocolate and cheese, but it was our special source of energy during race time.”

“It was so much fun to meet and race against skaters from all over the world. When I got on the ice for my first race, I couldn’t stop smiling because the crowds were huge and wild. They were cheering, clapping, dancing to the music, and it was SO loud! But when it was time to race, I switched back to all seriousness.”

“I got penalized in my first 1000m race, but I’m still proud of my performance because I put in the effort to make passes. The 500m was the best day for me. I won my heat, and it felt amazing! I didn’t make it out of my quarterfinal, but I tried and that’s all that matters. I finished last in the 1000m because of the penalty and 9th in the 500m. Considering this is my first international competition and first time skating at this level, I think I did a pretty good job. It all comes with practice and experience.”

Hailey Choi also had many great races during her time at YOG. She made it all the way to the semifinals of the 500m, where she finished fourth to advance to the B Final, ultimately placing seventh overall in this distance, which is a great result! Hailey was in a fast 1000m quarterfinal and despite skating a strong race with a fast time, she finished in fourth place and was not able to advance to the semifinals. She finished 13th overall in the 1000m. In the Mixed NOC Team Relay, Hailey and her team finished fourth in their semifinal to qualify for the B Final, and then went on to win the B Final! Hailey gained precious racing experience that she will use this weekend at the 2020 World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

Hailey’s thoughts about her overall experience at YOG:    

“I'm glad to be walking away from the Youth Olympic Games with such amazing memories. The positive atmosphere had me smiling and stepping out of my comfort zone. It was a lot of fun meeting and getting to know athletes from all different countries. Everyone was so kind and friendly.”

“As for my performance, I'm pretty proud of my results. I didn't do as well as I hoped in the 1000m, however I was able to bounce back and place seventh in the 500m. I was honestly surprised, considering the 500m isn't my strongest distance.”

“My favorite part was being able to connect with my team and other athletes through the power of the Youth Olympic Games. All athletes, coaches, and volunteers were so supportive of each other there. Overall, I was incredibly humbled and grateful to represent the USA at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games. The whole experience has been unreal. It's definitely something I would love to relive again.”

As the lone male short track skater from the U.S., Jonathan So had some incredible results over the course of the competition. Most notably, Jonathan was a part of the gold medal-winning Mixed NOC Relay team! He joined three other skaters from Japan, the Netherlands, and Korea to dominate the Mixed Relay, winning their semifinal as well as the A Final. Jonathan also won his 1000m heat and quarterfinal, and finished second in his semifinal to advance to the 1000m A Final. He had a strong race in the final, narrowly missing out on a medal. After receiving a penalty in his 500m heat, Jonathan was not able to advance in this distance. Winning a Youth Olympic gold medal is a fantastic feat for Jonathan, and he looks to continue this momentum at the 2020 World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

Jonathan’s thoughts about his overall experience at YOG:

“My experience at YOG was incredible. I loved the village we were at and all of the people were really nice. It was so different for me to be in that atmosphere with so many people and fans. It was really nice to meet new people from different countries and make new friends!”

“Skating in that building was really cool! The fans were crazy and it definitely gave me extra energy and excitement during the races. I’m happy with my performances the past week because I surprised myself with my own abilities in the 1000m and I also came home with a gold medal in the mixed relay. I now realize my abilities and how good I am compared to the best skaters at my age in the world. I’m definitely coming back from YOG with more confidence and motivation to be the best!”

As one of two U.S. long track skaters, Jonathan Tobon raced exceptionally well over the course of four days. He skated a strong 1500m which earned him a bronze medal, and anchored his Mixed NOC Team Sprint team, skating to another bronze medal! In the 500m, he skated to an eighth place finish, and in the Mass Start Final, raced to another eighth place finish. Winning two bronze medals at the Youth Olympics is a fantastic accomplishment for Jonathan, especially since one of his main goals heading into the competition was to do well in the 1500m. He’ll look to apply this racing experience at the 2020 World Junior Speed Skating Championships at the end of February. 

Jonathan’s thoughts about his overall experience at YOG:

“My Youth Olympic Games experience was phenomenal and I am honored to have been a part of Team USA. The opportunity to share the experience with other athletes who also dedicate so much effort into their sports allows me to gain a new perspective towards teamwork and fellowship. The friendships I have developed have made this journey a once in a lifetime experience, exposing me to new and unfamiliar sports such as the slide sports. They also granted me a chance to contribute to the energetic and supportive spirit of Team USA. I feel that our spirit in and outside of sport makes our Team USA community distinctly unique. 

I am happy with my performance despite my doubts earlier in the week. Skating on natural ice in altitude was a new experience for me. At first, my 1500 seemed unsatisfactory and inadequate to make the podium and although the race felt like one of my worst 1500s all season, I was quick to judge. Following the competition, I allowed myself to step back and recognize all of my accomplishments leading up to that moment, and it brought me relief and joy to see my hard work paying off.”

Jordan Stolz was the second long track athlete to compete for the U.S. at the Youth Olympics. Skating a quick 500m, Jordan’s time propelled him to a fifth place finish in this distance. His goal for the 500m going into the competition was to place in the top 5, so congratulations to him for successfully carrying out this result! In the 1500m, Jordan raced to a 21st place finish among a strong field of skaters. Sadly, he clicked blades with another skater and fell in the Mass Start semifinal, and was not able to advance to the final. Jordan’s Mixed NOC Team Sprint team was disqualified in the final, but still raced well and gained experience working as a team despite never skating together before that race. Overall, Jordan had a strong showing at the Youth Olympic Games, and is currently training for the 2020 World Junior Speed Skating Championships where he will look to effectively use his racing experience and execute solid races.

Jordan’s thoughts about his overall experience at YOG:

“It was a great experience to compete outside on a lake and to make friends with people from other countries.”

 

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