Emery Lehman is back on track

March 13, 2020, 1:30 p.m. (ET)

In just a couple of months, Emery Lehman will graduate from Marquette University with a degree in civil engineering, and he was recently accepted to Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering’s master’s degree program.

His academic career is just another addition to his list of accomplishments that include being part of two Olympic Winter Games teams, five junior world championship teams and bouncing back from a difficult medical condition. And he’s only 23.

Emery has skated for as long as he can remember. He started playing hockey when he was six years old and played through high school. At 9 years old, he gave speedskating a shot, immediately rising through the ranks. He was the 2009 National Champion in both short and long track, and earned six world junior championship medals over five years, including a 5000m gold.

During his 2013-14 season, Emery set two U.S. Junior records (5K and 10K) that stand today. When he was 17, he made the 2014 Olympic Team. “That whole season was going well for me,” he said. “Everything comes easy when you’re young.”

Training at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, the Illinois native earned a spot on his second Olympic team, competing in PyeongChang at the 2018 Olympic Games. Emery enrolled at MU full-time after the 2018 Games but was diagnosed with mononucleosis, a disease that took a substantive toll on his body.

“After 2018, I was pretty confident I wanted to keep skating but I was sick and stayed stagnant,” he said. “I took a year off to see if I really wanted to do it.”

One year later, he showed up in Milwaukee at the Fall Long Track World Cup Qualifier and took second in the 1500m and third in the 5000m; good enough for a spot on the 2019-20 fall world cup team. There’s no sign Emery is slowing down. In fact, he is the current 5K and 10K national champion and set a personal best time in the 1500 (1:44.25) during the 2020 World Single Distance Championships. 

“Balancing school and skating kept me busy but helped me develop an efficient mindset,” he said. “This season was about bouncing back and I didn’t expect much this season. It was definitely a good surprise to have good results.”

Emery describes himself as shy but admits he can be very talkative once he warms up. He loves problem solving and says his analytical mind is what drew him to engineering. He enjoys hiking, traveling and visiting with family across the country, including going to New York to visit his older brother (by 18 months), Graham Lehman, who played Division 1 Tennis for Lehigh University and is currently a structural bridge engineer in NYC.

“He’s a role model to me,” Emery said. “He played tennis in college and earned a master’s degree in civil engineering. I think he has an incredible work ethic. He balanced a full schedule, he was an athlete and part of a fraternity, and he works hard.”

After graduation, Emery will relocate to Salt Lake City where he will spend the next two years training for his third Olympic team and working on a master’s degree in structural engineering from John Hopkins University.

“I like being close to home and Milwaukee is where I feel comfortable. I learned to skate there and had my first competitions there,” he said. “I'm looking forward to next season in Salt Lake City."