How influential were your parents in your athletic career and in what ways?
My parents are the reasons I am where I am today. They are my number one support system. They have been there through all the heart ache, the bad times, and tears. They have picked me up more times than I can count and motivated me to continue to chase my dreams. They also have been there for the accomplishments and successes and I know those would not have happened without them. I love them so much and am thankful for the positivity and encouragement.
Do you have any pets?
Sailey- German Shepard
Honey- some kind of cat
In your hometown, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc.?
I live and have grown up in the same city that I train, so whether I am training or in the offseason I am lucky enough to always be home. Kearns, Utah is a small town so the Utah Olympic Oval is one of the top spots. A place to eat in Kearns, Utah is Beto’s. They have the best breakfast burritos. As for outside of Kearns, I would recommend going on hikes up in the Wasatch Mountains. Nothing more beautiful than being up in the mountains.
What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?
Between 6:00 am and 7:00 am.
How much time do you spend training each day?
Actually working out and training is 4+ hours each day. But including prep time, warm ups, getting worked on, etc. I spend between 6-8 hours a day at the rink.
What’s your typical training day/schedule?
A typical day of training would be wake up, eat breakfast, head over to the rink, 1 hour of warm up, skating workout on ice, cool down, lunch and or nap break (depending on the day), back to rink or other training facility, warm up, second workout (cycling intervals, running, dryland, or weights), cooldown, head to work (depending on the day) or dinner. And that is a pretty typical day.
How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
It can be easy to lose focus day to day, so daily goals are important for me. I achieve these by setting specific things to focus on, but also remembering at the same time to enjoy each moment. Find joy in the journey.
What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?
My favorite part of training would be being in the weight room. Core and upper body exercises are my favorite, but I enjoy lifting weights and challenging myself and my strength in the weight room.
What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?
There are so many grueling workouts I have been lucky enough to experience. One workout I would say is the most grueling is an on ice workout. First, I skate up to 3 tempos, or all out efforts ranging from 1 lap to 3 laps. They take a lot out of me. Second, I get back on the ice to do intensive intervals with very little rest between efforts. This workout is so grueling for me and is both physically and mentally tough.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
Training for the Olympics or Paralympics means sacrifice after sacrifice. You eat, breathe, and sleep your sport. Your teammates, coaches, and trainers become family. You spend more time with them than family. Training is no easy task and you challenge yourself physically and mentally almost every day. It is more than a full-time job, which is hard because many athletes also have to work other jobs on top of this in order to be able to afford and train for their sport. At this level, we are constantly working for the best result and for the love of the sport. The work never stops.
If you are to indulge, what’s your go-to snack?
What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing skating?
My earliest memory of speed skating would be watching the speed skaters practice while my sister was at figure skating practice. I was so fascinated and my parents saw that and signed me up for learn to speed skate classes. I fell in love with the sport because of the competitions. I loved competing. What propelled me to dedicate my life to speed skating was when I made my first Junior World Team at a young age and experienced my first international competition. From then on, I knew I needed to train as as hard as I could to continue to make teams and travel the world competing with the best skaters from all over.
What’s your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?
The 2002 Olympics were my earliest memory of seeing the Olympics. The speed skating events were held at the Oval, which was practically built in my backyard. I don’t remember a lot about the events, but I do remember watching the torch go through the Kearns High School parking lot. I didn’t then know that I would later be chasing an Olympic dream of my own, but watching that flame sparked something within me.
Was there a specific “breakthough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?
My breakthrough moment was making a Junior World team at 14 years old in my first of five years of eligibility. The feeling I had when they announced I would be a part of the team was one I can’t describe. Making this team gave me a feeling that I could have a real chance in this sport. I constantly look back to that feeling whenever I am lacking confidence.
What’s something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don’t normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?
The hardest part of the sport is the lactic acid. It is unreal sometimes. People usually see the race but they don’t always see you minutes after a race. For me, especially after a 1500m, the pain from the lactic acid can be so intense I can’t even move. After hard races, you might find me sprawled out on a pad or the ground. My lungs feel like they are closing in, my legs are more than on fire, and tears are at the corners of my eyes. It is the up to 20 minutes after a race that are the most painful for me and for others in the sport, and people usually don’t see that. But all that pain is worth it if the race was a successful race.
Are there any misconceptions about your sport that you would like to clear up?
We look ridiculous wearing skin-tight suits with hoods. Yes, that is 100% true, not a misconception.
Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?
My coach is Matt Kooreman. He has been my coach on and off since I was 8 years old. We have been chasing this dream together for almost all of my career so far.
Who do you socialize with most within your sport or any sport?
I socialize most with the people I made Junior World teams with. A couple of us have grown in this sport together, traveled the world together, and have built strong friendships. These guys are my closest friends and I would feel lost if I didn’t have them around.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When your nerves are overwhelming, fake a smile. Even a fake smile will trick some of the nerves away.
What’s a big obstacle that you’ve overcome in your life?
Through the years of skating, I have had to overcome multiple injuries. Injuries are more mentally difficult to overcome than physically, in my opinion. Working through each injury has made me stronger and taught me more about myself and the sport in general. Though injuries suck, it is best to take them and embrace them as learning opportunities, not as setbacks. A big obstacle I have had to overcome has been proving myself. Trying to prove myself to my teammates, my coaches, and my organization has been a constant battle. I know they are there supporting me, but at times I have really struggled with not feeling that way for some reason. Feeling the pressure that most likely wasn’t actually there but that I was giving myself was a huge obstacle. I found myself in a devastating spiral downward of feeling under appreciated, left out, forgotten, and everything felt unfair. I had to overcome this because it was greatly affecting my motivation at practice and ultimately my race results. I had to learn to stop doing what I do for others, stop trying to prove myself to others, but instead skate for me. Skate for my family, skate for the love of the sport. Once I did this, everything seemed to turn around for me and things started going the way I had planned and wished for them to go.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
Who is your Olympic role model?
What athlete in any sport has been your greatest source of inspiration?
Jens Voigt. He is one of the most down to earth and kind-hearted people I have ever met. He always puts others before himself and inspires me to do the same.
What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in short track?
Enjoy the process, enjoy the journey. There are going to be hard times, but if the love for the sport is truly there, you can get through anything.
Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?
My Grandparents. Though they are no longer with me, they were and are so influential in my dreams. The way my grandpa’s eyes would light up when I would tell him about my successes or the look on his face when he would watch me race are memories I cherish. He was always keeping track of my stats online and it inspired me to be the best I could be for him, to make him smile. My grandma would always pick me up, drop me off, make me food, or do anything to help me when it came to speed skating. If I needed some new equipment or help paying for something, she wouldn’t even think twice in helping me out. I would not be at the level I am today without them both. I miss them so much and I continue to skate to make the proud.
What is your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?
Being able to live the athlete life as a career.
Do you have a nickname?
Coaches, teammates, and trainers all call me JT. Pretty boring nickname since they are just my initials, but it now just sounds weird if any of them call me Jerica.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Any kind of arts and crafts. I love doodling and being artsy. Also I love baking desserts…not to brag, but I make the best chocolate chip cookies.
If you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?
I would like to be going to school, attempting to go to Medical school
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
A perfect day would involve lots of food, time for a nap, and just being with my family
How do you unwind after a competition?
Do you have any fears?
Public swimming pools.
Do you like to travel? What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?
I love to travel. So far I have only traveled to compete, but someday I would love to travel to all these countries just to enjoy the country and not have the pressure of competing. If I were to travel anywhere right now, it would be back to the North Shore of Oahu where I lived while I went to school. I fell in so madly in love with that place and if I could, I would travel back there in a heartbeat.
What’s something quirky about yourself that people would be amused to learn?
I have this problem where if I am really tired, really stressed, or something is too serious I have giggle fits. I will start laughing and then I can’t get myself to stop…even if there is nothing at all funny. Laughing at inappropriate times seems to be some sort of coping mechanism for me. It has gotten me into some trouble for sure.
What’s your personal motto?
Learn to embrace the hard times
What are some of your hobbies?
Doodling. I love to doodle, if you go back and look through my notes throughout all my years of schools, it is mostly doodles and no actual notes. If ever I am stressed or just need a break I will sit and doodle.
What is your music of choice while training?
Dream On by Areosmith
I’m Gonna Be by The Proclaimers
Those two are my always go to songs that I have listened to forever, but my playlist is always changing…as of right now I really enjoy listening to the Moana soundtrack tbh
Do you have any celebrity crushes?
Do you have an Olympic crush?
Pita Nikolas Taufatofua.
What are your favorite TV shows?
Are you a fan of K-Pop music?
No, not yet anyway.
Outside of training for your sport, what physical routine makes you feel your best?
Going for a jog with my mom or hiking with the family.
What are five must-have items you always keep in your gym bag?
Deodorant, snacks, extra hair ties, spare car keys for when I lock my keys in my car, and more snacks.
Have you been to South Korea before? What are you most looking forward to about the Games being hosted in South Korea? Anything you want to see or do?
No, but I did see pictures from my teammates that traveled to South Korea for World Single Distance Championships and I am most looking forward to being so close to beaches in the winter. Beaches and winter are my two favorite things.
Do you like kimchi or any other Korean foods?
I LOVE KIMCHI!
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?
Skating faster and placing higher than my own expectations, but mainly success will look like making the best and most of the experience.