PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Jerica Tandiman may have followed her older sister into figure skating had she not learned to ice skate at the Utah Olympic Park in Kearns.
“I was about 7 years old, and my parents had my older sister and I go there to learn to skate,” said the 23-year-old who will compete in her first Olympic event Wednesday night. “My sister was doing figure skating lessons, and I wanted to skate too. I saw the speed skaters training and I thought that looked pretty cool.”
Tandiman admits she was more interested in seeing how fast she could skate than whether she could learn a layback spin or land a jump combination.
“I was kind of a tomboy, and I just wanted to compete,” she said. “I wanted to race people. I wanted to be the fastest.”
It didn’t take long for speedskating to become the most anticipated part of her childhood.
“I would always look forward to Learn to Skate. It was my favorite part of the week,” she said. “I’d try to get my homework done as fast as I could so I could get to the rink faster. I had a love for skating at a very young age.”
That love has carried Tandiman through grueling training, disappointing finishes, and halfway around the world to her first Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. She will skate the 1,000-meter long track race Wednesday night at the Gangneung Oval.
It’s a moment built on a lifetime of sacrifice, work and perseverance made easier by her passion for the sport, the support of her family, and the foundation provided by her LDS faith.
“It’s definitely part of who I am,” she said. “I think it’s helped me to have confidence in the things I do.”
She said it provides perspective on days when the demands of pursuing an elite athletic career can take over one’s life.
“It reminds me to be a good person and keeps that balance in my life,” she said. “It keeps me humble.”
She said her faith has provided comfort to her as she faces challenges on and off the ice.
“I think no matter what I do, it’s just a big part of who I am,” she said. “I think because it’s a big part of our beliefs that family is at the center of pretty much everything. That helps me a lot. I know that no matter what happens, no matter what I do, that my family is there for me, and that helps a lot when you’re in a sport, no matter what happens, there are people who love you and support you.”
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