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Dan Jansen, former Olympian, talks speed skating

Olympian Dan Jansen with Kidsday reporters Amber Fantaci,

Olympian Dan Jansen with Kidsday reporters Amber Fantaci, Matt Gaffney Tyler Madden and Gracie Guttieri, from Smithtown and Nesconset. they met him at the Citi launch event 2014 Every Step of the Way campaign on Oct. 24, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We met former Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen and announcer for the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, when he was visiting Manhattan recently.

Are you going to the Winter Olympics this season?

I am. I will be in Sochi. I will be doing your job. I'll be calling the races. I'm a commentator for NBC. So you'll hear me every day if you guys watch.

When did you get started as a speed skater?

I got started when I was 4 years old and I had eight brothers and sisters older than me. So I was the ninth child, and all my brothers and sisters skated before I did. So they didn't want to get a baby-sitter, they just got me some skates and took me to the ice and off I went.

On the day of your big races, how do you feel and how do you overcome your nerves?

Nerves for me were necessary. I liked it made me focus more. Sometimes nerves can be good and they can be bad. If you allow them to be good, if you use them for a positive, then you don't have to worry about being nervous.

What are you thinking when you are racing?

When you're racing, actually most of the thinking comes before the race. You go through the race in your mind, a visualization. What you think about and you see the race and you think about the things you need to do and then, when the gun goes off, you don't think too much. You have to just go because if you think too much, it can get in the way sometimes.

When you were training for the Olympics, what was your training schedule like?

My training ritual was usually twice a day, get up in the morning and either skate or do a weight training or running and then take a break for lunch, take a little rest and do it all again in the afternoon. So we were training maybe five or six hours every day and about six days a week.

During your Olympic career, you must have had a lot of support from fans.

A lot of support from fans because my Olympic was over four Olympics. I get a lot of nice letters from fans wishing me luck and supporting. It's very nice to know that you have people behind you and wishing you well.

When you skate, why do you sometimes put your hand behind your back?

So that is for, we put our hand behind our back to save energy. When you're swinging both arms, you're using twice as much energy. So when you want to save a little energy, for later in the race, you can put one arm on your back. In the real long races, which I didn't skate, on the straights they put two arms on their back and then drop one for the turn. It's mostly to just save energy.

What are your favorite hobbies or sports besides skating?

Probably my favorite hobby is golf. I love to play golf. I play as much as I can even though I'm not very good.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Two. I have two daughters. Those are my most biggest accomplishments. My daughter Jane, who is named after my sister who passed away. My daughter Olivia. And I'm very proud of them. I'm also, of course, very proud of my gold medal, but not as much as my girls.

What is your favorite place to skate?

I think my favorite place was in Holland, in the Netherlands because speed skating is very, very popular in that country. They have thousands and thousands of people come to watch us. It's very exciting to skate there.

Do you still hold the world's record?

I do not hold the world record anymore. It's been a few years, so you have to go faster all the time, and as time goes by they always seem to get faster.

Can you hear the crowd cheering when you won the gold medal?

Yes, I could. During the race not so much, even though it was very loud, you're very focused, but after when I crossed the finish line it was very loud in the stadium.

Do you have any rituals or superstitions before the race?

No, I'm not very superstitious, so I didn't have any good luck charms like that. Just never did.

Do your daughters skate?

My daughters skate for fun, but no. Because where I grew up was in Wisconsin, where's there a lot of skating. In North Carolina, where we live now, there's not so much skating. So they don't skate very much.


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