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Q&A with Emery Lehman

Emery Lehman
USA TODAY Sports

Q&A with Emery Lehman

U.S. speed skater Emery Lehman on his motto, off-ice training and goals for PyeongChang

What’s your family like?

My brother, Graham, was a Division 1 tennis player who just graduated from Lehigh University. My mother, Marcia, is the one who pushed me to try new things and got my into the sport. My father was always supportive of my brother’s and my athletic careers, often coaching us in sports like hockey, baseball, and more.

Do you have any pets?

My parents have two cats, Annie and Bleu. Annie is a Sphynx cat, like the one in “Austin Powers,” and Bleu is a beatific Russian Blue cat. My roommates and I also have a hamster in Milwaukee named Leon, after the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” character.

In your hometown of Oak Park, IL, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc.?

My favorites restaurants back in Oak Park are Johnnies Beef, Gene and Jude's, Alpine sandwiches, Di Nicos Pizza, and Mickey's.

What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?

Depending on the day, usually 7:15 all summer long and 7:30-45 in the winter.

I try and take a nap every weekday, and try to get 8.5 hours of sleep.

How much time do you spend training each day?

Training can vary, some of my most intense workouts are not my longest but that being said training can last from two hours up to seven hours each day.

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What’s your typical training day/schedule?

Usually every day I will wake up and train; if it is the summer we have dryland or off-ice workouts, and if it is the winter I usually skate in the morning. Then I head home and get some food in me and then nap. If I have time I will do some homework, if not I will do it at night. Then I will have an afternoon training session. Then after that I will eat dinner, do some homework, maybe hang out with my roommates a little if its early enough, then go to bed.

How do you work to achieve your daily goals?

Having my season goals written down in a notebook always helps because then every time during a workout when I am very tired or when I have to wake up super early I can think to those time goals and understand why I just do what I am doing. Nothing beats hard work and a good recovery and diet routine.

What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?

My favorite workout would be speed skating, but if that doesn't count I really think swimming is a peaceful workout.

What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?

That would be tough to say, every time I race I try and push it harder and faster, so in a sense each race is more grueling than the previous. Other than that, doing one leg squats for 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off for 40 minutes really kills the legs, but then again so can a long bike ride with thousands of feet of ascending.

What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?

It's doesn't require as much skill as it does dedication and hard work.

Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?

I love playing hockey, I am on a men's hockey team in Milwaukee called Milwaukee Tool. I played hockey in high school and think it is a lot of fun and a great workout.

What does a typical day of eating look like during training?

Usually I try and eat four times a day. I really rely on my food delivery service, Blue Apron, to supply me with my healthier meals of the week.

What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing speed skating?

I started speed skating when I was 9. Seeing other kids beat me initially really drove me to try and get better and keep up with or beat them.

What's your  earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?

My earliest memory of watching the Olympics was watching short track speed skating at the 2002 Olympics, and not really able to understand what was going on. I didn't start the sport until many years later but I always remember watching and being affected as to what kind of a rink that was because I had only ever seen a hockey rink, and the one on TV had pads all around it and no glass.

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?

I think when I made the junior world team when I was fourteen I really realized I could excel in the sport.

What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see?

I think that people don't realize how much off-ice and other training we do besides skating. Skating is the most important training method but it only accounts for a fraction of our total training. Other training includes biking, swimming, running, lifting, dryland, strength training, injury prevention training, hockey, short track speed skating, inline speed skating, and sometimes more than just that.

Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?

Eric Cepuran, he has been my coach for almost a year now and I think we have a much stronger dynamic and mutual respect for each other than my last coaching situation. There is a lot of back and forth, but he relies heavily on my feedback.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don't change something if it's not broke.

What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?

I would say when I got mono a second time and trying to balance school and training was definitely the toughest years of my life. Trying to regain my strength while still trying to keep up with my good grades and also get healthy at the same time was a tremendous challenge.

What is your biggest fear when competing?

My biggest fear when competing is not effecting my technique as I did in practice. Often times I take three step forwards in training, but then when it comes to racing, it's two steps backwards.

Who is your Olympic role model?

Shani Davis.

What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in speed skating?

I tell any young kid to do as many sports as possible for as long as possible to keep them well rounded. The year before the last Olympics I was playing three sports.

Who is your biggest rival? Is it friendly or contentious?

Jonathan Kuck, he was a very smart person with a very intelligent family. He is one of the smartest people I have ever met, and also my calculus tutor on the road quite some time ago, and also had a great sense of humor.

What was the best part of living in the Athletes’ Village during the Games?

All of the free food and gear was very cool.

Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?

My mother and father, my mother drove me to Milwaukee 3-4 days a week and made me eat healthy and get school work done. My dad, on the other hand, refereed competitions and would come up on the weekends when he wasn't working or with my brother at a tennis or soccer game.

What is your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?

Being able to say I made an Olympic team because I know how truly hard I worked and what kind of sacrifices I had to make to get there.

Do you have a lucky charm?

I have a hat I've been training in since I was 13.

Do you speak any other languages?

I used to speak Spanish fluently, I went to an intercultural school and my aunt is Venezuelan.

Are you attending college? What are you studying?

Marquette University, I have three semesters left and am studying civil engineering.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I am a great ping pong player.

When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?

Well my day would never be complete without a workout, ideally a stair workout at my lake house in Sawyer, Michigan, and then relaxing on the beach with my family all day, maybe golf in the afternoon with my cousins, dad, brother, uncle, and grandpa, and then have a bonfire on our beach and watch the sunset.

How do you unwind after a competition?

By getting a lot of sleep.

Do you have any fears?

Spiders and snakes freak me out.

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Do you like to travel?  What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?

I love traveling. Going to the Netherlands for the first time was a magnificent experience, not only because of the skating culture but also because of how cool of a city it was and it was my first international trip without my parents, I was 14.

What's something quirky about yourself that people would be amused to learn?

I love Star Trek and Star Wars, yes both.

What's your personal motto?

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’” [Muhammad Ali]. And "if you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run the walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward" [Martin Luther King, Jr.]

What are some of your hobbies?

I love playing hockey and hanging out with friends when I have downtime. Mostly staying off of my feet.

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?

Beat my last placement at the last games, 16th in the 5k and hopefully be in the top 8 for the team pursuit.

Speed Skating

Read more Q&A's with the U.S. speed skating team:

Heather Bergsma | Joey Mantia | Brittany Bowe | KC Boutiette | Mia Manganello | Mitch Whitmore | Sugar Todd | Emery Lehman | Brian Hansen

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