Q&A with Jessica Kooreman
What's your family like?
My father, Rick Smith, drives a truck for Darling International and actually used to coach me in skating when I was young. My mom, Reina Smith, is a barber at Bob's Barber Shop in Taylor, Mich. I have a younger brother, Travis, who was a rock star dirt biker and is now in paramedic school in pursuit of becoming a fireman.
My hot husband [Mike Kooreman] was on the [short track] national team for 11 years, coached at the Olympics in Vancouver, then went on to coach the German national team, and is now the speed skating program manager at the Utah Olympic Oval. He will also be the team leader for long track speed skating at the Olympics in PyeongChang.
How influential were your parents in your athletic career and in what ways?
My father Rick grew up racing on roller skates and enjoyed the sport. When my parents had me at the age of twenty my dad changed his focus to helping me chase my dreams. He went to work for Darling International and started coaching. My mom also skated in her early teens. She wishes she had started earlier, and so by the age of one she put me on skates and I haven't looked back since. I have an internal drive that is fueled by the inspiration I get from my parents when I think about the sacrifice and work they have put into helping me become who I am today.
Do you have another full-time job or business? How do you balance work and training?
I am a realtor in the state of Utah. I use my occupation to fund my athletic career and will continue with it after I have retired from speed skating. Having a balanced work and athletic career is almost impossible at times due to the training that is required in my sport. We spend 6-8 hours per day training, which leaves very little time for my occupation. I have to push myself in my work with the same enthusiasm and drive that I put towards speed skating. It takes a lot of self-discipline to manage both.
Do you have any pets?
I have a 10 year old puppy named Hurley Bean. She lights up my life. She is a Jack Russell terrier with plenty of energy that she uses to go for runs with me and at home she is a little snuggle bug.
In your hometown, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc? What are a few must-see/must-do locations?
When I make it home the entire family meets up at Mexican Fiesta and we always try to hit up a Tigers game. There are plenty of places in Detroit to check out but my favorite thing to do is catch up with family since I don't get to see them often enough. Top places to visit are Comerica Park and downtown Detroit in general. Greenfield Village is another cool place to visit.
What time do you wake up? How much, and when, do you sleep each day during training?
5:20 a.m. I try for eight hours if I'm lucky. Only at night. But, I do try to squeeze in a nap when I can if training is super hard that day.
How much time do you spend training each day?
What’s your typical training day/schedule?
5:20 a.m. wake up. At the rink by 6 a.m. Warm up and on the ice by 7 a.m. Finish ice at 9 and do dry land training until around 10 or 10:30 a.m. Depending on the day the afternoon can consist of another ice training session with dry land before and after, weights, biking, or running.
How do you work to achieve your daily goals?
I remind myself of getting fourth place at the Olympics in Sochi. I put my head down and go to it.
What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?
Not going to lie...I like CrossFit.
What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?
There are too many to count. One in particular that sticks out in my mind is running up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was just as much mental as it was physical.
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
That it's not every four years. It is a lifetime of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. People see us at the Olympics but every season we have a World Cup series and a World Championships.
Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?
Not that I want anyone knowing about.
Have you ever been seriously injured? What did it take for you to come back from that injury?
In 2007 I broke my collarbone at the World Championships in Colombia. I still have a plate and seven screws holding it together. I also, to this day, train and compete with a 10cm tear in my left quad. I do therapy three times per week to keep it calm and build strength that allows me to continue.
If you are to indulge, what's your go-to snack or meal?
Mexican food is my go-to meal. Popcorn is my snack. Mint chocolate chip ice cream from Baskin Robins and tiramisu are my desserts.
What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing short track?
Since I started skating by age one I just always remember skating. I love being competitive and being able to see the world while representing my country.
What's your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics?
I remember watching the Olympics in 2002 and saw an opportunity for me to participate.
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?
There was never a moment. I always believed I could make it.
What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?
It's easy to lose sight of the fact that we have 16.5 inch razor blades on our feet. It is also crazy how the fastest person isn't always the one who wins. Short track takes a lot of strategy and finesse.
Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?
Linlin Sun. I started working with her half way through this past season. I enjoy working with her because she is detail oriented and she brings a lot of energy to training sessions.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My parents taught me to always give my best.
What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?
Switching from inline speed skating to ice speed skating in pursuit of going to the Olympics. I had to go from being on top to starting from scratch, and the road wasn't easy.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
You can't race short track being afraid.
Who is your Olympic role model?
Serena Williams is a boss.
Within your sport, who has been your greatest influence and why?
My husband. He's my go-to and my support. I trust his knowledge in the sport to lead me in the right direction.
What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in short track?
Have patience and make sure that you enjoy what you are doing.
Are you a fan of any professional sports teams?
I’m a Red Wings fan.
Which Summer Olympic event would you like to try?
Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?
My parents sacrificed their dreams so that I could achieve mine. They taught me what it means to work hard and never give up.
How and where do you train over the summer?
I train year round in Salt Lake City. We train 11.5 months out of the year. In the summer, we do more base training like biking and extensive dry land training then in the season.
What is your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?
Being able to call myself an Olympian.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I'm good at selling houses.
Do you have any tattoos?
I have a butterfly on my middle/lower back.
What is your favorite animal?
I like chipmunks because they are so little and cute.
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
Sleep in. Breakfast and coffee in bed. Watch the Today Show and Live with Kelly. Hang out with my husband and dog.
How do you unwind after a competition?
I take a day off and don't think about training or skating.
Do you have any fears?
I have never wanted want to jump off a cliff or out of a plane. Haunted houses scare me too.
Do you like to travel? What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?
Yes. Switzerland is super pretty and the people are very friendly.
What's your personal motto?
You don't have to be great all of the time. You just have to be great at the right time.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love cooking dinner with my husband. I also enjoy hiking with my puppy and husband.
What are five of your favorite go-to songs to motivate you when training?
Rise- Katy Perry
Do My Thing- Miley Cyrus
10 Feet Tall- Afrojack
Can't Stop the Feeling- Justin Timberlake
Do you have any celebrity crushes?
Do you like kimchi or any other Korean foods?
Not kimchi, but I love bulgogi, gimbap, japchae, galbi, fried chicken, mindu, and Korean BBQ.
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?
I hope to be on the podium with a gold medal around my neck. I would like to skate to the best of my ability.