- Short Track
Luck be a lady: Malone overcomes bad breaks
One would have thought that Jordan Malone was safe when he lumbered through a birthday party in a sumo wrestler costume and playfully grappled with his coach. But friends of Malone have a joke, and that joke is that Jordan Malone is never safe.
Malone, a 29-year-old American short track speed skater, tore his ACL in October 2009 when he wore said sumo suit as a joke.
“It was a birthday party for a guy that was a patron of speed skating. There was a freak accident that just tore my ACL,” Malone said. “It turns out, from looking at MRI's and what not, that I had probably torn it previously, partially through, and then I basically just finished it off.”
He made it back for the 2010 Olympics where he won a silver medal in the 5000m relay, and the sumo incident is a perfect microcosm for Malone’s positivity, determination and light-heartedness through a terribly unlucky and injury-plagued career.
“When you're down, people tend to kick you whether you know it or not,” Malone said. “I had people from my own coaching staff and what not basically trying to say that I couldn't do it.”
Malone has compiled an unusually long history of what can only be described as unlucky or freak injuries.
“It's never like, ‘Oh he's on the last lap and he's about to break the world record! He spun out of control and broke something!’” Malone said. “No, it’s like I'll go and do runs on a halfpipe on a snowboard and I'll break my ankle walking to the car or something.”
Adversity started early for Malone, who was both asthmatic and dyslexic as a child. He also grew up in Texas, a place not exactly renowned for putting out speed skaters.
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He started skating at an extremely young age and, like a lot of short track speed skaters, began as an inline skater. In 2002, he tripped over a timing wire while skating and crashed into the timing device that had no padding. His upper jaw broke, he lost four teeth and sustained severe facial injuries. He needed 16 screws and four titanium plates to keep his jaw in place.
Malone switched from inline to ice, where his injury luck wouldn’t get much better. Before the 2006 Games, he broke his ankle, and despite valiantly attempting to skate on it, he failed to qualify for the Olympics.
Then came the torn ACL in 2009. His comeback and participation in the 2010 Olympics showed what Malone is most proud of -- that no matter how many bad breaks he’s had, he wasn’t going to quit.
“Quitting something or giving up on something, no matter how much you justify it, it's easy to walk away, but hard to accept that you did it,” Malone said. “So I just stepped back and decided that nothing I gave up on was ever worth it. It can't be now. It can't be this. This is the culmination of everything.”
Still, Malone was forced to have surgery after the 2010 Olympics and was sidelined for almost an entire season.
Even after recovering from the surgery, Malone encountered more turmoil. In 2012, he was forced to deal with kidney stones (which have plagued him since) and severe tendonitis. He was kept out of competition for several weeks.
“I had gotten to the point where I look back and there was ten years of something just beating me down every year and keeping me from either skating trials or skating how i should skate,” Malone said. “And I almost quit.”
He didn’t, and the start to the 2013 season proved it was the right decision.
Malone was named to the U.S. World Cup team in August 2013 and started the World Cup season with gold in the 5000m relay in Shanghai and silver in the same event in Seoul. He also won an individual bronze medal in Shanghai when he tied with Korean skater Lee Han-Bin in the 1000m.
“You could never prove to yourself what you're capable of when you don't give yourself a chance,” Malone said. “So the fact that I gave myself the opportunity to succeed, and I did, it's that right there that reminds me that I need to not give up, ever.”
In Malone’s world, there’s no time to slow down, no time to feel sorry for yourself. You can’t worry about what could go wrong and you have to leave your bad breaks behind you.
You have to suit up without hesitation, whether it’s a sumo costume or a Team USA uniform.
“My joke of the whole thing is, of course an Olympic medal is vindication because I've worn Spandex my whole life,” Malone said. “I need something for it, right?”
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