Our Exclusive Interview with 4-Time Olympic Speed Skater Jennifer Rodriguez


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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Jennifer Rodriguez might not have taken home any medals at this year's Winter Games, but she is still quite a decorated speed skater with a diverse history. Rodriguez, 33, began her career as an artistic roller skater, then switched to inline speed skating, becoming world champion in 1993 (at age 17!). In 1996, she headed to the ice, participating in the 1998, 2002, 2006 and now the 2010 Olympics. She brought home a pair of bronze medals in 2002 in the 1,000 and 1,500 meter speed skating events.

Stepfanie: You came back from retirement. How does it feel to be competing in your fourth Olympics?

Jennifer: I'm the oldest person on the team now; I was the youngest person (back in 1996). The difference is experience. I'm actually listening to myself, listening to my body, whereas before I was soo stubborn and I overtrained and burned out--and that's why I quit in the first place.

This time around, I'm having fun with skating. I'm coming back because I really want to be here. It's a challenge, I want to see what I can do. I am trying to enjoy myself outside of the training field, trying to mingle a little bit, get out a little more, whereas before I was super closed and didn't let myself have any fun. Before I would never skip out on a workout, but now if I'm exhausted, I give myself the morning off. That way I have more to give for my more important workouts.

Stepfanie: How important is nutrition to your program?

Jennifer: Nutrition is huge! It's not necessary that I eat a certain amount of calories or track what I'm eating every day, but I need to make sure I'm taking in enough calories so I don't drop weight because I'm doing so much. I do try to stay away from junk food. I have a sweet tooth, but I don't eat junk food, I don't drink sodas or coffee. I rarely drink beer.

I try to eat a lot of protein. I need carbs, but I am trying to build muscles, so I'm eating more protein--and I've been really good about taking my vitamins, which I'm very proud of.

Stepfanie: One thing we (the reporters) noticed among all the athletes is how you all embody true beauty--from the inside out. Do you feel like you're a role model for other women? Is there pressure for you to look a certain way as a speed skater?

Jennifer: In my sport, there's every body type. It's crazy! Everyone has the legs and the butt and the hips--I mean, that's a speed skater. But I can be small and still be good. I weigh like 123, but I've had girls weigh 165 and squat more than most guys I know and I can compete with them. We've got really tall, lanky girls, bigger girls--the whole realm. In my sport, there's no pressure to look a certain way, but I try to be stronger and wouldn't mind if my legs were bigger--I just want them to be stronger.

We're all pretty fit, especially in the lower area.

Stepfanie: Who's your primary motivator?

Jennifer: My motivator would be my mom. She just passed away in June. She was basically my main support, for my entire career, and she was a big support--even though I know that when I first made my decision to come back she thought I was crazy. … But once I really made that decision to come back, she was with me the entire way, so now that she won't be able to experience possibly--probably--my last Games, she's my main motivator.

When she passed away, I thought about quitting. I didn't think I had the energy to do this, but once I got back into the routine of things, I thought this is what she wanted me to do.

Stepfanie: Compare these Games against the previous ones. Do you feel more pressure or less pressure?

Jennifer: Less pressure, which is nice! Each Games has been completely different. My first one was like "Ahhhh!" I didn't even know what I was doing. It was a whirlwind. Second Games in Salt Lake was more pressure--I was a medal contender (and won two bronze). In Torino, I was a gold medal favorite and it was very disappointing. This time around, I don't even know what to expect.

Do you prefer roller/in-line skating or ice skating? Which do you think would be more fun? Want to read more of our Olympics coverage? Click here.

Main photo courtesy of Nike

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