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

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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I always wanted to do ice skating as a child since we lived in Illinois, but never got the chance. She was lucky she got to do what she loved. Report
Go Jennifer! And YEAH for ISOTONIX !!! So sorry about your mother dying last June. You DO have MARKET AMERICA supporting you! Jo in WI Report
I can roller blade, but the only time I've tried to ice skate I couldn't even move on the ice. I'm sure both are fun! I'll have to try ice skating again sometime. Report
You are truly a positive role model ! Yeah ! Report
It's good to know that even Olympic athletes get tired. Perhaps I'll remember this interview when I get too hard on myself. So, thank you for that! :) Report
Thanks for sharing this interview. Report
Thanks for sharing this interview. I never could either roller skate or ice skate well. If I have to choose, I'd say ice skating would be my preference. Report
Nice interview. I prefer the inlines. Started on a cheap pair, just to see if I liked the sport. Ended up loving it and have enjoyed long skates alone, huge group skates and half and full marthons in several countries. A great sport that gives freedom and fresh air! Report
I'm just about the same age as her, so it was nice to know that she could still do something well that she did in high school. That was very encouraging! Thanks! Report
loved it too Report
Loved this!! Report
Jennifer is a world-class role model no matter how you slice it. She has my respect and admiration. It is very interesting that skaters bring different body types to the race. The winning element seems to be the perseverance to maximize your potential and use what you have to the max. Thank you, Stepfanie, for an article that captures some very important lessons. Report
I loved to ice skate, and took lessons as a kid, I like it better than roller blading...did that as a kid, as well. Now at 62, with bad knees, I do neither. I admire all of these young athletes. the skill and the power is mind boggling. I liked the interview. Report
I also grew up ice skating.
I also love cross country skiing . Report
I grew up on Ice Skates and still skate once in a while at 62 years young. Now roller blades are a different thing alltogether. I just gave mine away last year. They are fun but scarey on hills. LOL It's all a balance thing. Report
Great interview. Thankyou. Report
Roller skating is such a fun sport! I wish we had a place in my hometown to skate. Report
I grew up ice skating, and love it. Never tried roller skating. Report
I love to watch ice-skating and in my mind I too am skating.........but ONLY in my mind. I have never been on skates and too old and brittle to try it now. Watching the gal skate after losing her Mother just a few days before, just pulled heart-strings.....My hat goes off too her and my heart goes out to her Report
I can't do either one any more--too many times I fell. But I love these interviews with the Olympic competitors. It's interesting to hear what they say about diet and workouts. Keep it up! Thanks. Report
I love old fashioned roller skating! Report
Awesome! Love to be inspired like that! Report
I prefer roller skating. Report
never could ice skate well but boy did I love dancing on the roller skate with a great boyfriend years ago... thanks for the great interviews Report
Great Interview, thanks! Report
It's so nice to learn a little more about these Olympic athletes. Thank you for sharing this interview with us. Report
I prefer ice skating. Never did get into roller skating. Report
Very inspiring!!! Report
That was a very good interview,thank you. Report
Thank You so much, what a great interview. Report
Nice interview! Report
thanks for sharing Report
This was a good interview. Report
Great interview! I myself like to inline skate, just get in the zone and keep on going for long distance. I'm glad Jennifer's mom was a great motivator, moms just have a way with things. Report
What an honor and just be out there for her Mom. We all have someone/thing that motivates us. I'm a roller skater and have never tried ice skarting, My joy in it would be to see the marks/tracks in the snow my skates would make. I'm told, ice skating is easier. Watching the Olympics gives me such joy to see the country represented as well as the athrlhelics who give up so much of their time and energy to win those medals. Go, U.S.! Report
Enjoy watching, but unfortunatly I can't even stand up on ice skates so I'll just have to stick to walking for now. Report
I'm enjoying the Olympic interviews as well. This one got me a bit teary eyed as my Mom passed away about 1.5 years ago. Report
I'm an artistic roller skater so anything to do with skating interests me.

I enjoyed the interview...I just LOVE the Olympics! It's exciting to watch as people "go for the Gold". Tears flow when athletes win and they flow when they don't. They've trained their whole life for this moment ... oh, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!

I like experiencing the highs and lows of competition ... reminds me of "goin' for my health". When everything's clicking it's exhilerating and when they're not or our focus wavers...that's when "crashes" or less than satisfactory results happen. It's not always the althete's fault...there's environmental/weather concerns, other athletes or fellow competitors, and even the condition of the venue they're racing on.

We have those same obstacles...outside influences (media, food vendors), other people (family, friends, fellow food addicts), our "venue" (nutrition/fuel) choices.

We (I) need to be "in it" to "win it"!!!!!!
Deb Report
Great interview! Thanks. Report
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