Jason Hedstrand - Keeping it in Perspective
By Bruce W. Biesenthal

It's how you look at it.

Jason Hedstrand is looking at a lot right now. The American record holder in the 10,000 Meter
speedskating event, skating at a 13.40 clip, Jason has his sights set on the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City – and on climbing the dais and receiving a medal for the United States.

But Jason does not have tunnel vision. On the road to his dream, he nonetheless keeps an eye on the present, living in every moment, enjoying the events that are happening along the way.

"I keep an eye on the reward, not the cost, "says Jason. "I live in the present tense. I have one eye on the goal, and still live in the present. If you don't maximize the moments as they happen in your life, you get to the goal and look back on emptiness, with no friends, having alienated and isolated yourself along the way."

Born in the Philippines to missionary parents, Jason grew up in Shoreview, Minnesota. He started speedskating in the 4th grade, when his parents, who were homeschooling Jason, wanted him in a winter sport for his physical education component.

"I wasn't very good, "Jason recalls. "In fact, I was naturally bad. I started out on hockey skates, swinging my arms like a speedskater. If it weren't for my parents and a great group of encouraging coaches, I would have given up."

He didn't give up. He joined a speedskating club, stayed with it, progressed, made the Junior National Team, did some training camps with them, and then made the National Team in 1998. He missed making the 1998 Olympic Team by just over 2 seconds.

Jason competes in all the speedskating events – the 500 Meter, the 1000 Meter, the 1500 Meter, and excels in the two longer distances, the 5,000 Meter and the 10,000 Meter.

Each event requires a different approach. "They're entirely different disciplines," Jason states. "In the 5,000 and 10,000 Meter events, you can't just let your adrenaline take control or you'll die hard and fast. You have to grind it out, lap upon lap upon lap.

"There's so much mental energy expended. You have to concentrate on your technique, which demands mental sharpness. You have to do the mental work to dig deeper within yourself and create the hunger needed to keep going in spite of the fact it's going to hurt. And you have to have confidence in your abilities to work hard and just keep going, maintaining a calmness within your confidence. That's the mental work."

Of course, there's the physical work as well. The training is grueling, whether it's in the weight room or on a 100 mile bike ride.

It's during the training that Jason tries to keep everything in perspective. "I'll bird watch while I'm on a bike ride, or I'll go on a hike and take my binoculars and bird book. I need to keep focused on positive things. If you think about the pain you're enduring, you won't get very far. So I look at creation and I enjoy every experience as it's happening, trying to make the most of it and take something out of it."

There have been sacrifices along the way. The usual career and social decisions make by people in their early twenties have been put on hold while Jason focuses on the goal.

"Every year," says Jason, "I make the decision to keep going, to train, to improve. There's been some cost, but there's also been a great reward. I've had such an opportunity. I've been to lots of countries, I've traveled the world, I've found great churches wherever I go. I love every minute of it."

His strong faith helps Jason keep everything in perspective as well.

"I skate for God. I want to use the opportunity He's given me to be a positive role model for kids, or other athletes.

"I read a chapter in the Bible every night before going to bed. I wrap up a hard day of training, a day that's taxing in every way, and I cap it off with prayer and the Word of God. Over the course of years, I've read through the entire Bible once, and I'm working on my second round.

"There are times I lose sight of the things that are truly important, and I forget God. But He never forgets me. And it gives me such great peace to know He is always there.

"My ritual on the awards stand, before receiving the award, is to take and knee and say a prayer of thanks. I did it when I won the 10,000 Meter event in December. It keeps things in perspective."

It's a long road to Salt Lake City, filled with arduous work, exhausting schedules, costly sacrifice and demanding focus. Or, it's a journey complete with wonder and beauty and opportunity and constant reward.

It's how you look at it.