Jason Hedstrand

The Beginnings

I was not a natural speedskater.
I started speedskating in the 4th grade. I was being home-schooled, and my parents wanted me in a winter sport for a physical education component. I started out on hockey skates, swinging my arms trying to look like a speedskater, which is ridiculous. I was not immediately good at it.

In fact, had it not been for the encouragement of my parents, and my association with a great group of coaches, I would have given up.

But I kept at it. I joined a speedskating club. I got better. I made the Junior National Team, did some training camps with them; made the National Team in 1998 and missed the 1998 Olympics by 2_ seconds; set the American record for the 10,000 Meter race on route qualifying for the 2002 Olympics at Salt Lake City.

Cost and Reward

It was a long journey from my first experience speedskating to the Olympics. Along the way, there were decisions to be made. Every year, I would have to decide if I wanted to dedicate myself to improving, or whether it was time to give it all up. Other people my age were doing other things – going to school, getting married, getting jobs, becoming established.

There was definitely a price to be paid for dedicating my life to speedskating. There were things I had to give up, or at least forego for a time.

But I don't look at the price I've paid – I look at the rewards I've received – and there are several.

I've traveled the world, made wonderful friends, and found great churches.

I've been able to harness my body. I'm fit and I'm strong.

And, I've been given great opportunities to witness to my faith in God. Speedskating has provided a platform for me to talk about the thing that is most important in my life - my relationship with God.

Relationship

My parents were missionaries, so I was brought up in a Christian household. My own personal decision to receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior took five years or so.

What's kept me so focused on God is not religion – not acting the part or doing what you think you're supposed to do. It's the relationship. It's the knowledge that I'm loved, and that I'm loved unconditionally. Any relationship where I can get loved like that is what I want.

I love to wrap up a hard day of training with prayer and the Scriptures. I read a chapter in the Bible every night before going to bed. Over the course of years, I've read through the entire Bible twice and I'm working on my third round.

God has always been there for me. There have been times I have lost sight of what's really important and I've wandered away from God, but He's never left me. And that gives me a great sense of peace.

Everything I do, I do for God. He's given me such wonderful opportunities, and I want to maximize what He's given. I want to enjoy every experience. I want to fill each day with good things. I'm thankful for every blessing.

I want to give 100% in everything I do. I even skate for God.

I have a favorite little saying – TGBTG. It means "To God be the Glory". And whenever I win a competition, and I'm on the podium, I like to take a knee – to kneel and pray before receiving the medal or award – to keep things in perspective and remind myself of what's ultimately important – TGBTG – "To God be the Glory."