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KEARNS — Jerica Tandiman’s dream is finally coming true.
After 16 years of skating lessons and grueling training, the 23-year-old can officially call herself an Olympian.
Tandiman is heading to Pyeongchang in February to compete on Team USA for a medal in long-track speedskating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Tandiman finished fourth in the 1,000 meters at the U.S. speedskating trials last week.
“When I found out they were going to name me to the team, I was fighting back tears,” she said after a training session at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns earlier this week.
And while it’ll be Tandiman’s first time as an athlete, it won’t be her first Olympics.
Tandiman, a Kearns native, grew up near the Utah Olympic Oval where she remembers her parents taking her to watch the 2002 Winter Olympics held in and around Salt Lake City.
“The whole theme of ‘Light the Fire Within’ during the Olympics — I think it did light the fire within a lot of people,” Tandiman said. “That Olympic spirit, it’s like contagious. Once you get a taste of it, you want more.”
Tandiman was 7 years old when skating became her life.
“I had (the) motivation to skate and train all day, but homework? Oh man,” she said.
The Olympian earned good grades at Kearns High School — which was important to her parents — where she would attend classes in between morning and afternoon skating sessions.
Matt Kooreman, a U.S. speedskating coach, described Tandiman as a mellow, laid-back, dedicated kid who went about her business and developed into world-class skater. He considers her a valuable member of the team, he said.
That Olympic spirit, it’s like contagious. Once you get a taste of it, you want more.
“It’s been super special for me to watch Jerica because I coached her when she was 8 years old,” Kooreman said.
For Tandiman, the whole experience has been life-changing.
“I’ve had so many experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise if it wasn’t for the Olympics,” she said.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will begin Feb. 9 and run through Feb. 25.
For more Olympic coverage, visit the KSL TV website.