How do you pronounce your last name?
What’s your family like?
Son Braam (born 6/4/12). It’s hard separating from my kids and now that he is getting older he is taking more and more interest in things that I do, which makes me happy because I can share experiences with him. At first he didn’t even want to let me carry him on the ice at all, and now after every race we take a lap and we talk about winning and losing and no matter what you do, you do your best.
Daughter Brooke is another story. She has what is called 1p36 deletion and she has been in and out of the hospital for almost 1/4 of her life. She has a nissen because she can’t swallow without fluid going into her lungs and is fed through a g-tube that goes directly into her stomach. She is also deaf and we are in the hospital working on a cochlear implant and doing what we can to have her hear. She also had heart surgery at 2 months to close up a couple holes in her heart so she has been through a lot.
My wife Kristi is my rock, though. She does everything for me and keeps me rolling. Sometimes I just want to take care of my kids and help her out, but she reminds me that I need to get out and do what I need to do. It’s hard to see her doing so much. And a lot of people will never know how much this woman does on a daily basis. Not only is she the bread winner in our family but she cooks and does everything for all of us all the time. We call her “my sponsor”! Ha!
Last September I had an opportunity to go and train with my pro team in Italy. I questioned it because I wasn’t ready to start my season and if I left then I wouldn’t be home for longer than 10 days from September through March, but she persuaded me to go because it would be best for me and make me train like a pro. I really love her for helping push me to the reality that if I’m going to do this full time, I need to get away from work and family for a little bit. I did that and the improvements came rather quickly. I was able to focus on me and my fitness rather than some of the other distractions (good distractions) that can drain me.
Now I’m getting ready for the season immediately and trying to get my business in a better place to run a lot smoother with or without me around. I really enjoy working but it does drain me because I put the same focus and drive into my shoes as I do into my training. If I’m home, I work, I train, I do all of the things that athletes in speed skating shouldn’t be doing if they want to physically be at their best.
Do you have another full-time job or business? How do you balance work and training?
I own a custom cycling shoe business, Rocket7. It’s hard to run a business and train at the same time. It’s hard but I have good people around me who do what they can to help me with my skating. Unfortunately my manager just broke his tibia and now is out for months so things are difficult at the shop at the moment.
Do you have any pets?
We have a couple cats that were strays. We have a big black one who looks like a panther and his name is “Awesome.” He was named from everyone at my bike shop and everyone who met him would say, this cat is awesome! So we named him Awesome! Princess is his sister and they still play like they are kittens.
How much time do you spend training each day?
About four hours on average.
What’s your typical training day/schedule?
Wake up, eat breakfast, feed Brooke, Braam wakes up, feed him and get him ready for school, go train, try and rest or go straight to work, eat lunch, work, pick up Braam, train, eat, play with kids, sleep.
Not every day is the same but this is typical when I’m home. My wife does a lot of what I say I do but I help when I can.
What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?
Cycling up some mountains. Sometimes I want to throw my bike off the side!
What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?
That speed skating is a full-time job in itself. And that it has little to no reward to it and that after you are done competing for your country you have little to no support and pretty much start over. Although the USOC does make attempts to help us after our careers it’s still difficult to make the transition.
Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?
Almost everything I do is experimental because of my age. Some days I switch my program in the morning due to how I feel from previous days.
Have you ever been seriously injured? What did it take for you to come back from that injury?
Weightlifting injury to my back that almost kept me out of the 2002 Olympics. I am originally a 1000m / 1500m skater but with my back I needed to change my focus to 5000m. I didn’t really get a chance to come back from it because I couldn’t get back to 100%.
If you are to indulge, what’s your go-to snack?
Ice cream almost every single night!
What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing speed skating?
I was a roller skater on quad skates and saw Eric Heiden skate in the 1980 Olympics so I was 10 at the time. I kind of laughed because we skated in loose clothing and they skated in tights. I didn’t start skating on the ice until 1993/1994.
Was there a specific “breakthough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?
In 1996, after skating for one and a half years, I had a great season. I was only racing inlines and I did ice speed skating training for the first time all summer long and the next season I ended up breaking into the top 3 in the 1500m and a 4th in the 5000m. I was on track for a medal in the 1998 Olympics and was a brief holder of the 1500m world record, and then the “clap skates” came out and this threw me out of contention the following season. I worked my way back up to 5th but that wasn’t what I was expecting.
What’s something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don’t normally see? What’s the hardest part of your sport?
The warming up and cooling down are time consuming. Some don’t need to do it so much but with my old ass I need to do everything to be ready for the next workout.
The hardest part might be that you need to be physically strong and powerful to speed skate. Not many people can make it in this sport in the shorter distances without power so every day we are doing something to improve on this.
The g-forces in the turns are amazing. If your skates are not dialed in, you can lose all control and crash.
Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?
Tucker Fredricks. We were teammates for many years and now it’s cool that he is coaching me. We change my program daily and he is a great guy to be working with.
I also work with Dave Tamburrino when I’m in Milwaukee. He and I were teammates in 94/98 and he has become one of my best friends. He is a great motivator and a special person to have in my corner cheering me on.
Matt Koorman is the national team coach and I work with him on the national circuit. He has skated with
me in the past as well and we work well together knowing I change my program daily.
Who do you socialize with most within your sport or any sport?
Usually my pro team in Holland. Well, most all of the Dutchies. I lived over in Holland for a bit so I’m well known over there.
Have you ever worked with a sports psychologist? If so, how did it help you?
I did. One guy was okay, the other was nuts himself! I heard he went in the nuthouse after the 2002 Games! Man!
What’s a big obstacle that you’ve overcome in your life?
Moving on from skating. I love it and never wanted to move away from it and was somewhat pulled away from it to pursue owning a bike shop in Miami, which failed terribly!
Within your sport, who has been your greatest influence and why?
Johan Olav Koss—When I first came over to the ice, I learned how to skate from watching a video of him for almost 10 hours a day to just learn the technique. Not only his skating but what he does off the ice as well.
What athlete in any sport has been your greatest source of inspiration?
Johan and Eric Heiden. Eric and I have become good buds and I would spend time at his place from time to time and just to know what he does on a daily basis and how laid back this guy is, makes him even more awesome. (Not the cat!) HA!
What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in speed skating?
Love what you are doing and try many different things. Don’t let your parents push you into doing something you don’t want to do.
Who is your most interesting teammate and why?
Nobody on the team is very interesting other than Brittany Bowe. She is a stud! Basketball and skating and no matter what she does, she’s a champ!
What was the best part of living in the Athletes’ Village during the Games?
The best part is when you first get there because everything is new and exciting. Salt Lake City was the best, they had the best food out of the 4 Olympics I went to.
Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?
Erik Flame was the first one to put the bug in my head to really try coming over to the ice. We were on the same inline team and we raced a 100m race once in the Bronx and he said, well, if you ever come over to the ice I’ll coach you. Ever since then I started to purchase equipment and started skating when I could on the ice. So he was the first, but there were many people who helped along the way and way too many to mention. If given the chance I will someday thank everyone personally.
Did anyone ever tell you that you wouldn’t be able to succeed in your sport? How were you able to overcome that?
Man, my entire career I’ve been at a disadvantage. I was always the smallest and when skating on the old roller skates, they were so heavy that my little legs could barely lift them up. But I always fought my way through the pack and found a way to win a few here and there.
On the ice, a guy in Southern California told me that I would never make it. This prick was one reason when I started getting good I could throw it in his face. But this prick taught me something in the process: never talk shit to someone if you don’t know who they are and or what they are capable of.
Do you have a nickname? Who refers to you by this name?
Booty. Only my good friends.
Do you have any tattoos?
Olympic rings on my inner left ankle, tribal on my upper back.
Do you collect anything?
I’m collecting dust because I’m so old!
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
Taking a nap! Damn! Or go exercise with my wife. Whenever we get a chance we go on bike rides but once our little people came along we don’t get to do much together.
How do you unwind after a competition?
Hang out by myself and just reflect either good or bad.
What are your favorite movies?
Dumb and Dumber, Happy Gilmore, Cable Guy, Groundhog Day, Spinal Tap.
Have you ever done karaoke? What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Um, yeah, I make it up as I go. If I don’t know the words this makes it really funny and I dance as I go along. I did Nelly’s “Hot in Here” a couple months ago and had a good reception. I also do Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.” Funny stuff!
What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?
I would love to get a medal. And if I do, I will cut that thing up into small pieces and give a piece to everyone who had a little part of me getting this medal.