As the 2022 Winter Olympics get underway today in China, we are reminded that these games can produce heroes and great triumphs, but also soul crushing defeats which can bring out either the best or the worst in a competitor.
Wisconsin native Dan Jansen was one of the world’s best speed skaters when he went to the Winter Olympics in 1988. He carried the expectations of millions of Americans on his shoulders. But as the games got underway, Jensen got devastating news from back home — his sister Jane was dying of leukemia.
He was informed of her death just before competing in the 500-meter event, the one he was expected to win. But he fell in that race, and fell again in the 1,000-meter race, and came home with no medals.
In 1992, he again came home empty-handed. Many people tacked the name the heartbreak kid on him.
But in 1994, at the Lillehammer Olympics, in his final race, the 1,000-meter, Jansen won his first and only medal, a gold medal.
I met him just a few months later, when he wrote a book called Full Circle.