The Heartbreak Kid

Dan first put on skates at the age of four in Wisconsin.

He was a gifted speed skater and quickly excelled, culminating in a junior world record at the age of 16 in the 500 meter.

As the youngest speed skating competitor at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Dan impressed with a fourth place finish in the 500. He dominated his sport over the next four years, tracking from bronze in 1985, to silver in 1986 and gold in 1988 at the World Sprint Championships right before the next Olympics.

Expectations were high at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, but only hours before the 500 meter competition, he received devastating news of his sister’s death from leukemia. Stunned, he fell in the first turn of the 500 meter. He fell yet again in the 1000 meter.

Dan continued competing and dominated his sport. He set a world record in the 500 meter in 1992 leading into the Albertville Winter Games. He placed fourth in the 500 meter and 26th in the 1000 meter. No medals… again.

In the next two years, Dan become the first person to finish under the 36 second mark in the 500 meter. He did it four times.

He entered the 1994 Olympics as the World Champion with high hopes of winning a medal for Jane. He slipped in the 500 meter and finished eighth. Only one race remained: the 1000 meter.

Dan crossed the finish line, striking gold with an astonishing world-record-setting performance. After all of the falls, tragedy and bitter disappointments… relief, gratitude and joy for finally honoring his beloved sister.

Dan skated a victory lap with his daughter Jane, named after his sister. The world let out a collective sigh of relief. This was the ending one of the greats deserved.

“I was so happy, for my family, that they were going to be able to celebrate. To Jane, I looked up and gave her a little salute… When I go through hard times, I think about her quite a bit. It’s not a sad feeling anymore. That’s gone. It’s just a feeling that she’s still with me.”

Dan Jansen was no longer the Heartbreak Kid. He finally reached the top of Mount Olympus.



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William Willis

William Willis

Professional Coach: I write about motivation through meaning, becoming who you aspire to be, improving a little each day and reaching high performance.