Looking for an edge
Jessica Smith, a 30-year-old short-track speedskater, spends as much time training daily as most people spend at their desks. "Eight to nine hours a day in the season, six days a week: Sunday through Friday," said Smith, a three-time medalist at the world championships who hopes her effort and discipline will help her make her Olympic debut this February.
Here's a look at how she plans to land in Sochi:
Short Track 101
To be a great short-track speedskater, you have to be a well-rounded athlete. You need be agile on your skates, know and be able to execute good racing tactics like passing and making moves, have a great sense of where you are on the rink and in relation to your competitors, and be prepared to deal with people who can come up from behind you. No matter what length the race is, you're always on the edge.
About those edges
When you want to make a move to pass somebody in short track, you have to set it up at least a lap early so you're sure you have the speed and the lane. I was a competitive inline skater, and you could make moves more quickly and push somebody a bit if necessary. Before I started this sport, I always wondered why the skaters kept their hands behind their backs, and now I know: You can't touch anybody on the ice, because you've got razor blades on the bottom of your feet.
No relay in Team USA
At the last World Cup, Team USA didn't get a relay spot for the Olympic Games, which is the first time that's happened and isn't easy to deal with. Not only is the relay a fun event I really enjoy, it's also a great chance for the American skaters to show what we're capable of. I can't say I agree with the call [that disqualified us from the race], but at the end of the day, we gave it our all. I can't dwell on it, and we'll still have three athletes going to the Games.
Staying in control
I like to race from the middle and front of the pack. I don't mind the back, but I don't like to be there too long. I don't like to skate anybody's race but my own. I guess you could say I like to control the race, no matter where I am.
A second job
There was some coaching controversy in our sport in 2012, and I decided to stay with Jae Su Chun, the former National Team coach. It didn't make sense for me to change coaches 1 1/2 years before the Games. I now have to pay for all my training and ice time, and spend my free time looking for sponsors and other donations. It's another job, but I need technical help, and he's the best technical coach out there.
Solid on the ice
In addition to doing lots of back and jump squats in the gym, I spend a lot of time on my core. You need to be able to hold your low-sitting position around the corners and not lose speed. I do a bunch of plank varieties: planks with twists, side planks, leg lifts while planking. Basically, I want to move my body as much as possible while stabilizing my core; that mimics the demands my body has on the ice.
Fueling her tank
I'm just five feet tall and pretty stocky, so I'm constantly trying to figure how to get leaner and stay strong. I've recently found that eating at different times of day -- most notably, eating a meal directly after training instead of waiting up to an hour -- makes a big difference. After four hours of training in the morning, I'll eat a wrap with lunchmeat and vegetables and some fruit. Before the afternoon session, I'll have some applesauce so I have carbs to burn, and then I'll eat dinner -- something like chicken, rice and veggies -- right after practice. I also drink water throughout the day.
As I head into the trials, my ultimate goal is to make the Olympic team, but it would obviously be nice to win. I want to skate the way I know how. I'm definitely doing what it takes to be my very best, and I believe in myself and my training, but it's short track. At the end of the day, you just don't know how it'll turn out.