Olympic medalist, former USOEC speedskater Jordan Malone returns to NMU to speak to students

MARQUETTE – Even after he won an Olympic short track speedskating medal for the United States in 2010, Jordan Malone could go to classes at Northern Michigan University in complete anonymity.

That’s because nobody would’ve guessed the 5-foot-6, 145-pound Malone was any kind of world-class athlete.

He used that story to help illustrate that even an Olympic achievement comes a lot more from the head and the heart than it does from the body.

Malone visited the NMU campus on Thursday evening as part of the Platform Personalities series to give a motivational speech to about 40 or 50 students and area residents.

Malone, 29, won a bronze medal at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010 and a silver two months ago in Sochi, and those weighty awards helped introduce himself to those in attendance.

He even passed them around for the audience to handle.

“Just don’t drop them,” he admonished the assemblage to some nervous laughter, then received a heartier chuckle when he added, “The only person to drop my medals so far is my mother.”

Malone, who attended NMU from 2010-12 while training at the U.S. Olympic Education Center, explained that his Olympic dream was 25 years in the making.

It all came from what he now calls a simple four-point process, something he tries to apply to every facet of his life.

“It’s not something you haven’t heard before, but maybe I have a way of presenting it that makes more sense,” he said.

“You have to have a goal, you have to have a plan, you have to have the drive and you have to be able to finish.”

He illustrated each of those points with his own life story, such as wanting to inline skate at age 5 because “it was the only sport that didn’t have training wheels.”

With a single mother, dyslexia, asthma and attention deficit disorder, he said his drive helped him overcome those obstacles and turn into a world-class inline skater, and after 2004, short-track speedskater.

He said all five men on this year’s U.S. short-track team began as inline skaters. In particular for Malone because of his small stature, short-track was a good fit.

The switch hasn’t come without a price, however. The close quarters of short track produces wipeouts at once both spectacular – to fans – and catastrophic – to skaters.

“I still have 18 screws and four titanium plates in my body,” he said, adding he’s broken 16 bones and had nine major surgeries over the years.

About to turn 30 years old in less than two weeks, he’s not certain he’s hung up his skates for good, but he is making plans outside the rink.

“I want to go back to school as a 30-year-old college student and finish my degree” probably in some area on engineering, he said.

He’s already founded a company out of his garage, Full Composite Racing, that produces carbon-fiber equipment for skaters. It includes custom-made shin guards and helmets, but his sole mass-produced product are the fingertip guards short-track skaters wear on their left hands as they drag them on the ice around turns.

“Carbon fiber is great because it’s one of the lightest materials but still the most durable and stiffest,” he said, explaining that guards made of plastic or epoxy just don’t last long.