The Coach’s Corner with Matt Doherty – A Conversation with Olympic Gold Medalist and Mooresville Resident Dan Jansen

Introduction:

I am with Olympic speed skating gold medalist Dan Jansen. Dan’s story is truly remarkable – filled with the highest of highs and devastating lows. Through it all, he never gave up. Dan chose to embrace his setbacks head-on, ultimately achieving his Olympic dream. In addition to his world record-setting win in the 1994 1,000-meter race, Dan won seven World Cup titles and two world sprint championships. Born and raised in Wisconsin, he has called the Lake Norman area his home for the past 23 years. I recently caught up with Dan, and we discussed what he’s been doing since hanging up his skates.

Matt: 

Dan, it’s great to see you! We first met about four years ago at your annual celebrity golf outing, the Dan Jansen Celebrity Classic golf tournament benefiting the Dan Jansen Foundation and the Cool Kids Campaign. These organizations assist families whose children have cancer. You created the foundation not long after your Olympic victory in honor of your sister, Jane, who died from Leukemia. How has the work of the foundation changed over the last 28 years? 

Dan: 

When I started the Dan Jansen Foundation, I wasn’t sure where I wanted the funds to go. I just knew I wanted to do something to give back in Jane’s memory. So, we started by giving grants for medical studies and similar needs. I never had a real sense of exactly where the money was going, and I didn’t see tangible results. Over time, we identified causes that were a better fit. Now, most of the money goes to our Family Aid Fund where we help families affected by cancer with non-medical expenses. Many parents must stop working while their child is being treated, and they run into financial difficulties just trying to pay their everyday household expenses such as gas and electric bills, transportation expenses, rent or mortgages, etc. 

We also continue to help my sport of speed skating with financial assistance to both the elite skaters attempting to reach their Olympic dreams and the kids of today with future Olympic dreams.

Matt: 

How has the work of the foundation helped you cope with the loss of your sister at such a young age? Are there any moments over the years that stand out most? 

Dan: 

It is a constant part of my life. We receive letters and applications for funding weekly. Some of the hardships these families go through are terrible. The fact that we can help ease their burden just a little bit makes me think of Jane every day and realize that, without her passing, I probably would have never started something like this. I’m certain she would be very happy to know that her tragic passing resulted in something positive.

Matt: 

How did a kid who grew up spending his free time in the ice rink end up settling down in Mooresville where we rarely see more than an inch or two of snowfall? Do you ever miss the snow? 

Dan: 

I have two daughters, Jane (30) and Olivia (28). When they were very young, their mother and I divorced. She is from the Carolinas, so she moved back here from Wisconsin. It was important to me to be involved in my daughters’ lives as much as possible, so I moved down here as well. My wife, Karen, and I have been married for 23 years. We enjoy Charlotte, and more specifically, the Lake Norman area. As for the snow, I don’t miss it!  I usually take a ski trip once or twice a year, so I get my fill of snow and the cold then.

Matt: 

In addition to your work with the foundation, you are a motivational speaker and personal trainer for some notable local folks. What keeps you motivated? 

Dan: 

The speaking started simply from demand. People and companies requested that I speak to their employees and share my story of perseverance, getting through difficult times, never giving up, etc. I have enjoyed that through the years, although it has slowed considerably since Covid. 

The training is simply my passion. I was in the medical device business for many years but always stayed fit, and I also trained other athletes and teams. Eventually, I realized that I’m happiest when I combine my personal and professional passions to help others. If I didn’t need the money to live, I would do my job for free…and not many people can say that!

What keeps me motivated is my health and wellness, as well as seeing the progress, growth and learning of the people I work with.

Matt: 

Aside from your sister, who have been the most influential people in your life and why? 

Dan: 

My family without a doubt. I’m the youngest of nine children. Starting with my parents, who taught me by example what honesty, hard work and integrity are. My brothers and sisters carried that right down the line. I also can’t forget about some coaches and teammates that I had in my career. And now, my wife and daughters inspire me every day!

Matt: 

Do you have a New Year’s resolution? 

Dan: 

I’ve never needed motivation for exercising every day, so that’s never been a resolution. But here’s one for this year: I’m trying to get better at speaking Spanish! My wife, Karen, is of Mexican descent and speaks fluent Spanish. I can get by pretty well in both German and French from my skating days, but for some reason, I never really learned Spanish well enough to have a conversation. So, I’m trying to do that this year!

Matt:

What do you want to be best remembered for? 

Dan: 

I think just for someone who did his very best in life, treated others well, helped others less fortunate than myself. Also, for being a good father, husband and friend.

Matt:

How can people support your foundation?

Dan: 

The easiest way is probably through our website at djfoundation.org. Thank you, Matt. I appreciate your support!

Matt Doherty is a longtime Mooresville resident, nationally recognized motivational speaker, best-selling author and media personality. He guides corporations, C-suite managers, sales executives and business and sports coaches to develop their leadership skills and team dynamics. Learn more at DohertyCoaching.com. 

 

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