Five Things Andrew Heo Is Bringing Home From The Games
by Lynn Rutherford
Andrew Heo reacts during the men's 1000-meter quarterfinals during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 7, 2022 in Beijing.
BEIJING — Andrew Heo has traveled a long way from the day 12 years ago when he was too scared to join older brother, Aaron, and their cousin, Jonathan, on the track at Potomac Speedskating Club.
“My cousins had moved to Maryland, so we went to visit them and (Jonathan) was like, ‘Oh, this gold medalist (Kim Dong-Sung of South Korea) is coming to coach,’” Heo, now 20, said. “They were going to try, and my brother was interested as well. I was the last person in my family to start. I was very scared of it. I was a little kid, and I was very intimidated by the training and everything.
“Now, I’m the last one in my family skating.”
It took a year or two for Andrew, who grew up in the Philadelphia suburb of Warrington, Pennsylvania, to build up enough courage to join Aaron and Jonathan on the track. When he did, he proved a natural.
For about seven years, the family split its time between Maryland and their home in Warrington. When he was 15, Andrew moved to Salt Lake City to pursue his short track career in earnest. He made his world championships debut last season, placing 12th in the 1,500, 20th in the 1,000 and 26th in the 500.
Andrew earned his Olympic spot by winning both the 1,000 and 1,500 at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, held at the Utah Olympic Oval in December.
Here are five things Heo is taking home from his Olympic debut:
Heo arrived in Beijing thinking the 1,500 was his best race. Now, he’s not so sure: while he bowed out in a quarterfinal heat in the 1,500, he made it through to the B Final of the 1,000 and placed seventh.
“I guess I like the 1,000 more than I thought,” Heo said after his semifinal heat. “My best (past) results were, of course, in the 1,500, but I’m becoming more of an all-arounder.”
Prior to Beijing, Heo’s best individual finish had been that 12th place at the 2021 world championships.
“Just to place seventh at my first Olympics, after the results I had at the world cups, definitely means a lot,” Heo said. “I’m very proud of that. It was something that I was not expecting, especially for the 1,000-meter. There’s nothing more I could have asked for.”
Andrew Heo competes during the men's 1000-meter heats during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 Games on Feb. 5, 2022 in Beijing.
Heo’s talent is plain. He needs to trust that talent, and this Olympics could be the catalyst.
“Definitely, this helps propel my career,” Heo said. “It helps the confidence, knowing I have this under my belt, doing well at my first Olympics. … I really struggled with that, knowing I belong there and racing like I was meant to be there. Moving forward, I can trust I have the ability to do whatever I need to do, at a certain time, and am able to adapt.”
The skater is a fun follow on TikTok (@andrewjheo), where he pokes fun at himself, shows off his fashion sense and recently led his 34,800 followers on a tour of the Olympic Village.
Aaron Heo, Andrew’s older brother by two years, competed at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games, two junior world championships and a handful of world cups. A talented photographer, he is now retired from competition and completing his degree at University of Utah, while also holding down an internship.
“My brother was pretty well known for his racing strategies, and he’s really good with his tactics,” Andrew said. “He usually coaches me, in a way, at local competitions. At international competitions, he would text me and check in.”
As Andrew has progressed, his older brother still communicates frequently, but offers less advice.
“He lets me do my own thing,” Andrew said. “He knows I can race, after the experience I’ve gotten over the years. He didn’t really say much on these races I had at the Olympics, it was more of a recap, just talking about the race itself (rather than) how I should approach the race.”
Heo has time for only a short break when he returns home from Beijing: the 2022 world championships coming up March 18-20 in Montreal. There, he will apply the lessons he has learned at the Olympics.
“After worlds, I’m going to take a long break,” he said. “It’s been a long four years. I’ll regroup and focus on the next quad.”
After taking a leave of absence to focus on making the Olympic team, Heo plans to return to the classroom at the University of Utah this summer, where he has yet to decide on a major. One thing he is certain of, though: he wants another Olympic experience in Milano Cortina in 2026.
“My Olympics in Beijing made me want to keep doing it and hopefully go for the medal next time,” he said.