Teenager Jordan Stolz 13th In Olympic Speedskating Debut

by Todd Kortemeier

Jordan Stolz skates during a speed skating practice session at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 12, 2022 in Beijing, China.


BEIJING — The dogged competitor in Jordan Stolz was disappointed. But considering he’s just the third U.S. male speedskater ever to make the Olympic team at the age of 17, 13th in your first Olympic race is a pretty good place to start.

Stolz’s time of 34.85 in the men’s 500-meter was .53 seconds off the Olympic-record pace of gold medalist Tingyu Gao of China, and .74 seconds off his American record time set at a world cup in Calgary in December. The teen from Kewaskum, Wisconsin, found things in the aftermath of the race that he could improve on, but also some positives.

“I was pretty happy with the lap,” Stolz said. “The opener just wasn’t quite there, but everything else was good.” 
Indeed, Stolz’s 100-meter split time ranked 19th while his lap time was just .11 seconds back of Gao. Stolz cited tricky ice conditions and some fatigue as some other factors in his time.



“It’s just hard to predict how everything is going to go with like the ice conditions here and everything,” Stolz said. “I think overall the race was good, just the opener wasn’t quite there. It’s a little bit late in the season too, but other than that it’s fine.”

Ice at the brand-new National Speed Skating Oval is something other U.S. skaters have commented on as well. Getting a read on that has been one of their additional challenges at these Games. Saturday’s action saw a couple of competition delays to fix patches in the ice.

“It’s more so different in practice every day, every day it’s changing,” Stolz said. “And I sharpened my skates a certain way last night for today, and then it was way different.”

Stolz has been a rising star in American speedskating for some time now, even at his young age. He competed at the 2020 world junior championships and Youth Olympic Games but experienced a breakout over the past year. Stolz set junior records in the 500 and 1,000 and the American record in the 500. Then at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, he broke track records while winning both events. 

Stolz came into Beijing with plenty of promise and comparisons to fellow teen phenom Eric Heiden, but said he wasn’t feeling the nerves too badly.

“I was pretty calm, of course I was a little bit nervous, but it was nothing terrible,” Stolz said. “I knew that I wasn’t like the medal favorite, so if I just skate a good race and then see what happens, that’s all I really tried to focus on.”

Austin Kleba reacts after skating during the Men's 500m at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 12, 2022 in Beijing, China.


Stolz’s teammate and Olympic Village roommate Austin Kleba also made his Olympic debut with the 500, placing 27th in a time of 35.40. That was .86 seconds off his personal best, set in December at a world cup on his home ice in Salt Lake City. Perhaps filled with a little extra Olympic spirit, Kleba took a tumble after crossing the finish line but got up, unscathed and smiling.

“Just lost balance, probably the best place in the race for that to happen though,” Kleba said with a laugh. “It’s an awesome experience to be at the Olympics, and to be able to experience this with the best in the world. So can’t complain, even falling at the end, not bad.”

Kleba and the other members of the team have enjoyed watching Stolz grow and develop alongside of them. Joey Mantia remarked back during the Olympic Trials that watching Stolz makes him want to go faster. Kleba can’t wait to see what happens next.

“For his age and stuff, he's a phenom,” Kleba said. “It’s crazy to watch and to even be a part of. I’m really excited to see what he can put together the next four years. If he continues on this trajectory, he’s been doing great, it’s been awesome to watch.”

Stolz has a calm and stoic demeanor, and Kleba insisted there’s not secretly a bundle of nerves raging inside. It’s simply the way he approaches racing, even at something as big as the Olympic Games. Each race is another opportunity to work and get better.

“He honestly comes to the race with kind of just the same aspect of every other race,” Kleba said. “Just like, it’s another time to work on the technique and work on the form. It’s a good mindset. He’s got a good mindset on him. It’s good to watch.”

Kleba will remain in Beijing as the substitute for Friday’s 1,000-meter race in case of a U.S. dropout. But Stolz for sure plans to race in the event that gave him his first world cup medal, earning silver in the 1,000 at Calgary in December. Stolz feels that race sets up well for him given the opener is less important and with the endurance he’s able to find following the start. Kleba agreed.

“You should definitely pay attention to it, it’s going to be an awesome race to watch,” he said. “He has great top end speed in that last lap, it's going to be great to watch. I’m very excited to watch that race.”
Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor, and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.