Daniel (“Dan”) Erwin Jansen (born June 17, 1965) is a former speed skater, best known for winning a gold medal in his final Olympic race after suffering through years of heartbreak.
Inspired by his sister Jane, Dan Jansen took up speedskating while growing up in Wisconsin. He set a junior world record in the 500 meter race at the age of sixteen, and finished sixteenth in the 1,000 meters and fourth in the 500 meters at the 1984 Winter Olympics.
At the 1988 Winter Olympics, Jansen – having become World Sprint Champion one week before the Olympics – was a favorite for the 500 and 1,000 meter races, having improved in the years between Olympics, while overcoming a case of mononucleosis in 1987. However, in the early hours of the day of the race, he received a phone call saying that Jane was dying of leukemia. He spoke to his sister, who was unable to respond. Later that morning, he was informed that she had died. He went on to compete that night in the 500 meters, but fell early in the race. A few days later in the 1,000 meter race, he began with record-breaking speed but fell again. He left the 1988 Olympics with no medals, but he became the recipient of the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award for his valiant efforts through tragedy.
Jansen arrived at the 1992 Winter Olympics as a favorite yet again. But disaster struck again, as he finished fourth in the 500 meters and twenty-sixth in the 1,000 meters. Jansen left the Olympic Games again with no medals.
1994 Winter Olympics were Jansen’s final attempt to win an Olympic medal of any kind. Between the 1992 and 1994 Olympics, he had the distinction of being the only man to break 36 seconds in the 500 meters, doing so four times in those years. In the 500 meters, he finished eighth, and he went into the 1,000 meters under the assumption that he would end his career without any Olympic medals.
However, Jansen won his first and only Olympic gold medal of his career, setting a new world record in the process, and he dedicated his gold medal to his late sister. Jansen then took one final victory lap around the rink with his 1 year old daughter, Jane. For his efforts, Jansen received the 1994 James E. Sullivan Award and was chosen by his fellow Olympians to bear the U.S. flag at the closing ceremony of the 1994 Winter Olympics. He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.
Today, Jansen has also set up the Dan Jansen Foundation in memory of his sister, with the purpose of fighting leukemia. He is also a supporter of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation where he is an honorary board member.
Below is the re-enactment of the Olympic game
When you fall…
What do you do?
You feel like giving up, right?
But if you believe in yourself…
You don’t give up.
Instead, you GET BACK UP.
Below is the ‘real’ Dan Jansen in 1994 Olympic Game
All of us face adversity and failure in our attempts to achieve worthwhile goals.
Fortunately, there is a little bit of Dan Jansen in each of us.
Dan Jansen didn’t just win the 1000 meters.
He also broke the World & Olympic speed skating records.
To wrap up this post, below is a great quote from Winston Churchill:
“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” — W.S. Churchill
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