It was a first grade birthday party at a roller rink in Texas that started Jonathan Garcia's 20-year journey to the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
While most of the kids were excited about the mozzarella sticks and the ice cream cake, Garcia looked out at the people whizzing around the rink and decided at age 7 that was what he wanted to do.
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The 27-year-old Katy, Texas, native began Rollerblading early, first competing as an inline hockey player and then going on to a career in inline speedskating.
“I have a near and dear place spot in my heart for inline," Garcia told The New York Times. “It’s something I grew up with,” Garcia said. “I miss it. If it wasn’t for inline, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Garcia won his first national title in 2004, and was named Inline Skater of the year. He competed in the World Championships for the U.S. three times, winning a bronze medal in 2006.
The Katy Taylor graduate changed from wheels to blades in 2007, transitioning from inline to short-track speedskating. Moving from Texas to Salt Lake City for training, Garcia was a quick study for his new sport, making the short track World Cup team in 2010, winning the national title.
Garcia continued to dazzle on the ice as he made the World Cup team in 2012 and 2013. An unfortunate hiccup during the U.S. Olympic trials this past September, in which Garcia forgot to wear a timing transponder on his ankles, disqualified him for the 500 m event, even though he skated his personal-best time.
Garcia made up for the gaff by skating his way into the Men's 1000 m speed skating Olympic event.
And so all of these years of hard work and training come down to a little more than a minute of time on the ice Wednesday afternoon in Sochi. Garcia can hardly contain his excitement as he tweets regularly from the Olympic Village.
Garcia debuts at his first Olympic event tomorrow at 8 a.m. CT. Watch him race live or catch it later from 7 p.m. on NBC.