It’s true; he won a silver medal with in long track speed skating team-pursuit in Vancouver with three other skaters (Brian Hansen, Chad Hedrick, and Trevor Marsicano).
I’m mentioning this now, because the reason we traveled to the Netherlands after Paris was to watch him skate in this year’s speed skating World Single Distance Championships, in Heerenveen. This meet is the equivalent of the Olympics during non-Olympic years; and every 4th year, the Olympics replaces the WSDCs. The only differences are 1) that during Olympic years, the winners receive the “Olympic Champion” title, while during non-Olympic years, a winner is called “World Champion”; and 2) the races during the Olympics are spread out over 2 weeks, so you never have to skate more than one race every other day, while the entire WSDC occurs in 4 consecutive days.
Jonathan may need no further introduction, because the fact of his medal is proof enough of a large part of his character – his incredible persistence, determination, drive, and self-control. But to give him a fair shake like I did for Ryan, here’s a small summary of Jonathan.
Apart from being in the very top tier of athletically talented people worldwide, Jonathan is also extremely smart. He’s on a break from college to train for the next Olympics, but only because, despite appearances, he’s really a human and a person can only do so many things at once.
He’s not as dry-witted as Ryan, but very funny in his own right. He’s also got a real knack for storytelling, and as he often gets into funny situations in his skating travels, he frequently has us rolling in laughter over the experiences he’s had.
He’s quiet around strangers, but extroverted when surrounded around family and friends. His voice is very loud. I once had a dream that his top motivation and the driving factor of his entire life was Talking Loudly, and when I discovered that in my dream I said to my dream-self – “OH – everything finally makes sense now!” The mystery had been solved.
Here are Jonathan’s most notable defects:
1) He, like Ryan, fails to appreciate the awesomeness of corduroy. He chose to celebrate last year’s Corduroy Day wearing ….. plaid twill shorts. Not cool. He said it “counted” because plaid is made up of lines, too – but Jonathan – plaid consists of perpendicular lines, whereas corduroy (and the Corduroy Day date, 11/11/11) are both made of parallel lines. Changing the Corduroy Day date to be written 11-11-11 does NOT COUNT. Furthermore, twill is not the same as corduroy, no matter what the print is.
2) It is easy to feel not so great about yourself while in Jonathan’s presence. You think you’re improving your mind reading great classic novels? He’s reading educational nonfiction like Thinking Fast and Slow, Through the Language Glass, and Moonwalking with Einstein. You think you’re eating a good, healthful breakfast by choosing oatmeal? Jonathan eats his topped with plain, non-fat, unsweetened yogurt. You think you are getting some decent movement into your day by hiking up and down a large hill – eight-tenths of a mile with 400 feet of elevation gain? While you’re doing that with your camera and binoculars and dog, he’s run up and down it 6 times for a little light exercise.
Even his friends are probably more awesome than yours. You think you have academically impressive friends, because they aced the MCATs or went to top-5 law schools? His high school friend and college roommate is doing doctoral research at MIT on an NSF fellowship, and is spending the summer at CERN. Your roommate last summer placed third in her division in her most recent 5K? His has a closetful of Olympic medals and world championships.
After a while, it’s easier just to take your walk, or eat your oatmeal with chocolate and toasted almonds, or enjoy your novel-reading, and try to forget that Jonathan’s in the room.
OK – really – the thing actually to do is to take from him the good example that he sets – to see that more dedication and persistence and self-control really are possible – and to strive to do better at whatever you’re trying to improve in yourself. Being around Jonathan is great motivation to embark on positive life changes!
I emailed this post to him earlier to make sure he didn’t object to anything I wrote about him, and this was (part of) his reply:
One thing you didn’t mention (which I certainly don’t object to) is that I have a pretty big head, which you probably shouldn’t make any bigger… (and now you can remove the paragraph about me being funny in my own right).
Also, I didn’t realize that me not wearing corduroys on corduroy day would end up as my primary defect on your blog… (not that I have a problem with you sharing it, I just think it’s funny. I’m all for humor in blog posts. On the other hand maybe you’re being serious and
this just puts me deeper in the hole.)
I have just two things to say in response to his response.
1) He brought up a good point that I missed: his very large head. Conceit is absolutely not a character trait of his – but his physical big-headedness is an important feature, worth mentioning. But how big is it, really? Here’s a small illustration. Many years ago, my family went horseback riding on St. Maarten. Jonathan must have been about 13, and was required by the riding facility to wear a helmet. However, when they brought out a selection of youth helmets for him to choose from, none of them would fit on his head. After exhausting their youth helmets, they brought all of the adult-sized helmets they owned for him to try; again, not a single one would cover his head, and with no other options available, they eventually allowed him to ride helmetless.
And it’s only gotten larger since then.
2) Of course I added the part about Corduroy Day for a bit of humor – but just being humorous doesn’t make it a joke. I will never forget the travesty he made of Corduroy Day.