Speedskater Ben Thornock returns from LDS Church mission to make a run at Beijing Olympics

Ben Thornock might nearly neglect concerning the Olympics whereas serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in northern Japan. He had no entry to tv or the web and was restricted to at least one electronic mail every week, from his dad and mom, as he targeting proselytizing for his church.

Each occasionally, although, the Taylorsville Excessive graduate’s route would take him previous a retailer with a TV. He’d catch a glimpse of a speedskater, and he’d really feel a pang in his coronary heart.

“I simply died considering at dwelling I might have watched it,” Thornock, 22, stated.

Not simply watch, Thornock had an opportunity to be in Pyeongchang, South Korea, competing within the 2018 Winter Video games. He let it move by, opting as an alternative to serve his mission from 2017-2019. Regardless of his finest efforts to tune it out, although, his Olympic dream lingered within the periphery of his thoughts throughout these two years overseas. Now he’s again on the Utah Olympic Oval, making ready to make a run on the 2022 Video games in Beijing.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Quick observe skater Ben Thornock has began coaching once more on the Utah Olympic Oval, Friday, Could 22, 2020.
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“I used to be fired up,” Thornock stated of his return to quick observe speedskating. “I felt like I had some unfinished enterprise.”

US Speedskating coach Wilma Boomstra, who took over the group in 2018 whereas Thornock was in Japan, stated she noticed that drive when he returned to the observe. It was one of many causes she positioned him on the nationwide group earlier this month.

“What I did see is he got here in with loads of eagerness,” she stated. “He’s desperate to get higher and I like that.”

It didn’t take a lot effort for a younger Thornock to think about himself as an Olympic speedskater. All he needed to do was blur his eyes a short time watching the 2010 Vancouver Video games and the 12-year-old grew to become Apolo Ohno, whizzing across the observe on his technique to amassing a silver and two bronze medals.

“I believed possibly this may very well be my sport,” stated Thornock who, like Ohno, is Japanese American.

(Photograph courtesy of U.S. Speedskating) Ben Thornock of Taylorsville was named to the U.S. Speedskating nationwide group in Could 2020, marking a return to the game after serving his LDS mission in Japan from 2017-2019.

He didn’t should go far to search out out. The Oval, the place the nationwide group is headquartered, is only a couple miles from his home. He began with a be taught to skate program and rapidly labored his means onto the Facilitated Athlete Sport Coaching, or FAST, group, a growth squad for promising juniors.

Two issues actually helped him blossom throughout the sport. One, he was lower from his highschool basketball group his senior 12 months. Two, a skating coach opened Thornock’s eyes to his potential.

“Considered one of my skating coaches mainly sat me down and stated, like, the probabilities of me making the NBA are 1 in like an enormous quantity. Then he stated the probabilities of me making the Olympics are like 1 in 100. That simply type of hit me,” Thornock stated. “He stated I had loads of expertise and if I labored onerous, I may very well be profitable within the sport. That’s once I actually began to take it extra critically.”

At 16 years previous, he skated the time trial portion of the 2014 Olympic Trials. Two years later, he skated the relay on the Quick Observe Junior World Championships in Bulgaria. In 2017, he earned a person spot on the Quick Observe Junior World Championships in Austria, the place he got here dwelling with a bronze medal within the relay.

With the 2018 Olympic Trials looming, he had to select. He might push ahead along with his athletic objectives with the data he must take a break someday earlier than he turned 26 to serve his LDS mission. Or, he might serve his mission instantly and hope he might discover the health and drive to go after one other Olympics someday down the road.

After a lot dialogue along with his dad and mom and a substantial quantity of prayer, he made his determination.

“It was only a feeling: This chapter was completed,” he stated. “I felt like I wanted to go and expertise issues in Japan. It was prefer it was calling to me.”

Thornock didn’t know his vacation spot when he requested to be assigned to a mission. When he realized he could be despatched to Japan, the place his mom is from, he knew he’d made the fitting alternative. He stated he by no means regretted his determination to place his religion first.

(Photograph courtesy of Ben Thornock) Ben Thornock of Taylorsville served his LDS mission within the Hokkaido area of Japan between 2017-19. Thornock was named to the U.S. Speedskating nationwide group in Could 2020.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t simple being in a international land away from the game he beloved. He watched his health wane — he had 30 minutes very first thing every morning to train or in any other case must drag his companion alongside on his exercises — in addition to his abilities. In the future in early 2018, he suffered an emotional blow when his mom emailed him to inform him a number of of his associates and coaching buddies had certified for the Olympic group.

“That was type of a hard-hitting second for me, considering I might have been there competing and right here I’m in Japan having a tough time studying the language,” Thornock stated. “However I labored onerous the remainder of my mission. I knew once I got here again I might give it a strive.”

Not even the very best Zamboni might easy Thornock’s return path to speedskating. He needed to retrain his physique for the bodily rigors and his thoughts for the methods. When he returned to the ice in early 2019, he typically needed to skate with the ladies — they usually typically beat him.

(Photograph courtesy of Ben Thornock) Ben Thornock of Taylorsville, heart in tie, is surrounded by his dad and mom, Scott and Satomi Thornock, in addition to different household and associates upon coming back from his LDS mission to Japan in 2019. Thornock was named to the U.S. Speedskating quick observe nationwide group in Could 2020.

Thornock didn’t let it frustrate him. He stored his eyes on his new mission.

“It appeared like he was all the time actually pushed. He was enhancing each week. There was a lightweight on the finish of the tunnel,” stated Aaron Tran, a 2018 Olympian and a buddy of Thornock’s since 2014. “Each week he was catching again up. He was motivated. He was crushing it.”

To reward his effort, Boomstra named Thornock a coaching accomplice to the 2019 nationwide group. He made probably the most of that chance and of a small coaching block with Boomstra in February. So when a spot on the nationwide group opened up, he was a pure alternative.

“Bodily, he’s gifted. And he’s such an important group participant,” she stated. “He’s one of many guys who’s all the time motivated, by no means complains, is all the time optimistic and making an attempt to raise individuals up. I actually just like the man.”

This winter, Thornock will attempt to earn a spot as one among six males on the World Cup group. That might function a springboard to the world championships, the Olympic trials and, finally to the Beijing Video games in 2022.

Thornock want to attain that purpose, however he stated he realizes God could have one thing else deliberate.

“I really feel like everyone knows what now we have to do and I really feel like he’s on the fitting path,” Tran stated. “At finish of the day, it’s not about making the group, it’s about doing what you’re keen on and having no regrets doing it.

“I really feel like he’s on observe. Even when he doesn’t make the group, it’s going to be a memorable expertise for the remainder of his life.”

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