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Jennifer Rodriguez: 1976—: Olympic Speed Skater

Turned To Ice Skating From Roller Skating

The daughter of a Cuban father and an American mother, Jennifer Rodriguez grew up in Miami, Florida. Her father, Joe Rodriguez, left Cuba as a young teen in the early 1960s in order to make a fresh start in the United States. Jennifer began roller skating as a young girl, and when she was 16, she won five gold medals and a bronze medal at the 1992 Junior World Championships. She is the only roller skater ever to win medals in both artistic skating and racing.

In 1996 Rodriguez's boyfriend, K.C. Boutiette, a three-time Olympian speedskater and former in-line skater, convinced her to try speedskating. She moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team trained. Less than 18 months later, she became a member of the team.

However, it was not always easy. Boutiette told Charean Williams of the Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, "I just had to really help her along and say, 'You know what? One of these days you'll see. You'll start catching on. You'll get used to your blades, and you'll be fine.' One day, she just started accelerating."

Rodriguez told Ellen Cosgrove in Sports Illustrated for Kids that the switch was helped by the fact that the two sports use similar muscles and motions. "I had roller-skated for such a long time. I knew my body very well. That helped with my balance and coordination." She added that "after two weeks of skating on ice, something just clicked, and it started to be so much fun."

Moving to Milwaukee was a more difficult adjustment because of the cold climate. Rodriguez told Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle, "I really hated it. I was crying every day. It was cold. I didn't have any [warm] clothes. I wore all of K.C.'s clothes."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dudley Randall Biography - A Poet from an Early Age to Ferrol Sams Jr BiographyJennifer Rodriguez: 1976—: Olympic Speed Skater Biography - Turned To Ice Skating From Roller Skating, Competed In Nagano Olympics, Salt Lake City Olympics