From self-proclaimed roller skating “ring rat,” to one of the most decorated U.S., speed skaters, Chad Hedrick has traveled quite a unique journey. But for the Houston native, it was a life-changing experience that made his second trip to the Olympics far more memorable than the first.
In this CSJ conversation, Hedrick talks to managing editor Chad Bonham about his path to Olympic glory and the relationship that led him to Christ and set him on a new course.
Chad Bonham. How did you get into speed skating?
Chad Hedrick: My dad owns a roller rink in Houston and I was skating by the time I was two years old. That got me into inline skating and eventually speed skating on the ice.
Bonham: Leading up to the 2006 Olympics in Turin, you were on a tear with six combined medals (including three gold medals) at the three previous World Championships. Where were you at spiritually during that time?
Hedrick: I thought I was a Christian growing because I believed in God. But with all the success I’d had, I never really acknowledged the Lord and never appreciated what He’d given me to work with and the life that I had and the people around me and the situations I had growing up. On the ice, I was this major, fierce competitor that hated to lose and really was a tough personality because of my competitive drive. I had a different attitude back then. I had the attitude that the world was after me. I was always trying to show everybody that I was the best in the world. I was also a pretty wild guy and liked to have fun. I grew up not really associating with a lot of Christians.
Bonham: How did your marriage in 2007 change things for you?
Hedrick: My wife’s family was very outward in their expressions of faith. I saw how much joy they had and I started to let them guide me closer to God until I understood what it meant to have a relationship with Him.
Bonham: How did becoming a Christian change you as a competitor?
Hedrick: My whole outlook on life was completely different. I used to want to throw my skates when I lost, but after I became a Christian I realized that whatever I did on the ice, whatever place I finished, there was a whole purpose to the day. My faith has made me a better person. I have to love everybody. Before, if there was a guy competing against me, I wanted him to be scared of me. I wanted to intimidate him. But after I came to Christ, I just went there and I did my best and I knew that if I did my best I’d l have a great chance of winning. But if I didn’t, I’d just go back to the drawing board and try to get better.
Bonham: Did people notice a change in you?
Hedrick: People all over the world that watched me skate realized the difference. The people that I skated with told me everyday that I looked like I’m having so much more fun than I used to. I just want to be a positive role model and hopefully open people’s eyes to the good life.
(Photos: @chadhedrick; McSmit)