Jennifer Rodriguez is, at first glance, is like any other student at the University of Miami. A bulging backpack slung over her shoulders, studying quietly in the lobby of the Herbert Wellness Center, employed at an on-campus job. She’s very regular.
Until you notice the tattoo of the Olympic rings on the inside of her calf. Her well-muscled, speed skater’s calf.
Rodriguez started her athletic career as an artistic roller skater before making the switch to inline speed skating in 1993. In ’96, she traded her wheels for blades, making the transition to ice in hopes to make the Olympic team. That choice paid off. At the Nagano Games of 1998, she made history, becoming the first winter Olympian of Hispanic descent.
In ’98 she had three top ten finishes, and came back strong at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, earning herself two bronze medals.
Seriously. There’s a two-time Olympic medalist sitting in the wellness center with her textbooks.
She made another Olympic team in 2006, for the Torino Games, but failed to finish on the podium and subsequently retired from the sport. But two years later, she laced up her skates again and realized she had quit too soon. She staged an incredible comeback to make the team again for Vancouver 2010. She may not have medaled, but competed for her own enjoyment and went out with a smile on her face.
In 2011, Rodriguez was added to the Sports Hall of Champions at the American Airlines Arena, joining the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe DiMaggio, and Dan Marino. And you know how I found out about that? It was in the wellness center’s employee newsletter. She’s a personal trainer there, and I work in the fitness room.
Seriously. How cool is that?
We’ve never spoken, though. I haven’t yet worked up the courage to squeak out that I’m a fan of hers and watched much of her final Olympics from the very same wellness center where we’re both employed.
Her gray personal trainer polo might not give it away, but she’s kind of a big deal.