With the American men’s short track picture wide open, 20-year-old Pennsylvania native Andrew Heo appears to be on the fast track to filling the gap. Heo is currently ranked just outside the top-50 skaters in the world and has already been a part of three U.S. world cup teams. He says short track – a sport historically dominated by South Korea – has brought him closer to his own Korean heritage as he studies to become fluent in the language.
As part of our preparation for the 2022 Winter Games, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to multiple athletes to learn more about their lives both inside and outside of sports. Here’s what we found out about Heo:
Tell us about your family.
My parents are from South Korea. My dad came to the US when he was young and my mom came when she was a teenager. I have an older brother that is two years older than me and also used to skate. My dad owns an auto collision center which is one of two shops in Philadelphia. My grandfather owned the other one but it is now owned by my dad’s brother, my uncle. It is a family-owned business. My mom stays at home and takes care of my family.
Do you have any pets?
Snoopy and Toby. They are both Malteses. Snoopy pretty much grew up with me and so I have a special connection with him. He’s the “perfect dog” to me. Toby is actually Snoopy’s son and he’s a “momma’s boy.”
What does a typical training day look like?
I usually wake up at 7:10 a.m., get ready, and eat breakfast. I leave the house at around 8:10 and get to the rink by 8:20. Ice is at 9:15 most days so I warm up until then. Morning ice ends at 11:00 and we usually have off-ice training. By the time we finish everything, it’s around noon. After morning training, I either pick up lunch on the way home or if my mom is home, she cooks for me. Some days, I have afternoon practice so If I take an hour nap and go back by about 2:30 p.m. Afternoon practice ends at about 5 p.m.
Anything out of the ordinary about your training?
I developed a habit of not warming up a lot before practice but ever since I’ve been on the national team, I had to change that.
Have you ever had a significant injury?
My most serious injury was when I cut my left forearm in the summer of 2019. At that point, it was my first year being officially on the national team and it was after I came back from visiting family in Pennsylvania. It was my second day back and we were doing speed (training). I was trying new blades and I hit a block and went into the pads in a bad way. I ended up cutting my left forearm and had to get 24 stitches.
It was really hard for me because I was just starting to improve and I was really looking forward to that season. It was mentally hard on me and I thought the season was over for me. Fortunately for me though, I had a lot of help from the staff on the national team and I was able to recover fast. I had to do a lot of training on my own which was a struggle. Although I thought the season was over for me, I actually came back stronger than I thought. That season was the best season I ever had. I skated the best I’ve ever skated that season. It took a lot of commitment and discipline to come back from the injury but thinking about it now, I think it was good for me because it helped me grow not just as a skater, but as a person.
Describe your diet/nutrition plan.
I’m not much of a breakfast person but this season, I had to force myself to start eating breakfast because I knew that it would benefit me. I’ve been eating either eggs with toast or cereal. For lunch and dinner, I usually eat my mom’s homemade cooking whenever she is in Utah. If not, I pick something up on the way home from training.
What was your breakthrough moment in your sport?
2019 World Cup 3 in Nagoya, Japan. I made my first “A” final at a World Cup. This was a “breakthrough” moment/competition for me because it finally showed me that I belong up there with the best skaters in the world.
Did anyone every tell you that you wouldn’t succeed?
Yes, many times. During a very long slump that I had, I was so used to losing and never winning. Looking back, a lot of people made me feel as if I wasn’t good enough and never will be. Honestly, I never really overcame that feeling until I came to Salt Lake City. Once I started to improve and get better, I started to realize that it was my turn to start winning and doing well. But once I started skating well, I got the same feeling as I got before. It felt as if they were trying to mentally kill me by making me feel like I wasn’t good enough or deserving of my success. I was able to overcome that with the help of my coach and not letting it really get to my head as much this time. I was able to realize that it didn’t matter what they thought of me. All that mattered was the facts, and the facts were that I proved myself enough already and I didn’t need to prove myself to anyone else.
Do you have a hobby outside of your sport?
Growing up, I played a lot of instruments. I mainly played violin. I also learned how to play the piano and a little bit of saxophone. As I got older, I taught myself guitar and drums.