Naess uses talents in multitude of sports


Crosby Becker

Jan Naess competes in various speed skating tournaments and ultimately wishes to perform in the Olympics.

It is a classic Chicago winter day, and the temperature rests at a mild 20 degrees. The wind stings at Jan Erik Naess’ face as he coasts around the corner in a long-track speed skating race in Park Ridge, Ill. His fingertips lightly grace the ice surface, guiding him into perfect position to soar into first place. With two powerful, long strides and open ice ahead, nothing is in his way. Within a fraction of a second, he blazes past the finish line at record speed and takes the victory—his third victory in two weeks.

Naess exits the rink, sits down, and unclips his helmet, numbered 10. It’s not every day that you see a speed skater, some may think, but that’s what makes the sport so good. Born into a speed skating family, Naess was the odd one out for awhile, as he didn’t really like it at first. Instead, in his younger years, he focused on orienteering, another family sport. After years of competing and racing with maps and compasses in orienteering, the 2010 Vancouver Olympics came. The games rekindled his love for speed skating, and soon Naess was competing in races all over the Midwest. Now he participates in orienteering, speed skating, mountain biking, soccer, running, and triathlons.

Orienteering is a sport in which competitors use the aid of a map and compass to find checkpoints, ultimately reaching a final destination. The winner is the competitor with the lowest overall time.

“[Orienteering] a fun version of running,” Naess said. “You can choose how you get from checkpoint to checkpoint, and in the end it’s completely up to you on how well you do. That makes it really different from just running where you know where you’re going or just running in circles.”

Practices, races, and competitions take Naess out of school regularly, often lasting until 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. As a result, Naess stays in superb shape. As well as great exercise, the sports have taught him various life lessons.

“Sports have taught me to be dedicated and to work for what you want,” Naess said. “Most importantly, I’ve learned that you have to have variety in life, otherwise it gets boring.”

Childhood friend Patrick Goggin has known Naess since first grade, and often attends his speedskating races.

“[Jan] has a bit of a quirky personality that everyone loves, especially the ladies,” Goggin said. “He’s a great kid to be around and can adapt in any situation. I think that he can take speed skating far and become an Olympic skater.”

Naess most recently made the Canadian Junior World Team for orienteering, which will send him to Norway in the summer to compete for his home country. With the two front running sports being speed skating and orienteering, Naess has the ability to reach international levels and competitions.

For Naess, his goals include winning international medals for orienteering and attending a university for speed skating.

“The Olympics would be my final destination, but that’s a long time from now and lots can happen,” Naess said.