NewsAndrew Heo

Olympian Andrew Heo Takes On Another Olympic Quad, This Time With Experience

by Nicole Haase

At only 22 years old, short track skater Andrew Heo has already spent five years as a member of the U.S. National Team and competed in an Olympic Winter Games. Yet even with all that experience, the skater from Warrington, Pennsylvania still feels like he is reinventing what kind of skater he wants to be.


These days, he is focused on navigating the mental aspect of short track. With so many parts of a race out of their control, athletes need a short memory but a focus on the big picture to not get stuck on the numbers, placements and prizes.


This challenge will never go away, though Heo says that it gets easier over time.


“Mentally, I think I learned a lot of lessons from the Olympic year — trials especially,” Heo said. “I learned how to block everything out, focus on myself and not worry about what other people are doing. All I can do is be in the moment and focus on myself.”


Heo is putting those skills to the test again this season, as he continues to ramp back up in preparation for a run to a second Olympic Winter Games in 2026 in Milan, Italy.


After joining the National Team as a teenager and immediately launching into the four-year prep that would lead to the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, Heo took some serious time off after the Games. He doesn’t regret the much needed mental and physical break. But looking back, he didn’t anticipate how challenging it would be to get back to racing at that top level again.


As a world-class athlete building toward an Olympics, he had taken off seasons in previous years but kept up with nutrition and did off-ice training. This full break meant he had a lot more work to do to be physically ready for the 2022-23 competition season. He has also shifted to shorter races, focusing more on the 500m meter after competing in the 1000m and 1500m in Beijing.


Now more than a full season later, Heo is still feeling the effects of that break and, in some ways, relearning who he is as a skater.


“My coaches would say I am skating better,” he said. “Personally, it feels different. I feel like I’m turning into a different kind of skater based on what I was like at the Games. There are things I’ve gotten stronger in and better at, but also things I think I’ve lost. Right now, I’m doing a lot better than I expected to be. I put in a lot of work this summer to get where I am. I want to keep building from here.”


Among the high points so far this season was winning a Bronze medal in the 500m at the ISU Four Continents Speedskating Championships in November. He won Silver in the same event a year ago but said he’s prouder of the Bronze.


“Being able to medal in the 500m this time around was a big deal,” he said. “Last year, there was a lot happening and skaters falling. I think that I got lucky. I put myself in a position to be in the final, but I think in the final, I just got lucky, and people fell in front of me. I am happy for that medal, of course, but this year, I felt like I won bronze because of my skill. I’m prouder of that because I was able to do it on my own. No one fell in front of me.”


Just 0.150 seconds separated the top three finishers in this year’s race, and Heo’s time was faster than in last year’s race. Beyond the validation of feeling as though he earned this medal, as well as a silver in the Mixed Team Relay, Four Continents was an important confidence boost for Heo, who hadn’t performed as well as he’d hoped at the first two World Cup stops.


“This season has been very different,” he said. “My focus is to keep getting stronger, but also fine tune things and dial them in so I can perform the way I want to. I always stick by the mantra of trusting the process. There will be times when you’re not going to be skating the best. You have your ups and downs, but you trust that things will be better, and you have to keep pushing through it, especially at the low points, so you can set yourself up better for the future.”


Those are the lasting lessons Heo has taken from his first build up to and participation in the Olympics. The Games themselves are over relatively quickly, but that four-year buildup where Heo went from junior skater to gaining most of his international experience as part of the quad cycle have left him more in tune with how his body works, better able to navigate the unexpected things that happen throughout a competition season and more prepared for how the intensity ramps up, first at the U.S. Olympics Team Trails and then at the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympic Winter Games.


“Going to the next quad with that experience is definitely going to help,” he said. “I’ve, without a doubt, taken lessons that I am using going forward. I’m always learning every day. Being able to train with that knowledge is helpful to better prepare me for future competitions.”


Heo briefly considered leaving the sport after having achieved his goal of skating at the Olympics but seeing so many U.S. athletes win medals and stand on the podium made him think it wasn’t so far-fetched to believe he could do the same. That’s all it took to reignite the spark that made him want to keep going for the 2026 Games.


His experience leading up to Beijing has led him to take his training more seriously while trying not to get too far ahead of himself this time around. At just more than two years out from the 2026 Games, Heo is working to find balance while remembering what made him start on this path in the first place.


“The buildup to the Olympics is really tough,” he said. “That last year goes really fast and is really intense. It’s so intense that it’s a little overwhelming. Now, I think — I hope — I’m more prepared. The approach I’m going with is taking it year by year and gauging where I’m at the end of the year — not necessarily results, but how I’m feeling and how I’m doing as a skater physically and mentally.


“I really do love skating. There’s so many things going on, you sometimes lose sight of that.” 


Nicole Haase is a freelance writer for USSpeedskating.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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