Olympics Parent Profile: Jay Hakkinen Aims for America's First Biathlon Medal

Filed under: Sports

Haakinen is going to compete in his fourth Olympics. Credit: US Biathlon

One in a series of interviews with U.S. Olympic team athletes who are also parents as they prepare for the Winter Games in Vancouver. The conversations will focus on how these elite athletes juggle training and their duties as moms and dads.

America's best hope for its first-ever medal in biathlon -- the funky event that combines cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship -- is Jay Hakkinen. Vancouver will be Jay's fourth Winter Olympics, but the first since the birth of his daughter Stella Amalia, who's just a year old. Recently Hakkinen, 32, spoke with ParentDish about his hopes for the upcoming Winter Games and about being a dad. An edited version of the interview follows:

ParentDish: You grew up in Kasilof, Alaska (population 471), a place that could be described as a long way from everywhere. What did you do for fun?
JayHakkinen: I was a big hockey player. We had a lake, so we'd clear the snow off and skate. We'd ski once in a while. Another big one was biking.

PD: Your parents set strict limits on TV.
JH: My mom definitely discouraged it. She wanted us to be outside and not just hypnotized by the screen. We were allowed to watch a few shows -- maybe one or two TV series and major sports. For a few years, one of our favorite shows was The Wonder Years.

PD: They also were pretty serious about healthy eating -- including a ban on candy. The only way to get any was to bike 20 miles(!) to your grandmother's house?
JH: None of us minded having no candy at home. You knew if you wanted it, you had to put in a little effort and go see Grandma.

PD: Your daughter, Stella Amalia. Want her to be an athlete?
JH: Not sure. I'm already noticing it's not up to me. I'll want her to read a book but she'll want to play and run around. Kids have their own minds.

PD: What's your advice to parents who are starting young ones in sports?
JH: The biggest thing is to expose them to lots of sports. They'll go naturally in the direction of sports they're good at and like.

PD: How can a parent teach a child good sportsmanship?
JH: A lot of parents are afraid of kids losing and how that's going to give them a bad self-image or something. Not sure how to say it, but I'm a big fan of letting kids lose. As an example, my niece and I did a little running race and just for fun, I beat her. She got really upset and actually wanted to fight me. I had to teach her, no, losing is part of sports, too. If you don't know how to lose, you won't last in sports.

PD: Is your family coming to the Olympics?
JH: Not planning that. It's a little too much of a trip for Stella. Also, I will be a little busy. We'll take our family time after the Olympics.
PD: Your goal for Vancouver?
JH: The major one is to win the first Olympic medal for an American in biathlon. I must say I am optimistic and doing everything I can to get it.

ParentDish sports reporter Mark Hyman is the author of "Until It Hurts: America's Obsession With Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids" (Beacon Press).
Have a suggestion for an article on youth sports? Contact Mark at pdyouthsports@aol.com

Related: Let Olympic Inspiration Become Perspriration


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.