Houston's Olympian: Speed skater Jonathan Garcia

By Ruben Galvan - Reporter , Amy Calvin

HOUSTON - Olympic speed skater Jonathan Garcia's love for skating started under the spinning disco ball at the Dairy Ashford Roller Rink in West Houston.

"He started here at the Dairy Ashford Roller Rink at a birthday party when he was about 5 years old," said his mother, Marianne Welch.

By the time Garcia was 7 years old, he was on the Dairy Ashford Speed Team and tearing up the rink on in-line skates.

"One of his coaches told me once, he said if I told Jonathan to hang upside down and it would make him skate faster he would have done it," Welch added.

"He was kind of a rink rat. He was a child that grew up skating here," added Michelle Sztraky, one of Garcia's early coaches at the Dairy Ashford Roller Rink. "When he first started skating here he had a gift. He had a talent and he had a lot of natural ability that you haven't seen in other skaters."

A talent that earned Garcia a spot on three world teams for in-line skating, but because there were no in-line events in the Olympics games Garcia turned from wheels to ice.

"The U.S. Olympic committee decided to start a program to transition some of the top in-liners, girls and guys in the nation, to come to Salt Lake and start ice speed skating," Garcia said of the program he has been training in since 2007 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"He has worked very hard. He sacrificed a lot over the years and I couldn't be happier. His dream has come true," said his mother who was proudly wearing her red USA sweatshirt.

Garcia, who will compete in the 1000m on February 12 in Sochi, knows his parents sacrificed for this dream too.

"They really sacrificed a lot of weekends. going to competitions and drive me everywhere. Two and a half hours once a week, each way, and no questions asked. They did it every weekend," the Katy Taylor High School graduate said of the weekly trips to Waco so he could compete.

"Believe me, I loved that 2 and a half hours. It was 2 and a half hours up there where we had time to talk together. I wouldn't take for it. It was something I would do all over again for sure," said his mother.

It won't be Waco, but Sochi is where his mother will sit next to cheer on her son in his first Olympic games.

"I am so happy that he has accomplished what he wanted to accomplish and that he is going to experience these Olympic Games. It's a dream come true for all of us," said his proud mom.

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