Updated: 01/02/2014 6:20 PM
Created: 01/02/2014 4:57 PM WHEC.com
By: Stephen Bond
Jessica Walker has been a track and field star her entire life. The Aquinas grad has her sight set on the Olympics. Not the summer games, but the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Jessica Walker had a nice career at Buffalo State, but just not at an Olympic level. She's a pure athlete though, so when Jessica stumbled upon the sport of skeleton, her Olympic dreams were re-ignited. Now she prepares for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.
Jessica Walker said, “My Olympic dream started when I was a child. I just always wanted to compete at a greater level.”
For as long as Jessica Walker can remember, she's been running. It's the freedom, the competitiveness and the desire to succeed. As an All-American at Aquinas, Walker discovered her love of both the triple jump and the hurdles. She says competing in these events taught her about life.
Walker said, “It's kind of like you have to leap toward your goals and hurdles as well. There are obstacles in the way, but it is only you between the obstacle and you have to fight through it.”
After breaking multiple school records and winning conference championships, Walker's lustrous career was over. But her desire to compete was not. A former coach could see the fire still burning and suggested she tryout for the Winter Olympics.
Just like track star Lolo Jones, Walker is hoping to trade her track spikes in for ice spikes. The Rochester native says the transition hasn't been easy, but it has been the ride of her life.
Walker said, “It's an amazing experience, just to be in the presence of an Olympic Training Center and other athletes that are working hard and have been here. I'm kind of in awe still but I feel honored and privileged that I have the opportunity to work as hard as they have.”
The former Little Irish track stand out switched her focus from jumping on the track to jumping on a skeleton sled.
Walker said, “You have to take advantage of all opportunities that come towards you. You don't know if you like it until you try it. I am absolutely not a winter person.”
Cold temps or not, Walker flew through an Olympic combine and then our cameras followed her to winter school in Lake Placid. Walker admits doubt crept into her head before she took to the ice.
Walker said, “'What did I get myself in to? Why am I here? Are you really going to do this, Jessica?' But after about six runs, I was more comfortable with it. 'Okay, I can handle this.'”
Jessica did more than just glide down the ice. Walker flew down the ice like she did on the track. Her ability caught the eye of Olympic Development Coach Don Hass.
Don Hass said, “Currently from what I've seen she has the raw material, now we have to start molding it. The speed off the line is a big thing, a feel of going down the hill, she seems to be adapting well to sliding, it going to come down to her deciding if this is what she wants to commit to.”
Walker said, “I think so. It's a dream come true that I can potentially represent my country if I just stick with it and continue to learn.”
Hass said, “This is a life changing kind of commitment. If she really wants to try to go for the Olympics in this, it has to be a commitment that this becomes her life.”
Years ago, Walker was hoping to dawn the red, white and blue in the Summer Olympics. Although her path deviated, the goals have not.
Walker said, “I'm representing a lot of people and in a sense I have a lot of potential and I can still keep climbing and doing better. And hopefully reach the top of the podium to represent all of us.”
We will see in four years if Jessica qualifies for the games in South Korea. The Olympics in Sochi, Russia begin February 6.