2006 Olympic speed skating gold medalist Joey Cheek had his first skating race ever at the Star City Skate Center in Roanoke on Hershberger Road when he was just ten years old.
Would Roanokers then have known a future Olympian was in their midst?
“Nobody could have guessed it,” Cheek said.
Cheek, a native of Greensboro, North Carolina, fell in love with skating when he was nine years old and worked hard to excel in his sport. He set his sights on the Olympics when he was 16 years old, then won a bronze medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics and then, ten years after setting his goal, he won a silver and gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics at age 26.
On Friday, July 20, he had about 50 special guests from Boy Scout troops 110 and 250 and pack 110 along with kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia.
“The one thing that will separate whether or not you get to do what you want to do [...] is the effort that you put into it right now,” Cheek told the kids, ages 8 to 16. “You’ve got to pour yourself into it. You’ve gotta pour you’re heart and soul into it.”
He told them a tale of a competitor and training partner of his who would quit doing the exercises when the coaches weren’t looking – Cheek said that, eventually, after working really hard, he edged his competitor out thanks to his hard work.
“Today, when you’re working your tail off and it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere, and you train real hard, even when your coaches aren’t looking and your teachers aren’t looking, just remember – you’ve got a real shot,” said Cheek.
Three competitors in the Virginia Commonwealth games were in the group of kids – Dayshawn Caldwell, Trae Tate, and Corey Brown of Roanoke play basketball for the Virginia Hawks.
“Don’t give up – try,” said Caldwell, when asked what he learned from Cheek. He and Tate said they want to be in the NBA and the NFL – even though it’s never been done before.
The Roanoke Times wrote a story about Cheek and the Virginia Commonwealth games. Cheek is due to give the opening speech for the games at the Roanoke Civic Center soon. Click the link for details.