Meet John: An Aspiring Speed Skater

John Sullivan dreams of becoming a speed skating world champion and winning a gold medal. After searching for a way to earn money that fit with his busy training schedule, he discovered Uber.

Though a broken ankle nearly cut his skating dreams short, he recovered and took a leap of faith—moving from Virginia to Utah to learn to speed skate from the best coaches. While he grew up at the roller rink and inline skated competitively during his youth, Sullivan had never skated on ice before arriving in Utah. But he knew he needed to make the switch if he wanted to go all the way.

Starting with the basics on the ‘Learn to Speedskating’ team, Sullivan worked his way up to the competitive team, maintaining a training schedule akin to a full-time job to become an accomplished speed skater. Before becoming an Uber partner, Sullivan worked odd jobs to make ends meet: “I was a waiter, a busser, a dishwasher, and worked in a call center. I was always stressed because someone was telling me, ‘You have to be at work after practice or you’re fired.’”

Sullivan was training 40-50 hours each week, in addition to working on the side. With all that, finding a new flexible way to earn money proved no easy task. So when Sullivan learned about Uber, it seemed like a perfect fit. As soon as he turned 21, he signed up to drive. After just two months, Sullivan was able to quit the call center.

For Sullivan, Uber offers the right balance of flexibility and income. “People normally have to go straight from practice to work. There’s no time to recoup and recover. Uber has allowed me to have a earn money where it’s so flexible, I can drive anytime.”Sullivan drives mostly on weekend nights so he can prioritize his intense training schedule. He practices six days a week, beginning at 6 a.m. and continuing into the evening. The demanding days include on-ice skating, stationary drills, and cardio ranging from cycling to running. He used to dread working after long training weeks, but Sullivan says with Uber, earning money is fun again. “It’s great now to get out and explore new places. At some jobs you’re stuck at your desk. When you’re driving somewhere different you’re meeting new people, it doesn’t feel like working. It’s just like going on different adventures.”

He loves exploring Utah, and has created a loop from the airport and through the city that keeps him constantly busy. The income he generates from Uber is enough to pay the bills and keep him skating. 

After nine years skating—three of which have been on ice—Sullivan believes he’s ready to take it to the next level. He’s working to skate faster and just earned qualification times to go to the World Cup qualifiers, which is one step closer to his dream. But chasing this dream comes at a price for Sullivan, who moved to Utah knowing few people and can only afford to visit his family once a year. He misses them, but his mother is visiting this summer to see him race on ice. “She’ll see me speed skate and compete for the first time.”

His love of speed skating keeps him on track despite these challenges: “I love competing against other people by pushing my limits and seeing how good I can get.” Moving away from home at a young age and jumping into a new sport has taught him many lessons, but most importantly, “When you start something new you won’t be the best right away. It takes time.”

But Sullivan isn’t afraid of putting in the time. With his supportive family, teammates, coaches, and even Uber, John can confidently pursue his passion.

Follow his journey on Twitter @johnjohn809 and Instagram @unbreakablefocus.