USADSF Spotlight with Noah - US Deaflympian, Janna Vander Meulen

Noah: Hello! Welcome to the USADSF Spotlight with Noah. I am Noah Valencia. Today, we will be interviewing a person named Janna Vander Meulen. She is an incredibly talented track athlete, excellenting in hurdles events. She won the gold medal in the 100 meters hurdles in 2017 at Turkey during the Deaflympics. After that, she decided to retire but after a careful consideration, she changed her mind. She will be back for the 2021 Summer Deaflympics. So I am very excited to interview her today!

Noah: First question, you have five medals so far, right?

Janna: Right!

Noah: Gold, silver, and bronze. When you won them, how did you feel?

Janna: It made me feel really good about myself. I accomplished it, especially when I won the gold medal in 100 meters hurdles. That was the best day of my life, just, finally! I finally accomplished my goal that I had since 2013 when I won my second silver medal. From that point, I wanted a gold medal and in 2017, I finally did it!

Noah: You won it!

Janna: Yes, I won it! So that feeling that I had was just really good and exciting.

Noah: The best feeling of your life.

Janna: Yes, the best feeling of my life!

Picture of Janna celebrating as she wins her first gold medal in 100 meters hurdles. This picture was taken in 2017 at Samsun, Turkey during the 2017 Summer Deaflympics.

Noah: You participated in five different events, right?

Janna: Yes.

Noah: 4x100 meters, 4x400 meters, 100 meters hurdles, 400 meters hurdles, and 100 meters sprint. How do you adjust your mindset when each one of them are so different from each other?

Janna: Really, you have to focus one at a time. It is nice that the competition is spread out by days so when you have the final 100 meters sprint on that day, I usually focus on that event on that day. Then the next day, I changed my mindset to another event like 400 meters hurdles. Okay, that means I need to pace myself for a full lap and hurdle. It is just the mindset. Focus on one event at a time. It depends on which day the event will be on. Focus one at a time. But it is a lot.

Noah: Oh yes! I think it helps that you have different days so you can focus on the events and be ready.

Janna: Right! That!

Noah: In our previous talk, we talked about the idea of you practicing yoga. How did that help your training?

Janna: Really, it helped me with reducing injuries and reduces stiffness in my body. Before doing yoga, I often feel that my back and leg hurt due to too much stiffness and tightness in my leg and back. Then I decided to add yoga in my training because my roommates and friends talked a lot about it so I decided to go ahead with it. I started with the basics because I was not flexible at all! I am not flexible! So I went ahead and I was clumsy with it but the time goes on, I improved my flexibility and increased it. Before, I couldn’t even touch my toes. I just can’t but now, I can and I have noticed that my back pain has been improved and it does not hurt anymore. And when I run during training, I do recovery yoga after that and I feel better. Not too stiff the next day, I am ready and loosen up. So I really notice the benefits of it. It also helps me calm down my stress level. Having too much stress can affect the body by getting injuries. So yoga really helps me with my stress.

Noah: In previous Deaflympics, you won one gold medal without yoga, correct?

Janna: Yes, without yoga.

Noah: Now, with yoga, you should win all gold medals.

Janna: Hope so!!! That is my goal!

Noah: You can!

Picture of Janna hurdling. She is in a USA uniform and is wearing Nike blue and neon green shoes.

Noah: In an article by Portland Tribute, it claimed that you did consider retiring from track competition but you changed your mind! What caused that?

Janna: Yes. It was because in 2017, after the Deaflympics where I won a gold medal but when I looked at my 100 meters hurdles time, I wasn’t satisfied with it at all. Physically, myl body was ready to break my own time which was 14 seconds when I wanted 13 seconds. I wanted it to go under 14 seconds, like 13 and something. I was physically ready but before my 100 meter hurdles went on, the event was delayed. Something happened.

Noah: I see.

Janna: So, I had a longer warm-up time and longer waiting time which my body wasn’t suited to.

Noah: It had an impact.

Janna: So, if all went as scheduled, I probably would've gotten 13 seconds. My time was 14.29 with the delay while my time in 2013 was 14.21. The world record is 14.21 seconds so I want to break that world record. So after the Deaflympics when I returned home, I thought about it. I waited to see if my body was ready to be back and see if I still had the fire to run. Do I still have the motivation? After one week and half, I was totally ready to be back on track. I can’t just do nothing. I was ready so I will be back on track in 2021!

Noah: So really, that delay in 2017 helped you to be back to the track world. We must thank that situation..

Janna: Right! So, hopefully, in 2021, I will break the world record and win 13 seconds something. I hope!

Noah: You can! You can do it!

Janna: I have that mindset to do so!

Picture of Janna in USA uniform sprinting. She is in front of two other athletes.

Noah: In the same article by Portland Tribute, it mentioned that you usually train at Nike Campus which is nice! What facilities and support do they provide you?

Janna: So, really, my workplace really supports my training so they are willing to adjust their schedules for me in order to train and see my coach. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I needed to be off from work at 3 PM, they were okay with that. And at Nike Campus, they have a really nice private track which is perfect for my training. It is easy to train there because there are less people there. So it is really nice not having anyone in my way.

Noah: Understood.

Janna: They also have a gym too! They provide everything. I also have private training. So they provide almost everything. I mean, Nike is all about sports and dreams so they support me really well. I enjoyed working for Nike where they support everything. Yeah.

Noah: I can imagine that feeling of being able to train at Nike, you know?

Janna: Right! Also, they support my time off like if I need to take a break for a month to prepare for the Deaflympics, they will support me. Sometimes I need approval from them and they approve me. So I am grateful for them.

Noah: Perfect job that fits your training.

Janna: Right! Exactly!

Noah: Thank you for the interview today! I really enjoyed talking with you today!

Janna: No problem! Thanks for interviewing me.

Noah: We are looking forward to seeing Janna compete in the 2021 Summer Deaflympics. We hope that she captures the goal of breaking the world record and winning a gold medal. We wish her the best. Until then, so long!

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