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Houston native making his Olympic dreams come true

Saturday, February 08, 2014

A Houston area athlete is fulfilling part of his dream, by competing in the Winter Olympics in Sochi this month.

It all started when Jonathan Garcia went to a childhood birthday party at a Houston skating rink, and couldn't even stand on his own two feet. But his grit and determination showed through even then. By age seven he was part of an inline speed team.

"One is to follow your dream and second, Jonathan has said if he can do it, anybody else can do it," said his stepmother Kay Paschall. "It's work ethic."

With Olympic dreams, the Katy Taylor graduate made the transition to ice and moved to Salt Lake City to train several years ago as part of the US Olympic Committee's wheels to ice program. And as he sped onto the scene, the Hispanic skater from Texas turned heads on northern ice.

Jonathan's father Joseph Garcia said, "They announced Jonathan Garcia from Houston, Texas. Everyone looked around like, 'What?'"

Jonathan's father and stepmother are Sochi-bound, perhaps not surprising for the couple who calls Olympia Drive home.

"Four years comes down to one race and a minute and seven seconds," Joseph said.

Making the US Olympic team brought some nail-biting moments for the Garcias. At qualifications in December, Jonathan skated second fastest in the 500 meters, only to be disqualified because he forgot to put on his time transponders -- a requirement for international competitions.

"He sucked it up and took it in stride and went out the next day and did what he had to do," Joseph said. "That's a heart."

With just one shot left at making the Olympic team, Jonathan did it in a dramatic finish in the 1,000 meters, throwing those time transponders he was wearing this time to the crowd in celebration.

Joseph said, "He did it when he had to, so proud of him. So proud."

The Garcia's had planned on wearing their American flag sweaters in Sochi, but security concerns about a possible terrorist attack have them planning a very low key week in Russia.

"We're tucking an American flag away," Kay said. "We'll have one in the backpack."

"I think you have to be smart," Joseph added.

They're talking about not wearing sneakers, tennis shoes or anything with Nike on there because it clues you as an American.

"We both speak Spanish so we're going to be speaking a lot of Spanish," Joseph said.

For them watching from Houston was never an option.

"No, no, how could you not go, we can't not go, chance of a lifetime," Joseph said. "He's an Olympian."

Based on his performance at trials, nothing would surprise this proud family.

Jonathan skates on February 12 at 8am Houston time. If you'd like to follow along on Jonathan's Sochi journey, visit his blog.

Find Christine on Facebook at ABC13ChristineDobbyn or on Twitter at @christinedobbyn

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