Long before 27-year-old, Kristen Santos graduated from Fairfield Warde High School, her dream was to become an Olympian. Last month, she made that dream a reality—and made Fairfield proud—by competing on Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. If the smiley face tattoo on the bottom of her toe is any indication, she’s a very happy girl. We had a chance to catch up with Kristen to learn more about this hometown hero and her special connection to Fairfield.
What was it like growing up in Fairfield as a kid dedicated to an intense sport?
I loved growing up in Fairfield, especially having such a great support group. My friends and neighbors were always so supportive of my dream to go to the Olympics. Ever since I can remember people were referring to me as a future Olympian. I hated thinking they were going to jinx it, but luckily, they didn’t, and I got to represent Fairfield at the Olympic Games!
How did you determine Short Track Speedskating was your sport and at what age?
I started as a figure skater at 3 years old, so I’ve been on the ice my entire life. When I was 8 or 9, I saw a Disney Channel commercial for Speedskating and begged my mom to try it. At first, she kind of ignored it, thinking I would forget about it. Sure enough, I didn’t. My first practice was at Yale—it was me and a ton of old men. My mom assumed I was going to hate it, but when I got off the ice, I begged to go back. I’ve always been competitive -- I think I just liked the idea of beating someone to a finish line where there’s a clear-cut winner.
What do you love most about Short Track Speedskating?
Beyond the obvious of my love for racing and competing, I adore the tight knit community. My teammates are people that I have grown up racing with and have ultimately become some of my closest friends.
Can you tell us about the moment you found out you were going to the Winter Olympics?
The moment I qualified for the Olympics was surreal, it’s honestly hard to explain. I felt so happy, proud, and humbled all at the same time to know that I would be representing the USA at the Olympics. I worked my entire life for that moment, so it was very overwhelming. I couldn’t stop crying. When I ran to my family, I broke down even more. It was so special to have my family and friends at trials, especially since they couldn’t attend the games. I wouldn’t have gotten where I am without them and so it wasn’t just me who qualified for the games, it was everyone who supported me along the way.
What are your pre-race rituals?
I’ve been working on positive self-talk pre-race. Even simple phrases like “you’ve got this” has been a huge help for calming my nerves.
Since you have a degree in Kinesiology and Nutrition, how important is the Mind/Body connection to you?
While working for my degree, my sport performance improved tremendously. Being able to connect what I have learned to my training and recovery has been helpful. I have always been someone who benefits from knowing the purpose of everything I do so I can make sure that I am getting the desired results. I have also dealt with a lot of anxiety and worked on my mental health throughout the years. Having a clear mind really helps my performance.
When you’re not in an intensive training period, how do you like to spend your free time?
Free time? What’s that? Haha, I’m just kidding! I love spending time outside and going on adventures with friends and most importantly my two Huskies, Bear and Koda. I also really enjoy doing DIYs and crafting activities like making a chandelier for our house or wood burning. Most recently I was gifted a Cricut, which is a precision cutter, and an embroidery machine, so I am excited to play around with those. Beyond that, I just love quality time with the important people in my life.
FUN FAIRFIELD FACTS:
Favorite Fairfield Restaurant:
Every time I visit home, I have a long list of places I love to go. The main thing I miss most is the pizza. I could really go for a salad pizza from Colony! I also have a special place in my heart for A&S Deli, specifically The Godfather. And nothing can beat a salad from the Pantry.
Favorite Fairfield Hangout:
I really love the Post Road. It’s one of the cutest downtown areas I’ve ever seen. There’s so many great food options, shopping, and scenery. I also love it by the water—hanging out at Fairfield Beaches are always so pretty and relaxing.
Favorite Fairfield Workout:
I love the style of the homes, so I love going for jogs or bike rides in different neighborhoods and getting mesmerized by the architecture. The Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving was one of the prettiest runs I’ve ever been on.
Favorite Fairfield Childhood Memory: I will go to my grave saying that the Sandcastle Playground is the best playground there is. There was something so special and magical about being there. I also have very fond memories of all the carnivals.