Overcame Physical Setbacks
Jansen gave up a social life to train and compete, but maintained good grades. As his friends went off to college in 1983, Jansen was preparing for the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. He qualified to compete in the 500- and 1,000-meter races there and, at age 18, was the youngest competitor. Jansen finished fourth in the 500-meter event in 1984, just 16-hundreths of a second behind the bronze-medal winner, and placed 16th in the 1,000. He was unfazed to be coming home without a medal, setting his sights on the 1988 Games.
Jansen recovered from hamstring injuries in both of his legs to win the silver medal in the 500-meter at the 1985 world sprints. In 1986, he won a medal in every event he raced and became the first American to skate the 500 in under thirty-seven seconds. He finished first in both the 500 and 1,000 at the World Cup in Inzell, West Germany. Jansen was riding high when he stepped on a glass and cut his foot open in West Germany, severing one tendon and seriously damaging another. After six weeks in a cast, Jansen returned to training. He faced another setback when, exhausted, feverish, and sick, he performed horribly in all of his events at the final World Cup meet of 1987. He returned home be diagnosed with mononucleosis. Healthy again, Jansen returned to win the world sprint title that season, and to qualify for the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, Canada.