Jenni Kukkonen Hubbs can cross 500 meters of ice in a blistering 40 seconds. In other words: When Hubbs is in full flight, she’s traveling about 30 miles per hour.
“I started speed skating at 16. That was late,” Hubbs said, adding that she didn’t compete internationally, on indoor ovals, until she was 23. “Many of my friends started at 3, 4, 5, 6. Some said they were ‘so old’ at 12 or 14!”
Hubbs, now 29, faces all the physical and mental challenges every athlete faces, plus one: psoriasis.
Hubbs was just another kid in her native Oulu, Finland, until her senior year in high school. “I had very very very bad psoriasis everywhere,” she said. “On my face, on my scalp, all over my body. The ‘dots’ were so close together that they built up into huge groups. I remember running my hands through my hair and thinking, ‘I have so many flakes, maybe I need a new shampoo.’ ”
At 18, she was diagnosed with guttate psoriasis. She realized that she could remember similar, though much less severe, flares as early as age 10. “I was sometimes miserable, but it was manageable,” she said. “Every summer it went away. It came back every fall and winter.”
Until her diagnosis, she thought her condition was an allergic reaction or a stress-related flare. “I was very shy, contemplative, not outgoing. My body reacted to various emotions,” she said.
When she was finally diagnosed, Hubbs texted about 50 people. “I was so excited and relieved to finally have the answers!” she said. She began to educate herself and started a “tight schedule” of light therapy, three times per week for two months, with a cortisone cream for her scalp and a cortisone lotion for her skin. Nowadays, the only signs of her psoriasis are a few dry spots on her scalp.
A desire to inspire
When she’s not racing around the ice, Hubbs is a doctoral student at the Oulu Business School at the University of Oulu. Her research field is sports marketing. She already has a master of science in economics and has studied management, corporate law, and language and communication studies.
Hubbs has trained as a speed skater in three different countries. She made her speed-skating debut in 2013 while training at the Kia Speed Skating Academy in Inzell, Germany. She then moved to the Olympic Oval in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. There, Jenni Kukkonen met a U.S. skater named Michael Hubbs.
The first time they met, she told him about her psoriasis, even though she didn’t have any visible symptoms at the time. He asked, “What is that?” She told him, and he said he didn’t care. They have since married. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, and train at the Utah Olympic Oval.
In addition to school and skating, Hubbs wants to help raise awareness about psoriatic disease. “People need to hear what people with psoriasis are going through in life,” she said. “I also want to help people dream big, to make an effort. If I can, I want to help and inspire.”
Hubbs’ slogan is, “You can always go faster until you give up!” Visit her site and follow her as she trains for her next goal: skating for the Finnish national team in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Psoriasis will not slow her down.
Athletic power couple: Michael and Jenni Hubbs
Driving discovery, creating community
For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.