Tomorrow the Utah Olympic oval long track opens! Whoo-Hoo!

Thanks to Brian Boudreau for these images. The fascinating thing about this first one is what looks like a rug laying on the ice is actually a stencil, and they are spraying on the “Fastest Ice On Earth” logo onto a lower layer of ice.

In this next one, you can see the odd pebbly consistency to the ice as they are laying it, and the “tack” they are using to hold down the rope marking the boundary of the edge

Thanks to Scott, and all the Oval staff. It’s about a 2 week process to lay the ice, and the athletes truly do appreciate it.

I remember hearing that the ice is put on in 17 separate layers! With as much time as it takes, I believe it.

The photographer of these images, Brian Boudreau, has been training crazy hard on the short track all summer, and looks skinnier & fitter than I have ever seen him.

All I have to say is that truly look forward to training with him, & cheering him on this winter. He is going to be so scary strong, I’m glad we are not in the same age category at masters worlds!

Alo world cup pics

I can’t compete with Tom’s artistry, but what I can do is take pictures of the things that might not make a news release, but carry so much of the culture of skating.

For example, here are some of the “young guns” of our sport tailgating in the parking lot:

From left to right you have: Ian Baranski, Justin Stelly, Aex Mark, Jonathan Garcia, Brent Aussprung , & a friend of Brents.

Josh Wood is in the front, with Kuda the boxer.

None of these guys were racing, and they were in as welcoming a mood as their Kielbasa was tasty.

Dutch Fans!! Yeah!

Actually the interesting thing about these two lovely ladies is that although they are Dutch, they live in Salt Lake. They were sitting with American friends, and at one point, one of them gestured to the far off singing mass of orange fans, and wistfully remarked to me “I should be over there.”

However the rambunctious fan award had to go to the Norway, there were only 30 or 40 of them, but they were LOUD! And when Håvard Bøkko took on Sven Kramer in the 5k, they cheered their hearts out.

Here is a quick image of that duel-

The thing I like about this photo is that you can see both Håvard and Sven doing something that most intermediate skaters fail to do. Both of them are planting the left leg far outside their center of gravity, so it creates immediate pressure.

Look where their chins & shoulders are, as opposed to where the skate blade is touching the ice. Most intermediates “over-reach” and place their blade on the ice directly under their center of gravity. You lose pressure. These two are the best in the world right now, and don’t lose a thing.

Interestingly enough, my friend Eric Kraan was “scoring the 5k” like someone scores a baseball game. Click on each picture for the large version, so you can read the lap times & how they varied during the race.

You can see the page Eric got these interesting charts from, here (in Dutch)

You can also see, in this graph, how “in a class by himself” Sven is.

Of course, speaking of scoring, what can one say about this scoreboard!!!

The funny thing about this, is right before the races started, Eric says to me, “I bet you $10 Shani breaks the world record!” Honest to god, I replied to him “If you give me 4-1 odds, I bet Trevor breaks the world record too, and wins”.

We were just joking, and no money changed hands, but here is an image I wish I was in a better angle to get. After the dust & ice chips settled, and both men were skating by the cheering crowd, Shani raised Trevor’s hand.

later, on the podium, with Canada’s Denny Morrison.

I have a feeling we could see some arrangement of these 3 incredible athletes on the podium in Vancouver.

Vancouver is a long way off, but these three were heads & shoulders above everyone else in the 1,000m

DiNardo World Cup #2

The excellent Tom DiNardo sent me a number of images from the Salt Lake World Cup.

This race did happen a few weeks ago, but good images like his are not confined to a particular time or place. His camera captured some truly wonderful moments.

Shani Davis and the German 500m specialist Jenny Wolf were some of the most closely watched skaters coming into the competition. Put them on the fast ice of Salt Lake, and world records could fall.

As fans of skating know, Shani set the 1,000m world record.

And then he got the honor of putting his name on the wall of names. The 1k and 1500m really mean something to him. They are his races, and he was very happy.

Jenny Wolf had a much more difficult race. She is unbelievably strong and snappy & can focus it through her powerful technique.

But she slipped a number of times. Including here at maximum pressure in the first turn.

Canada’s Kristina Groves won the 1500m event at the Salt Lake world cup final. I am not sure what part of the race this is from, I am guessing about halfway through. You can see the effort, but the technique is still together.

Speaking of blazingly fast Canadians, Brittany Schussler is taking 3rd place here in the 1,500m

Since Casey Fitzrandolph retired, Enrico Fabris is now my favorite skater to just sit and watch in total awe at his smoothness.

On this day, I put down my camera and watched his smooth as butter 5k. Good enough for 4th place. Smooth even through the tremendous effort.

Trevor Marsicano is an up and coming star. I don’t think anyone disputes that.

He ended up 7th in the 5,000m and 2nd in the 1000m, for a brief few moments, he had the world record.

Here he is in the 1k-

and then the slightly different, more groovy body position of the 5k-

Tom did not just point his camera of the stars. One of the first things you see in the world cup is the huge effort of every skater, not just the top ones.

Tomomi Okazaki of Japan, 14th in the women’s 1000m. I dig those skates, and the driving athlete using them.

Maria Lamb finished 18th position in the 1500m

Ireen Wust of Holland. 11th place finish in the 1000m.

Vancouver WC Story

The commentary and images here are from Tom DiNardo. I have never really thought much about doing multiple-post collaborations, but Tom is so talented, how can I not?

Take it away Tom!

October 25th & 26th, the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, BC, hosted the ISU World Cup Short-track Speed Skating event.

It is a shame that this sport is not more widely received and televised in the States. It is impossible to understand the excitement and energy of this sport from statistics listed in result sheets. Even excellently-timed photos of last minute passes, unfortunate crashes and reactions of victory or defeat cannot begin to convey the wide range of emotions experienced by the skaters and die-hard fans willing to travel great lengths for the opportunity to see them in person.

I arrived Thursday to cover the last practice day and to get a handle on the best angle to capture some images. Even though every team was clearly working hard to bring their A-game to the upcoming events, there was still a lightness in the air; something best shown in this photo of Italian team member, Yuri Confortola.

With a smile like that, how can you not cheer for the guy? Especially when he puts out this kind of effort to take first in 1500m Men’s Semi Final Race 3:

In spite of the tension beginning to build Friday morning, there was a camaraderie here you don’t find in many other sports. During the race pictured above, members of the Bulgarian team were sitting in the seats directly behind where I was shooting and they were cheering loudly for Yuri. This kind of oneness that can transcend countries is, in my opinion, unique to sports like this.

The dedication to perfecting one’s craft requires such a single-minded pursuit of excellence that other athletes truly understand and appreciate it.

The US team was very focused and determined; the positive impact of Jae Su Chun’s coaching style was clearly seen in the performance of our skaters.

There were a number of crashes this weekend, as is usually the case when medals and place standings are on the line. One memorable crash was during the 1500m Ladies A Final. It was all going according to plan with US team members Reutter and Baver stalking the amazing Koreans. You could see that they wanted it. They were getting on the box today.

Then it all went wrong in a heartbeat.

You could feel the heartbreak in the Coliseum. I wasn’t sure I wanted to show this last shot because of how much I like Katherine and Allison, but I think it’s important to show how much heart they put into this sport. Like I mentioned earlier, the results sheet does not tell the story the way it needs to be told. Katherine and Allison wanted it so bad that they risked an outcome like this to win.

In the grand scheme of things, stepping up against the best in the world and making it to the finals is an incredible feat by itself.

China had a somewhat mixed performance this weekend. The depth of power and single-minded focus of the Chinese men’s team is really impressive, so I found it surprising that they did not come away with a single medal this weekend. Then you have Meng Wang. She is like a machine. Every lap of the 500m Ladies A Final was perfection for her.

Not to overshadow Jessica Hewitt’s excellent second place effort, but everyone else in this class is an also-ran at the moment. If you want to beat this lady, you better bring something special to the rink or Meng will hand you a beating you won’t forget.

The 1000m Ladies A was a real barn-burner from start to finish. It looked like China’s Yang Zhou had the race in the bag leading from the first lap until the last inch of the final lap. Below is Zhou cruising through the start of the final lap with Korea’s Sae-Bom Shin, China’s Hul Zhang, and Allison Baver in tow.

A few seconds later, Shin snatched the victory from Zhou as Baver dispatched Zhang in the same manner.

Unfortunately for Zhou, in addition to losing her podium spot in the final inches of the race, she also lost her balance and ended up visiting the pads at the end of the straight.

Ho-Suk Lee was the dominant force in the 500m Men’s A final. Below Jeff Simon gives Lee a run for his money. During that warp speed 4 1/2 laps, Lee, Simon and Francois-Louis Tremblay all took a turn at the front. In the end though, Simon and Tremblay couldn’t stop Lee’s final burst of speed. Tremblay somehow managed to find a way past Simon to take second on the last lap.

Francois Hamelin leading the first three laps of the 1000m Men’s Semi-Final 1.

Then the Korean’s went into overdrive and both Ho-Suk Lee and Yoon-Gy Kwak took over first and second on the final lap and held off Hamlin and China’s Ye Li to claim the top two spots on the podium.

Apolo Ohno, Canada’s Michael Gilday, and Korea’s Jung-Soo Lee all took a turn at the front during this race. In the end, Lee, Gilday, and Rami Beaulieu-Tinker took the top spots, leaving Apolo to settle with a rare fourth.

The final race of the day was the Men’s 5000m relay with twenty skaters on the ice representing the US, Canada, England and Japan. To say that this was the most heart-stopping, edge-of-your-seat race of the weekend would be an understatement.
Here we see Canada’s Charles Hamlin leading Apolo Ohno, Satoru Terao, and Jon Eley.

Nine laps later, Jeff Simon put an excellent pass on Francois Hamelin.

With multiple lead changes and an intensity that resonated throughout the stadium, all eyes were on the ice. This was a tight race finished brilliantly by the US team with Canada and England placing second and third.

A little post race congratulations from Coach Chun before the medals ceremony.

It was an excellent finish to the weekend for the US team as we move onto the Asian and European segments of the World Cup.

A complete photo story of the weekend will be available at in the next few days.

World Cup today

This is an image from last year’s Salt Lake City World Cup. The quiet before a start can be as deafening as the incredible noise once the gun goes off, and a crowd favorite takes the lead.

There were large crowds, from many demographic groups & age ranges, cheering loudly. For the athletes, these moments are what can define them in eyes & hearts, their own & others.

Short track is so unpredictable; every split second is an invitation to mayhem. I admire these athletes. To dare to defy gravity & physics, and win anyway, is amazing.

And even if you end up headfirst into the wall, the courage it takes to do this sport is as admirable. Especially when you know the odds.

I once saw a bumper sticker on a battered pickup that said:

Eight seconds in the ring is worth a lifetime in the stands

And that is what these athletes are facing; endless gutbusting hard work for a chance, for a few tiny moments when all eyes turn to this wild, icy bullride undertaken with machetes strapped to the feet.

So the world cup is happening today, and I am stuck at my desk at work (blogging on my lunch hour, in case any of my managers read this). Can you tell I wish I was there.

Short track is like daily life, surprising & unexpected mayhem, and courage courage courage!!!

Long track is like the arc of years, work your heart out & improve by little bits here & there, with the final measure being you vs. yourself.

A healthy diet of both is good for the body & soul.

Vote For Sheila

2 time Olympian, and multiple US national sprint champ Elli Ochowicz just sent me an email worth re-posting here.

Elli writes:

My mom has just been nominated for the Olympic Hall of Fame and I am trying to get the word out. Go to and vote for her.

I was wondering if it you might be willing to make a post on your site about this. I know this would help her get some serious exposure so if you are willing it would really mean a lot.

The voting is from now through Friday, March 28. Anyone can go to this website and place a vote..

It’s my pleasure to help out, especially since I had not known much about Elli’s mom, Sheila Young-Ochowicz, other than she had won a medal or two in the Olympics “a long, long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away“.

It’s amazing what wikipedia has in it!, reading the entry, I was floored at what she accomplished in her career.

How about this for having a “pretty good year”, in 1976 Shelia:

  • Won Gold in the 500, Silver in the 1500, & Bronze in the 1,000 during the Olympics
  • was World Sprint Champion and 3rd at world allaround champs.
  • Skated 3 world records
  • then won the world sprint track cycling championships.

Of course her career was more than just one year, check out the Wikipedia entry for more. Including her comeback in 1981.

After reading this, I am convinced Sheila is one of the greatest athletes the USA has ever had in speedskating & track cycling. I love this sport, but I realize, reading this, how ignorant most of us are about the history of it. (for example, did you know that the first women’s allaround champion, in 1936, was an American!)

As Elli & I were chatting about this, she mentioned how it always seems that the cyclists & triathletes all seem to band together and get their candidates voted in.

There might not be as many speedskaters as there are athletes from other sports, but let’s vote as hard as we train!! Remember, voting ends on the 28th, so go to the page and vote.

Masters in Calgary

There are several large meets I “missed” this year, one of them was the Masters international Canadian open in Calgary this past February 9th & 10th.

However Peter Haeussler & Tim Demerjian have sent me some FABULOUS images of these races. Looking forward to Masters world’s next week, this is some of the vibe that will be happening.

Getting ready for the ice-

Speedskater Kevin Frost, who is an amazing story due to his Usher’s syndrome, getting ready next to his guide dog, Nemo.

Several Norwegians who made the trip to race (as well as Russians and Americans). Here a Norwegian going very fast. It’s probable this is 50-55 year old skater Brynjulf Makestad or 60-65 year old Knut Nesse, who both set masters records during this meet.

This great image really captures how skating “feels”, thanks Tim!
Click on it for a “desktop-sized” version

Peter writes:
Cheering for everybody is part of the Masters racing scene. Here’s the ladies (who had finished their races), cheering on 78 year old Peter Blokker on his 3K race. Closest to camera is Kaari Cox, then Jan Zurcher.

Another picture of Peter Blokker and another athlete in the 75-80 age group. Peter Haeussler writes

I guess I’m just really impressed by their ability at that age. I’m 46, so I’m hoping I can perfect my technique in the next 34 years!

Canadian Brett Arnason chasing a fellow competitor in the 55+ age group

Just in case you didn’t know this, it’s a good tip! Ha!!

Warmup lane chatting… Catching up with old friends, and meeting new ones, is a huge part of masters skating.

Randy Plett and Pat Kelly were 1-2 overall. Randy is an “allskater” & does very well at both ice & inline. Pat was on 2 Canadian Olympic teams & lowered his own 1000m masters record at this meet (he was paired with me when he set his first 1k record, a loong time ago).

Here is Pat & Randy, going at it in the 3k, here is a link to the results.

There are many fun things about racing in Calgary; one of them is the food court within easy walking distance. You don’t even have to step outside! This is a poster from there.

Maybe skating is, in an absolute moral sense, like most sports & human trivialities, a stupid thing done very quickly and taking a lot of energy.

But like coffee, how wonderfully pleasant & rewarding the sensations…


Again, thanks Peter & Tim!