Zen-10 Questions, Travis Jayner

Even though Travis Jayner trains in Salt Lake City, I really got to know him in Mexico City during a speedskating exhibition we were both part of.

I wrote about that very unusual trip here, here, here, here, and here. It was fitting that I really got to know Travis in such an unique place for speedskating, this is because Travis is an unusual guy; in person he is deeply thoughtful, sincere & funny.

You would never suspect that this gentle fellow is a world-class athlete in a very aggressive, dangerous sport like short track.

Welcome to the Blog Travis!

Thank you Andrew. It is a pleasure.

1. Your parents were out hiking with your brother, and were stalked by a big angry daddy moose out on the trail (visual evidence below). How is having ambitions for the Olympics like stalking, or being stalked by, something so huge?

Well, that’s an interesting way of looking at it and I would have to agree with you, having ambitions of the Olympics is like chasing or stalking something huge.

The Olympics is the competition of competitions for amateur athletes. The competition is so big that sometimes it doesn’t seem real, it seems like qualifying for the Olympics can only happen in dreams.

2. One thing I admire about short trackers is how they deal with the pressure, uncertainty, and danger of the sport. How have you learned to cope with it over the years & adjust your mindset to give the best chances on race day?

As a short track skater I know the dangers are there but I also try to focus on what I can control. Focus on the task at hand and your mind will keep from wandering in to the “what ifs” of short track.

3. You are clearly having a career year, what was the Olympic trials experience like for you?

The Olympic trials were the most mentally challenging/exhausting thing I have done to date. Every individual race seemed like an entire competition and we raced each distance twice and raced 2 time trials so it felt like a years worth of competitions condensed in to one week.

4. I love the t-shirt your supporters have made. I do believe you are dead serious about this.

I love this shirt too. For me this shirt is not just about skating, it is about life.

5. Send me a photo that feels like “you” to you. Something that speaks to this time in your life. One on the ice, and one off.

6. Tell us something surprising about yourself that those of us who know you through skating would never have suspected:

I once worked a summer job at Dairy Queen, and the summer after that I drove a forklift in the shipping department at Armstrong World Industries. Both were great summer jobs.

7. How do you stay mentally strong and physically ready, during grueling all-day short track meets.

I just take things one race at a time and try never to get ahead of myself.

8. Your father was a short track skater, and was US & North American champion in 50’s & 60’s. In some alternate universe, imagine you & your father, both at your best, skating a relay together. Would it be more awesome to get a push from your dad to set up your race-winning pass, or would you rather give your dad that winning push & watch him win the race?

Travis Jayner: What a great question. I never had the chance to see my father race when he was at his best but from the stories I have heard about his ability to pass at the end of races, even when it looked like there was no space for him to make a pass, it would be my pleasure to give my father that winning push and watch him cross the line first.

Jack Jayner: Compared to my lifetime-best of 40.1 sec. for the 440 yard [1/4 mile], Travis is going about 17% faster in the 500 meter [546.8 yard] today. Your anchorman is your faster man so, from that view, Travis brings ‘er home.

Also, he’s better-spoken, better-looking, and more empathetic than me, and so is worth more in the endorsement market – which helps keep the family afloat despite corporate CEOs best attempts to ‘Titanic’ us all. Score two for Travis.

Then there’s the practical matter: it wouldn’t be aesthetic, or sanitary in a public place, to have a lightening bolt splat into a chunkasaurous with two laps to go. But if over-the-top ego wins it, I get the honor! Place your bets, and no fair bribing the coaches.

This photo by Tony Bernato, shows Jack Jayner in the white sweater and black gloves making an inside pass to win the Junior Boys 220 yard final at the 9th Annual Winter Ice Carnival, Wollman Memorial Ice Skating Rink in Central Park, New York City. January 16, 1960.

Junior boys were 12, 13 and 14 years old back then. The racing course was called the “safety track” - it was 110 yards long, parallelogram-shaped and had 4 blocks. There are eight racers in this 2 lap final. Not much protective gear back then.

9. As part of the US national team, you have lived in Marquette, Colorado Springs, and now Salt Lake. You are often on long, exhausting road trips to races. Do you ever feel like a skating nomad? What is home?

I really enjoy traveling and I feel very honored to have had the opportunity to race and compete in so many foreign countries. Of course, when you are on the road racing for a couple weeks or a month it is nice to return home.

Home for me is in 2 places. Here in Salt Lake City, where I live, spend the majority of my time and train to be the best short track speed skater possible.

Home is also where I grew up in New Brunswick. A lot, not all, of who I am as a person came during the years I lived in NB so, a little bit of “Home” will always be there.

10. Speedskating can be a physically, technically and emotionally brutal sport, what do you find really hard & have to work on all the time?

All three.

Short track is amazing for these very aspects you mention. You have to be strong in all three.

You need to be physically strong to be able to compete in the amount of races we compete in during a competition.

You also have to be physically strong to be able to keep technique together so that you are being as efficient as possible and at the same time keeping your mind and emotions in check.

There are a lot of races in short track, you need to keep your emotions pretty even and not like a rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs.

11. What is really great about right now, what is really hard?

Opportunity and Expectations. The opportunity I have is great. I am going to represent the greatest country in the world at the Winter Olympics and I am expected to win.

It is great to be in the moment I am in right now, I am really living the dream you could say. I have pushed so much to get to this point in my life and I am enjoying every minute of it.

12. Name 3 athletes that you admire, and why.

Roger Federer, Jon Olsson and Shani Davis. All three are great champions.

I admire Federer for a few of reasons. One is his determination to win. He seems unstoppable at times. He seems to play the game of Tennis smarter then anyone else. I also admire the way he improved himself mentally.

He used to have a very poor attitude and get frustrated by his own play when he was coming up in the tennis ranks. It wasn’t until he got control of his emotions that he started to win major championships.

Jon Olsson is a professional freestyle skier. I admire his creativity on the slopes, his lifestyle and his business savvy.

Jon always seems to be having fun when he is skiing and I think that is what makes him great. I also love the art and creativity in skiing. Pushing your body physically while being artistic at the same time. Awesome!

Last but not least, I admire Shani Davis.

Shani has changed the way Long track skaters skate and train. He is smart, he has the best eye for technique in the world and he does it all on his own. He doesn’t have a coach. He has many people who help him but when it comes to training he does what he thinks he needs when he thinks he needs it.

He is independent and self-reliant. In terms of results, Shani is as close to Eric Heiden as we will ever see. He can do it all and he has done it all. He is amazing and he is one of the most caring and genuine people I have ever met.

13. You are skating the 1000m and the relay at the games. Your body has become ready for this from a lifetime of effort. How are you training your mind to be ready?

I am trying to see these races at the games as races anywhere else. Short track is short track whether it is the Olympics or a local competition.

14. No elite speedskater steps to the starting line alone, so many help along the way. Here is your chance to say thanks to those who have been there for you:

  • The coaches of the Riverview Speed Skating Club who got me started.
  • The Galliot/Black household
  • Kevin Artichuk
  • The Montreal International Speed Skating Club
  • My friends from Riverview and Montreal who have encouraged me all along
  • The Bedfords
  • The Midland Speed Skating Club
  • My current coaches and teammates, impossible without all of you.
  • Steve Blick at Oakley
  • Randy Olshen at H2O Overdrive/Innovative Health Solutions
  • And, of course, my family

Haiku Speed round.

1. You are a painter as well as a skater, here is a good place for some of your work:

2. What is your favorite ice workout ST workout, that is a regular part of your training diet.

I love it all and in short track I think you have to.

3. Who are the 3 speedskaters you would pick to help pack a U-haul with, and share pizza & beer with afterwards.

Alex Izykowski, Ryan Bedford and J.P. Kepka

4. A quote that gets you fired up:

from Lance Armstrong

5. Movie you never get tired of seeing?

Lost in Translation.

6. What was the best Halloween costume you ever had as a kid?

I was “King Travis” one year with a homemade metal crown.

7. Name a really expensive habit you wish you could afford?

Cars.

8. When wandering past a Barnes & Noble endless magazine rack, what ones do you reach for and flip through?

Freeskier or Powder

9. Most full time athlete struggles with injuries, what have been your weak spots?

If I have any “weak spots” they would have to be my hips. They just seem to be tighter then a speed skater would normally want their hips to be.

10. If you could travel through a time-tunnel and give your teenage self a few words of sage advice, what would it be?

Patience Travis, Patience.

Good luck Travis! We are all rooting for you in the O-Games!

Bonus pic: This is Travis in Mexico, with a young figure skater. It shows what a terrific ambassador for speedskating he is, and also touching his left hip to the ice, showing some serious ST ninja skills.

Zen-10 Questions: Tucker Fredricks

Tucker Fredricks does not get the respect that he deserves as one of America’s best skaters.

Mass media has a short attention span, and other stories sucking up all the oxygen in the room, but if you look at world cup results, I believe in the past 4 years only Shani Davis has stood on more podiums for the USA than Tucker.

Here is Tucker, at the salt Lake world cup this year- even with a slip on the first turn, he was 3rd in this race.

Tuck was the overall world cup 500 champion two seasons ago, is in raging form this year, and is on the short list of people who are true medal contenders in Vancouver.

So why are my google news alerts for Speedskating filled up with news of other skaters?

Tucker himself is part of the answer, he is a low-key kind of guy, but it’s still wrong; so this interview is my small way to redress the media imbalance.

Welcome to the Blog Tucker!

Tucker: Other than the olympics, this is the moment I’ve been waiting for!

1. You won “fastest skater” competitions at youth hockey tournaments as a kid. When did you realize that you could be a very good speedskater?

I always thought i would be good at whatever sport I did. i started speedskating at age 8. Probably realized that I could be really good at 14 or 15 years old.

2. You have worked with Ryan Shimabukuro since you were 13. You have moved into the upper echelons of this sport together. What are the lessons was he drilling you on back then? Have they changed as you matured?

As a young skater, still in school, it was grades first. If you didn’t make the grade, you didn’t make the cut. Now, since we’ve been together so long, he trusts my judgment in the training aspect. If I feel I need more, I can do more. If I’m tired, he’ll let me sit one out.

3. I remember the day you broke Hiroyasu Shimizu’s 500m rink record at the Pettit national ice center. You made a statement that roughly said: “Well, Shimizu drives a Ferrari and I drive an old Mazda”

Does this show the challenges that American speedskaters undergo?

Shimizu was the first Japanese winter Olympian to win a gold medal so that made him rich and famous in japan. we are one of the few countries in the world if not the only one that does not get government funding and sponsors are scarce for Olympic athletes. So yeah its a little hard for us.

4. I have heard from other athletes, that the first time you go to the Olympics, it’s often about the experience/participation. But if you dedicate yourself to going over and over, you are sacrificing because you want to win. Does that feel true for you?

I don’t think I am sacrificing anything. I’m doing this because I love to do it. My parents are the ones that made the sacrifices.

5. Speedskating can be a physically, technically and emotionally brutal sport, what do you find really hard & have to work on all the time?

For the past 4 years, training hard has been fun for me, so the physical part is out. I try to block out things that make me emotional because that just leads to stress. So that’s out. I’m always working on technique. That’s the hard part.

6. Send me a photo that feels like “you” to you.

A perfect day in collalbo italy a few weeks before the 2006 olympics. From L to R, Kip Carpenter, a yawning Casey Fitzrandolph, Joey Cheek, me, K.C. Bouttitte

(Andrew Note: This is one of the most beautiful rinks there is, here is my picture from the tram that passes by the rink.)

7. Tell us something surprising about you or your life that those of us who know you through skating would never have suspected:

my aunt studied our family tree and i’ve been told we are directly related to sir isac newton

8. What is going on “under the hood” as you step to the start line in a 500m. What are you focusing on, what is your mental state?

Every time i step to the line i think i can win no mater how im feeling. i think i just tell myself “you got this”

9. It seems that more and more elite LT skaters are doing a ton of ST skating. I’ve seen you throw down hard on the ST yourself. Why do you think this is important?

It’s great for getting strength in the turns and over emphasizing the technique.

10. Sprinters are the ultimate technicians. Who are some of the athletes you admire, and why?

Shani’s turns. Nagashimas fluidity, Jojis straight aways. I just like watching them.

11. The USA has incredible mojo with the 500m at the Olympics. Fitzrandolph & Cheek, and before them Heiden, Mcdermott, Henry, Shea, Jewtraw. We are 7 out of 20 for gold medals in this men’s event.

Do you feel this pressure?

no pressure. i just want to make it 3 in a row for the U.S.A

Haiku Speed round.

1. Do you still have your first pair of skates? What are they??

yup. bauer hockey skates.

2. Favorite sprint-centric workout that you regularly do?

500m intervals

3. Favorite recovery food after a hard day?

mcdonalds. just for fun.

4. A quote that gets you fired up:

someones going to win. might as well be me. -Tucker Fredricks

5. Favorite city on the world cup circuit to find really good food?

I like japanese food, so, Nagano

6. Movie you never get tired of seeing?

dumb and dumber

7. What was the best Halloween costume you ever had as a kid?

power rangers. green ranger.

8. When wandering past a Barnes & Noble endless magazine rack, what ones do you reach for and flip through?

probably just keep walking..

9. If you could travel through a time-tunnel and give your teenage self a few words of sage advice, what would it be?

I could tell myself something but i probably wouldn’t listen

10. Most full time athlete struggles with injuries, what have been your weak spots?

lower back L4 L5 siatic nerv(SP) and shin fatigue

11. Why did you keep buying me drinks before the hall of fame banquet in April of 08? I ended up sledgehammered thanks to you. You had just won the 500m World Cup overall, I should have been buying you the drinks!

Andrew, that was my contribution to your blog.

12. I hear a number of the elite skaters are also golfers. Who is the best? Who is the best trash talker on the course?

Chad Hedrick is the best i think. The last four times i played this year i would have given him a run for his money. Tyler Goff is the biggest talker but he hasn’t come through for me when I’ve been on his team. Sorry Ty…

I want to end this with wishing Tucker the BEST of luck.

You might not read a ton about him in the run-up to the games, but there is an excellent chance the whole USA will know who he is the day after the 500’s.

Zen 10 questions- Pat Meek

I met Pat Meek as just one of the guys around the oval, and to be honest, I did not like Pat much the first year I spent a lot of time around him. He just rubbed me the wrong way.

But after a couple of rough years, Pat grew as an athlete and as a man, getting faster has humbled him in some key ways. I discovered that my early impressions were wrong, and now I am honored to count him as a close friend.

If you want a thoughtful conversation, there is no better way to find it than a recovery bike ride with Pat.

His father was a speedskater who tried very hard to “make it” and that adds to the complexity of his story

Welcome to the blog Pat

Hey Andrew! Good to see you made it out to Milwaukee.

1. Tell me about your father’s path in the sport.

My dad started skating seriously when he was 14. It was a sport that my grandfather did too. He skated throughout the 1970s and actually went over to Norway after ’76 to train and compete over there.

After a season over there he decided to head back to school to get his M.B.A. but he kept involved skating recreationally and as a coach.


2. And your mother is the balance to this?

Haha yeah. I am not even sure if my mom likes speedskating! After every race when I call home she asks me one question “Did you have fun?” Luckily most of the time I say yes.


3. You are a “bubble” skater, someone who is no sure bet for the Olympic team. It all comes down to how your skate on a particular day. Nervous?

The work is done. Now it is time to get it done.


4. It’s evident that you have “taken it up a notch” this year. What did you do differently?

After four years on the national allround team, I decided to leave the program. The decision was for a variety of reasons, but I think the decision was one of the best ones I ever made. My current coach, Matt Kooreman, is an amazing and he is exactly what I needed.

I needed to go back to old school “blue collar” training. It is the training I grew up with and believe in. I needed to lowwalk until I wanted to barf. Static sit until my legs were shaking. Bike up the mountain in the cold rain. And then do it all again the next day.


5. Tell me a few things you learned from your father, about skating

I think the big thing that I have learned from him is what a beautiful sport this is. One day we were out doing something and we saw a flock of birds all flying in a line. He looked over with a smile and said “Look it is like a skating paceline, all going stroke for stroke.”

He definitely has taught me a bunch about the sport and has been a great sounding board for me.


6. Send 2 pictures that feels the most like you, to you. One on skates, one off.

7. Tell us a few things you learned from Bart Veldkamp, and quotes from him.

Bart Veldkamp is a great coach and it was an honor to be coached by him for two seasons. He taught me a lot about skating and it is great to count him as a close friend now.

One of the big things that he really helped me with was believing in myself and how to race. There are too many quotes from him to list but I’ll to list some. “10ks are supposed to hurt!! That is the point!” “When you are good you are good”


8. You don’t seem to be scary talented, you seem to be a creature of hard work, even by speedskater workaholic standards. What have you done this year to “take it up” a notch.

I have no talent. I honestly believe most of the guys I skate, nationally and internationally, against have more talent in one finger than I have in my whole body.

But at the end of the day it is not who has the most talent it is about who worked the hardest over the last several years. This year, I feel like I have basically lived, ate and slept at the oval. I spend all my time at the oval or on my bike. But honestly those are times that I am probably most happy, when I am working and getting better.


9. I am heavily involved in the “Masters movement”, you have an interesting perspective for a national team skater, how did Masters skaters help your career?

I think Master play a very important role for skaing in particular at the club level. Master skaters are the reason I was able to have ice time and other facilities growing up. They provide a huge service to clubs and young skaters. Without them I don’t know where I would be right now.

I think there needs to be more analysis on how we can best use the resources that Masters have (money and power) and use it in a way that develops the sport as a whole.


10. You have a magic wand, what would you change about speedskating in the United Skates?

I think the biggest thing would be how we as a sport market ourselves. For God’s sake, we have a cool sport!! I think we need to do a better job of showing the greater public this sport. The Dutch do a great job of this.

I think another change would be a better system of developing our younger long track talent. We need to provide these kids with the opportunity to excel in sport, in the classroom, and life. A more structured environment for kids who are passionate about skating will be what helps us excel in 2018 and beyond.


11. Part of your learning process as an athlete has been finding out the little things you need to do to perform. Some of your methods are different- like what?

I need to skate. Skating as much as you can teaches you how to skate. If you need to skate twice a day, then you do it! I honestly believe that “off days” are the biggest waste of time there is. You don’t get any better by sitting around and watching the NFL on Sundays.

I am not saying that you have to go out and hammer everyday but you need to make each day count towards getting better. I also am a huge believer in doing lots of laps by your self. There is no substitute for going out and being able to hammer out workouts, in particular laps and tough intervals, by yourself.

Sure it is boring and hard at times, but tough. As my AP US History teacher Dr. Monahan told us “Life is hard then you die.” Morbid, I know but you get the idea. In addition to that all, most people who know me know that I hate “recovery” weeks. I despise them. I get grumpy, anxious and little things tend to set me off. I know I need them but I can’t stand them for some reason.


12. Who are the people who you need to thank, without whom you would never have become the athlete & man that you are.

I think first off I have to thank my parents. They have sacrificed a lot for me and have always been there for me in the good times and bad. They have also helped me grow as a man who realizes I have been given a lot in life and therefore it is my responsibility to advantage of those opportunities and give back. “For those much it is given, much is expected,” is a favorite quote of my dad.

I also have to thank the rest of family and my girlfriend. They have been there for me even when I haven’t been able to give back in return. Also a thank you has to go out to my coaches, Matt Kooreman, Bart Veldkamp Dan Carroll and my dad, for putting up with me and helping me succeed.

Zen Haiku Round
1. If you weren’t a national team speedskater, you would be???

Working at the White House Communications Department


2. Favorite recovery food after a hard day

Chocolate Milk

3. You have some of the most ridiculous legs in the sport, how did this happen???


Haha I have no idea. I am just aspiring to have bigger legs than Dr. Heiden.


4. At the endless magazine rack of Barnes & Noble, what do you reach for?

Velonews and the New Yorker


5. Best pair of skates you have ever had?

Simmons boots and Maple alloy blades


6. Pick something technically or physically, that you wished you could borrow from another athlete?

Johan Olav Koss’ engine


7. 3 fellow speedskaters to help you load a U-haul & share a pizza with afterwards

This is tough!! Johan Olav Koss, Nick Pearson and my dad


8. 3 emotions/feelings or sensations you commonly experience on skates

Lactate, Excitement and Peace


9. Best day of skating in your life so far.

Skating my first world cup race in 2007


10. Best Halloween costume that you had as a kid

The Ghost of Fourth of July… believe me it was sweet.

Postcard-China

This past week Hillary Clinton met with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabaoin in Bejing. About the same time, I received an email through my YouTube channel (224,000 views of my videos so far!) from a Chinese Long Track Speedskater.

So I struck up an email conversation with Fei Chen & asked him a number of questions. China is a mystery to many Americans, and I bet we can seem odd to them too. I truly think that through the common ground of sports, we can increase our understanding of each other.

Fei sent me some pictures, and I repost them here, along with our conversation. I found his answers fascinating. Here he is skating.

1. You mentioned in one of your emails that Speedskating is a required course in some high schools & university. Are there university classes in speedskating?

Skating courses are hosted in highschools and universities in Northeast China only, should be in 4 provinces, they are LiaoNing, JiLin, Harbin and Inner Mongolia.

Other provinces are too hot in winter. Say, there is only one and a half month Ice period in Beijing every year. 40 days.

2. You say speed skating is very popular. How many races are there? and how many people race?


Speed skating is very popular in northeast China only. Even in Beijing, it is still not as popular as Ping-Pong Ball or Badminton.

Anyway, skating is much harder to get start than other games. I don’t know how many people race in China.:( Suppose there should be more than 1000 in China).

3. Describe the track in these photos, is it a 400m track? It looks interesting & quite different than anything I have ever seen before.


The track is converted from former bomb shelter, it is a 310m track. I skate there every weekend and some Wednesday.

This bomb shelter was made in the period of cold war, now those fortifications serve for peace purpose!

4. Until this year, speedskating is only on USA television once every 4 years, during the Olympics. How much TV/Video coverage is there of speed skating in China? Or do you need to use the internet to watch skating?


Almost the same in China. Comparing all Chinese people, very little people interest with skating. I have to look for skating videos via Internet.

5. What is more popular in China, short track, long track, or inline speedskating?


Short track. Because the policy of “gold medal driven”, the short track is more popular. But I believe most of people cannot tell the difference between short track and long track.

(Andrew editorial note: Hmmm, the Chinese & American public seem quite similar!)

6. My own starting style is loosely based on Chinese Skater Fentong Yu, what American skaters do you look at & enjoy watching their technique?


I learned American skater’s starting style from TV and Video from Internet. It looks a little bit of strange, I tried several times, I think American style has an advantage in short distance game, like 500m.

7. If you could travel to one place in the world to skate, where would it be?


Netherlands of course! I dreamed to skate on the river from one town to another.

When I was a little kid, I lived nearby the forbidden city. My father taught me to skate, he and I skate on the river around the forbidden city.

I remembered one of my leg fell into the river because the weak ice. Another young man fell into the river due to there was a hotwater pipeline under the river, so the ice above the is very weak. Finally he saved himself!

8. What kind of skates are you using in these photos? and is it hard to find equipment in china? are there skate shops?


a native Chinese product, named Fei-Hang (http://www.fhbd.com/products/product.asp). the professional equipment is a difficult to find in China. Some amateur device, like Hei-Long skates, is popular and easy to buy.

Some of my skater friends bought Maple and Viking skates via professional team, even second-handed from Chinese National Team. For my opinion, Fei-Hang is half professional equipment; it is good enough for me.

9. Are there many clubs where a skater can get good coaching? Are the skaters mostly young, or are there older skaters in China? what we call “Masters” speedskating, racing by people older than 30, is becoming more & more popular here in the USA.


There should be some “half-professional team” for young players in northeast China, some of them have chance to be promoted to province’s professional team even national team. The club is not popular in China.

Most of my skater friends in Beijing are over 40 years old.I am 31 years old. Suppose there should be more young skaters in northeast China

10. When you are not skating, what else do you do to keep in shape?


The track is open for all season, because it is converted from bomb shelter under the ground!!! Some time I skate inline speed skating. I have a pair of old fashioned 5 wheels in-line skates.

Also I like badminton.

Fei Chen did a 500m race recently, and here was his prize for winning! I think that is a bar of Russian chocolate!

Thanks Fei, I really appreciate the time you took to write these answers. Someday I’d like to race for chocolate as well!

Fei is a software engineer, and our conversations also strayed into the economic crisis. It is hitting hard there too.

Zen 10 questions: Katherine Reutter

It was US championships in December 2007, as the skaters were being introduced & called to the start I noticed this redhead who gave an absolutely huge smile when her name was called.

(all photos in this post are from the amazing Tom DiNardo).

At a moment of supreme stress, she seemed incredibly relaxed and happy. Katherine Reutter went on to simply dominate all the races, throwing huge outside passes, and saying to the rest of the athletes “catch me if you can”. None could.

I later learned that in qualifying for this meet, she had unofficially broken the 9 lap time trial world record. Who was this person?

After a number of conversations at the rink, and meeting her folks in the stands at the world cups, now I have an idea who this remarkable indivudal is, and am proud to welcome her to my little home on the web.

onward to the interview!

1. So what is the origin of that huge smile I see on your face when you step to the start line? And has it changed?

Smiling at the line has never been something I’ve thought about… You go through every round hoping to make it to the finals and it’s such an honor to be introduced as one of the top skaters and to be representing your country at world cups that smiling just seems so natural.

I’m also so appreciative of all the people in the stands who come to watch and cheer that it’s the least I can do to acknowledge how much their support fuels me.

2. In years past, you were known as a crazy strong skater with questionable technique, what are the things you have worked on to change this?

A lot of technique just comes with practice… I keep track of all the technical things I need to change by writing down what they are and I what I need to do to fix them.

Then I focus one just 1 or 2 things until it’s committed to muscle memory and move on to the next. But even then when race time comes around I fall back into a lot of bad habits.

If I’ve learned anything about technique in the past few years it’s that you just have to keep practicing. It sounds so easy! But it’s not!

3. Your Dad told me that he introduced you to lifting weights at age 9, and you really liked it. What are your memories from then?

I can hardly remember a time in my training when I haven’t weight lifted! That’s what really helped me when I never had the same advantages on the ice as other girls, but I was able to develop strong muscles.

My dad was a great coach and I had fun weightlifting then and now because it’s the only work-out where week to week you can see improvement; whereas with other training you have to remember the big picture and know that your work will pay off eventually.

4. Your dad also mentioned “mean girls” as a huge motivation for you to excel. I’ve heard other female athletes talk about this. Is this different than what men experience?

It is different from what men experience because all the men teams I’ve worked with have been so competitive that every practice they’re striving to win and most of their differences are settled on the ice.

Ladies, by nature, aren’t so cutthroat, but can be just as brutal off the ice. Speedskating is a difficult sport because we’re all so young and just want to fit in with our team that it’s easy to forget that you’re here for yourself and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

5. Speedskating can be a physically, technically and emotionally brutal sport, what do you find really hard & have to work on all the time?

Confidence is what I work on the most. Training comes with ups and downs so I try to be comfortable with myself, my effort, and knowing that slumps don’t last forever. It’s hard not to get frustrated when things aren’t going as well as you want.

6. Your dad told me that you two have a conversation every six months, about “is this what you really want to be doing?” Have those conversations got easier or harder as you have gotten older & reached the upper levels of the sport?

They’ve gotten harder. With great risk comes great reward… or great heartbreak. I know that this is what I want to be doing it’s just those moments after the heartbreak when I need some comfort from home.

7. What are the hard things you have to work on, on a daily basis, to excel?

Positive thinking. It’s the difference between 1st and 2nd

8. From your perspective as one of the truly fast, what are the tiny things that separate first through 10th place?

Mental toughness! At the end of a race it can come down to strength, but every day and every round depend on how motivated, smart, and positive you are.

9. What is GREAT about your life right now, what is really HARD?

God is the greatest thing in my life. It’s easy to forget all the things he does for us, but no matter what I’m dealing with he’s there to take my stress away and show me the right way to go.

The hardest thing about my life is being away from home and not having enough time to be normal. My life is probably 85% skating with 15% leftover for family, school, and friends… I hate not having time or energy for other really important things.

10. Who are the people that you really need to thank, who have been with you every step of the way?

My parents and grandparents have never missed a U.S competition.

My mom is my escape when I’m overwhelmed, my dad is who pushes me through the toughest times to come out on top, and my Grandma and Grandpa are so inspirational because I know how much they believe in me every time I step to the line.

And Coach Mac who is who taught me the power of positive thinking.

Zen Haiku Speed Round

1. Favorite food after a brutal training day?

A big plate of pasta with lots of cheese and meatballs!

2. Best Halloween costume you ever had as a kid?

Pink power ranger!

3. Do you still have your first pair of skates? What are they?

I think so… they’re quad skates that fit on top of toddler shoes and the wheels barely roll!

4. How many scars do you have from skating?

1- knee surgery.

5. At an endless magazine rack at Barnes & Noble, what is the one that you always reach for?

Hmmm… Glamour. Or a cooking magazine.

6. When you need to decompress from skating, what do you do?

Go home.

7. Do you have a few words of motivation I can tell my daughter, or other female athletes, as they contemplate the effort required to excel?

Have the courage to be great. You’re more powerful that you could ever imagine if you just go for it.

8. Magazine or book under your bed right now?

Captivating by Stasi and John Elderedge.

9. When you picture “perfect speedskating technique” what pops into your mind’s eye?

J.R Celski’s relaxedness, Apolo’s power, Anthony Lobello’s pivot, and Jeff Simon’s fight.

10. Do redheads have more fun?

Always : )

Zen 10 Follow-up, Jennifer Rodriguez

(if you have not seen it, be sure to check out my HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT just after this post)

but onward to my first Zen-10 questions follow-up

I have several google news alerts that tell me when speedskating news appears on the web.

When an alert popped up that JEN RODRIGUEZ was coming out of retirement for another shot at the Olympics, I stalked around the office that I now work in, and tried to tell anyone who would listen about this great news (I received the quizzical looks that most folks give to speedskaters who get excited about something).

Given the scarcity of good news sources for anything deeper than just race results, I realized that if I didn’t ask Jen some of these important questions, who would?

So first of all, let me holler out, on behalf of so many, WELCOME BACK!!

1. You have 2 Olympic medals in your pocket, you have won world championships in both ice & inline. So why the comeback? Is there business left unfinished?

My original intention after the 2006 Games was to continue skating, but I was so overtrained and burned out, the thought of skating made me sick.

It wasn’t until this past November that KC finally got me on the ice at our local rink here in Miami. The first step on the ice, I realized how much I missed it. I actually started to get a little teary eyed.

That’s when the thought of trying to make a comeback happened. I played around, back and forth with the idea for a while and made my decision in January. So to answer your question, I just love skating and did not want to end my career the way I did.

2. You have been a professional skater your whole life, but the last 2 years have been away from the sport. What did you miss? What didn’t you miss?

I absolutely miss the professional athlete lifestyle. It can be hard at times, but real life sucks big time! Physically it’s not nearly as demanding, but the stress level is no fun.

Right now I’m working 12-14 hours a day. I enjoy what I’m doing, but I don’t love it. At least as a skater, when times are tough, you’re doing something you love.

3. Do you have a particular picture of you, or you & KC, which represents the past 2 years. Will send it separately.

Here’s our picture…This is how the last 2 years have felt for us.

4. You spent a lot of time since you retired working on Track cycling, are there lessons that Track can bring to speedskating?

I spent about 10 months with the whole track thing. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I also think it was too soon for me to try and come back to competition.

The main lesson I learned was that no matter you do, you have to work extremely hard if you want to achieve success. I had a lot of work to do to make it in track and I wasn’t ready to commit the time nor the energy to it…at least not at that point.

5. You have had 2 very successful Olympics, 98 & 2002, self-analysis is so essential in a sport like long track, looking at your Olympics in 2006, what are you changing looking forward to 2010.

My main problem in 2006 was overtraining. By the time I got to the Games, my body was almost in complete shut down. My motivation level was zero, I could barely skate 2 laps without dying, I couldn’t sleep and was living off sleeping pills (mind you, I can sleep in the middle of the highway) and I had a constant numbness that covered my shoulder blade down through my left arm.

If you don’t learn from that experience, something is wrong with you.

There are a lot of things I will go back and change. The most important will be making sure I’m getting the proper rest. I’m no spring chicken anymore and I’m going to have to be very careful, especially now that I’m playing catch up.

6. When I wrote you asking about your comeback, you replied “, I’m on my way back and maaaannnn do I have a lot of work ahead of me.” Like what?

For me, at least I’ve stayed in somewhat decent shape. I’ve lost a lot of weight, mostly muscle, so I’m going to have to work extremely hard to get that strength and power back.

It was always a weakness for me anyway. And, even though I’ve been on the bike a bunch, it’s still not the same as skating. Sitting in that position is going to take some work to get back.

7. What did you miss about not being a full time skater? What didn’t you miss

I miss taking naps! I love sleeping. I miss my teammates and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss traveling.

You do so much traveling you actually get sick of it, but when you’re cooped up for two years with no travel, it can drive you insane. Right now, I’m completely stir crazy.

8. I asked Jessica if she wanted to ask a question, here is what she came up with.

You & your husband are obviously both very competitive people, how does that affect the dynamics of your marriage, considering that you participate in the same sport, and often train together?

When it comes to daily life, I think I’m more competitive than KC. Maybe that’s because he beats me at everything and then laughs at me.

On the ice though, there’s no competition. We were always good about leaving the ice on the ice. We rarely brought skating home.

9. You were consistently among the top skaters in the world for several years. From your perspective as one of the truly fast, what are the factors that sorts out who is 1st, 3rd, 8th, 12th? Everyone is talented; everyone tries really hard, what creates those tiny differences?

I think a lot has to do with natural ability. Some people have it, some don’t, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a great athlete.

I think the quality of each exercise and workout make a huge difference. A lot of people work hard, but don’t pay attention to fine details. They kind of just go through the motions.

When I’m training and skating, I’m always thinking about my position and how to make it stronger and more efficient. Plus, when I race, I just go for it. You can’t be afraid of the pain. It’s always going to hurt.

10. When was the last time you walked out of the Utah Olympic oval? what were you feeling & thinking, and what do you think will be in your heart when you return in May?

The last time I walked out of the Oval was before the 2006 Olympics. I didn’t think it would be over after that.

To tell you the truth, my long track skates are still apart from the trip home from Torino. I think they’re in a closet somewhere.

I’m not sure how I’m going to feel when I get back. Probably a mix of emotions, both good and bad.

11. What do you define “success” as, in this return.

Coming across the line knowing you put everything out there. If you have a smile on your face, then it’s success.

Haiku Speed Round

1. When I moved to Salt Lake City, I had a bunch of speedskaters help me unload the U-haul, it was a world class moving crew!!! What 4 skaters would you pick, from any era, to help you load/unload your U-haul, and eat Pizza with afterwards?

Eric Heiden, KC Boutiette (of course), Dave Tamborino, Nick Pearson

2. Tell us about things you have added to your life since you were last on the ice? Hobby? Pets? Skill?

Two rescue dogs, Suki and Chuck. Own and operate my own bike shop. Went to a broadcasting school and graduated. Currently doing a sports internship at the local NBC. I love wakeboarding. I got a long board (skate board). Recently acquired Guitar Hero 3!!!

3. Most full time athlete struggles with injuries, what are your weak spots?

Bursitis in my right hip flexor.

4. Should Florida re-hold it’s democratic primary? And how?

I wish I cared about politics, but I can’t get into it. I vote, but that’s about it.

5. You get to do one more race, and then your career is truly over. What distance is it & where is the race held? Ice? Inline?

1000m Ice race. Thialf, the Netherlands

6. You are in the sponsorship hunt yourself, with medals & world championships on your resume, where should potential sponsors contact you?

My agent Rhiannon Ellis at Rhiannon@movesmgmt.com

7. Favorite Rink outside of the USA?

Hamar

8. Favorite food after a brutal training day?

Pizza and a root beer or vanilla cream soda…exciting I know.

9. Best pair of skates you have ever owned?

A pair of pink quad roller skates. I won a race at the 1993 World Championships in them. I still have them, I still skate in them and I still love them

(thanks to Jim white for mentioning this picture in the comments)

Jen on pink skates

10. If you could travel through a time-tunnel and give your teenage self a few words of sage advice, what would it be?

I’m not sure. I think I needed to have all those awkward experiences to become who I am today. I feel so old and experienced now. I guess the one thing I would tell myself is not to worry about all the little things. Back then the little things used to be such a big deal. They really weren’t.

Zen 10 Questions: Trevor Marsicano

During Master’s Worlds, a number of Europeans came up to me and said “and who is this Trevor Marsicano??!?!?!”

I did not understand why they were asking, but then I saw a printout of results from Junior World Champs, AND TREVOR HAD WON THE 3K!!!! AND SET THE INNSBRUCK JUNIOR TRACK RECORD!!

Trevor went on to finish 3rd in the overall samalong; here he is on the podium with Dutch skaters Sjoerd de Vries and Tim Roelofsen, (pic from pzc.nl).

Junior world championships are often an indicator of tomorrow’s stars. Just looking at the list of who has placed highly in this event over the years, you can see some amazing names. It’s also been 14 years since a USA junior man stood on the final podium.

After his accomplishment at Junior worlds , racing a 3k at the Pettit during the America’s cup, Trevor broke Derek Parra’s 3k track record, (Derek skated a 3:55, Trevor a 3:51).

This is running with some heady company! Do we all have ringside seats to the arrival of a new force in long track?

I know Trevor somewhat, as he skates in Saratoga Springs, and is an Alumnus of the snows of Lake Placid. So first of all, Trevor, welcome to the blog!

Thank you Andrew for giving me this opportunity. I’ve had an exciting year and it’s great to have a chance to share my story.

1. This is your first time on the podium in a major international event, what was running through your mind as you stood there?

I was just like “WOW!” When they announced “from the United States of America” I was so proud to have the opportunity to represent our country. It was also a moment where I realized that my thousands of hours in a skating position and hard work had paid off.

I couldn’t help but thank God for providing me with this opportunity to have this great experience and I was thinking of everyone that has helped me get to the podium.

2. Junior skaters face many challenges; For example; how do you balance being a student and trying to excel at the top level.

I worked really hard to finish high school my junior year. It was a goal I was able to achieve. This year it gave me a chance to see if I could take my skating to a higher level and think about what direction I want to head with my education. A summer goal of mine is to find a way to bridge the two together next year.

3. You competed in both the world junior short track champs, and the world junior long track meet. How different were those experiences?

As far as the competitions go, in long track, it’s just you and the clock. You’re trying to be the fastest time. Also you may have either 1 or 2 races and that’s it. In short track it’s you against the other skaters in your heat trying to advance through to the next heat or final. If you’re successful you have many more races. If you advance to the next heat, you have very little time to get ready for your next race. You have just enough time to cool down, sharpen, warm-up and race again.

4. There are many Elite US skaters who mix long & short track, Shani Davis, Tucker Fredericks, Charles Levielle, etc etc.

It’s a unique aspect of how American skaters approach the sport. How do you combine training for Short/long track? How does it help?

Well the off ice training is the same for each sport. Of course, the on ice training is very different. Whichever discipline my next competition is whether it be long track or short track, that’s the one that I will train for on the ice. Each sport helps the other one in many different ways. I believe my short track history has made me strong in long track. For example, short track has made my long track corners very strong. Long track has helped improve my short track skills. For example, it helps with what little of a straight away there is. I could go on forever on how each sport helps me in the other.

5. Here is an image from the always excellent website OhnoZone:

Those are some pretty phenomenal skaters that you are blasting off the line with! You are on the left, then we have Shani Davis, Apollo Ohno, Misi Toth, whoa! Were you a little intimidated going to the start line?

Yes I was (haha). I was scared to be honest. Once I got off the line it felt like a huge explosion from everyone bursting off the line. I was excited to be on the line with them but petrified all at the same time. It was a great learning experience!

6. It seems to me that in speedskating, an excellent season is often earned in the arduous training leading up to the season. In your pre-season, can you give an example of a super hard training day that helped you earn these fantastic results?

I would wake up and go to the weight room and lift super heavy for 2 hours. Then I would come home, get something to eat, go to work for the afternoon.

Then I would have a 3hour dryland workout filled with dryskating, jumps, turnband and other various exercises with a weight vest on my back for the entire workout.

7. Speedskating can be a physically, technically and emotionally brutal sport, what do you find really hard & have to work on all the time?

Making the best with what you have to work with (i.e. a bad race, lack of ice time, and/or sickness) and no “excuses”. You have to decide in your mind that you are going to overcome every obstacle in your way and still achieve success.

I feel like that is what I am constantly working on. Not just in skating but in life also. You have to keep forging ahead despite the adversities you have to face.

8. Tell us something about yourself or your life that those of us who meet you through skating might never suspect:

I had a difficult middle school experience. I was a good kid, had good grades, and never got in trouble. I was quiet and shy (quiet people can be misunderstood).

It made me a target for kids who gained power from tormenting kids like me. Once day after standing up for a student I was assaulted. The administration did not handle the situation well and one tormenter turned into fourteen by the end of the year. As a result of the despair, humiliation, and loneliness I began to suffer with depression.

While I still battle from time to time I am proud to say I have learned how to manage it so it doesn’t control me, my life, and who I can be anymore.

9. What is one thing you would encourage young skaters like yourself to do?

One thing my parents have always encouraged my sister and I to do is to volunteer and show respect to the people who have made a difference our lives. You never know when you will have the chance to make an impact on someone, kind of like a ripple effect.

When I was in third grade, Pat Maxwell came into my class and talked about the Olympics and speedskating. A few years after that, I needed a change from hockey and something to help me through my difficult middle school years. So I remembered Pat coming into my third grade class and thought I would give speedskating a try and here I am now!

10. Even though it was your legs & lungs & soul that skate, no one truly steps to the starting line alone. Who are the people who you would like to thank, who have been such a part of your results this year?

God and Jesus have guided and carried me through all the good and bad times (I am strong in my faith and proud to admit it), a super supportive family, awesome coach, great friends and fans.

I would like to give a shout out to my sister Sam (the best sis ever, pictured here), my parents, Liz and Paul Marchese, Mark Boudreau, Pastor Buddy Cremeans and Northway Church

Zen Haiku speed round

1. Favorite post-workout recovery food

Apples

2. Current long & short track skates/blades setup.

Long track - Marchese’s & Maples.
Short track - Marchese’s & Maple Golds.

3. Do you miss hockey?

I miss the sport of Hockey

4. You brought the crowd to its feet in Saratoga Springs short track race, Lapping the pack twice in the 3k. Good memories?

I could feel the energy in the rink. That was inspiring to have that kind of support which fueled me on.

5. Do you have a myspace account? it seems as if the majority of your generation does.

Yes I do - www.myspace.com/trevo2000

6. 3 songs that get you fired up.

Believe by Suzie McNeil, Rebirthing by Skillet, and Whispers in the Dark by Skillet

7. Apollo Ohno talked about his 500m gold medal as “the perfect race”. What is the closest to “the perfect race” you have ever skated?

Probably my 3000m in Innsbruck

Here is trevor’s 3k on YouTube (I am not sure who shot this, but I assume you would grant Trevor copyright?)

8. So you have a special thing for the 3k, in both short and long track. Why? Genetics? Hard work? Willpower?

It is a very character building race for me.

9. What movie could you watch over and over?

Facing The Giants

10. Magazine or book under/next to your bed right now?

Bible

11. How many times did you fly to races this year? And what do you never leave home without?

At least 12 times and I always take my skates (haha) and my bible.

12. Do you have a pre-race superstition?

A quick prayer is always a must.

Thanks Trevor for your answers!

I end this particular Zen 10 with a funny thing about one of the first times I crossed paths with Trevor.

I always talk about the fact that Metric speedskating is ultimately you vs. yourself. In 2004 I skated the Charles Jewtraw allaround in Lake Placid, and I made up some “awards” for the skaters who improved their personal bests by the widest margin at the meet.

I made the awards out of some worn inline wheels, wheels from the first pair of speedskates I ever owned. I picked worn wheels to recognize all the hard work that goes into going faster than you have ever gone before.

In one of his first long track meets ever, Trevor won one of these; as we were corresponding & creating this interview, he sent me a photo of himself with this award!

Seeing this made my day. Keep on keeping on Trevor!

Zen 15 Questions: Chris Witty

It was just another race day at the oval earlier this year, and I was scheduled to race a 1000m. I was getting lots of razzing by my friends about if there were any bets on the outcome of who would win, myself or my pair that day.

This kind of surprised me, since I was just racing my friend Chris.

Oh, yeah, wait a second, it’s THAT Chris! Chris Witty. The woman’s Gold medal winner at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, who has had the 1000m world record off and on over the years. (also she is one of a tiny number of athletes to have been to both summer & winter Olympic games)!

But to me, she is just Chris, and all that other stuff is a far distant “smoke-on-the-horizon”.

I wish I could accurately paint a picture of the thoughtful, down-to-earth, low-key person I have gotten to know around the oval.

Oh wait a second, I CAN!!!

Most interviews I do are “Zen 10 questions” Chris was so fascinating, she merited the first Zen 15!

Welcome to the blog Chris, we have had so many conversations hanging out on the spinning bikes at the Oval, I am not even sure where to start!

Why did you pull out of that race? Were you worried that you might lose to a girl?

Andrew: Hey! I raced! you just don’t remember that was me because you were chasing my anonymous blue skinsuit the whole way! I did go faster that day because I could hear your claps catching me in the last 200m!

Anyway, onward to the interview!

1. You have decided this is your last season. As I watched you race your final race, a 1000m at world single distance champs, I found myself tearing up. What did you feel on the start line, & what is in your heart right now?

I had an emotional moment at the start line and as I left the ice. It’s hard to believe that it’s all over. I will always love this sport and even if I won’t race anymore I won’t be a stranger. I’m also looking forward to new challenges in my life, whatever they may be.

2. I was glancing over your 14 years worth of results on speedskatingresults.com. What do you feel looking at that list, and do any particular memories jump into view.

The last few years were not good but I have a lot of accomplishments that I am proud of, especially the three Olympic medals I have won. I think as time goes by I appreciate these medals more and more.

3. Several of us expressed the idea that the ritual wrestlers do upon retirement, the “Rulon Gardner” leaving of the shoes in the ring, is wonderful. Should speedskating have an equivalent ritual? What would it be?

It would be pretty tough to take your skates off on the ice and leave them at the start line so I don’t think that would be good.

Maybe after their final event is over and after the awards have been given the retiring skater could casually walk over, place their skates on the podium and walk away. I don’t know if that would work either but what else you could do?

4. Your career connects the Blair/Jansen era with the current generation; do you feel a responsibility to pass on stories to other skaters, like the “sacrifice to the skating gods” bonfire done in Butte?

How did you know I was part of the great sacrifice?

It happened a few days before the National Championships (92/93 season I think) in the middle of the ice rink. We were still juniors who were being corrupted by a couple of senior skaters.

We all brought something to the fire to sacrifice to the skating gods. I think I brought an old skate rag that I held up and said “may we all have dry skates that will never rust”, threw it in fire and danced around the fire. Others brought speedskating related items like training programs, sharpening equipment, even an old skate.

The skating gods were good to me since I made my first ever World Sprint team, however, I have never seen anyone so mad when Mike Crowe found out what we had done. Some of the ashes had blown on to the ice, which upset Charlie, the zamboni driver.

Crowe scolded the entire junior team while the senior skaters sat in the other room and laughed. We had a great time until that moment. Someone saved an ember from the fire and we had another fire the following year in Milwaukee near one of the skater’s house.

We didn’t get in trouble this time but I think that was the last sacrificial fire to the skate gods.

5. You have carried the flag for the USA at the opening ceremonies, won sprint world championships & a gold medal at a hometown games. Such a huge pile of memories. But is there a particular moment that sticks out in your mental catalogue?

I’m having a hard time thinking of one moment so I will name the most memorable.

  1. Racing my first Olympic race in Hamar, Norway in 1994
  2. Racing Bonnie Blair at the 1995 World Sprint Championships in Milwaukee.
  3. Setting the 1000m track record on normal skates in Thialf to win the World Sprint Championships in 1996
  4. Winning a silver and bronze in the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan
  5. Crossing the finish line with a new world record in the 1000m in the 2002 Olympics, & having to wait for the rest of the field before I knew that I had won a gold medal.
  6. Carrying the flag in the Opening ceremonies.

6. I once asked you about your gold medal and world record, and you smiled, shrugged, and said “ah, I got lucky!”. I’ve never mentioned it again, but whoa!!!!

What did you mean by that?

I meant a couple things with that. The Olympics is a special event. You can walk into the competition as a true favorite for a medal and walk out with nothing. You can also walk in with no expectations and walk out an Olympic champion.

In really high-pressure competitions anything can happen so sometimes you need a little luck. Speedskating is also a time trial sport and champions are determined by a fraction of a second.

At an Olympic level the top contenders have all trained hard, they’re talented and in the shape of their life. When you win a race by a small fraction of a second I always found it hard to think that I was better than the rest, just fortunate enough to win on that day.

I also don’t really like talking about myself so I think I just wanted to change the subject.

7. You have been on the world cup circuit for over 14 years. If there is such a thing as a road warrior, it’s you. What rock solid road trip strategies can you pass along to other traveling athletes? Things to never leave home without? Essentials to avoid losing your mind? Etc

Not losing your mind is important so try to avoid feeling like you are trapped in a hotel room.

Bring lots of DVDs, books and games. Depending on where you are traveling it might be important to bring some food or condiments from home.

I remember the 1992 Junior World Championships in Warsaw, Poland. The food was terrible so we were all starving. Kim Stryzkalski brought a huge bottle of ketchup from home and saved not only the US team but also a couple other teams from starvation.

The weekend after that we went to Kiev, Ukraine. We brought a box of food with us just in case the food situation wouldn’t improve. When we arrived the coaches gave them some pasta and sauce, which they cooked for us but only half of what we gave them and the entire box of food disappeared.

Once again we survived by smothering our food with ketchup.

8. A 2-time Olympian once said to me “Chris doesn’t try to be someone she’s not, she just puts a 25 meter rocker on her skates, and pushes hard. What did you think he meant?

I think I know who you’re talking about and I’m not really sure what he ment, but I will give it a shot.

I have always been open to trying new things. I think I have tried every type of clap skate and blade on the market, but at the end of the day I know what works for me and I stick with it.

It’s important to play with your equipment to find the best possible set up for you, but once you have found it “set it and forget it”. Some skaters will play with their equipment all season long and I often wonder if they ever get use to one thing.

9. What is the most incredible thing you have ever seen a human being do on skates?

Long track: I was on the back stretch at the 3000m start line and watched Hiroyasu Shimizu skate a world record with a killer last inner. He entered the last inner so low with a perfect line and no hesitation. Totally flawless!

Short track: I love watching Apolo Ohno go from back of the pack to the front within one lap. It seems effortless. He has a lot of body control and it almost looks like he can apply so much pressure to the ice that he can accelerate without really taking stride.

10. Do you have a core set of principles that you try and live by as an athlete? By this I mean the “little things” that help you to succeed?

Over the years I have noticed something with top athletes. The ones who make it to the top really know themselves well.

It’s important to do all the work that the coach puts in the program, but the athlete who can find their own way usually knows the best way for them.

Don’t get stuck just following, break away now and then and find yourself. Know your strengths and be truly honest to yourself about your weaknesses.

11. You are a very low-key and laid back person, yet Bart Schouten once described you as an “emotion” skater, are there ferocious currents running just beneath the surface?

Some skaters can turn it on and race near personal best times every weekend, even at summer time trials.

I’m not at all like that. I need pressure to perform and I’m usually at my best when people don’t believe in me. I like to prove them wrong.

12. You are consistently among the top sprinters in the world, and in the biggest meets, you were a frequently resident on the podium. From your perspective as one of the truly fast what are the factors that sorts out who is 1st, 3rd, 8th, 12th? Everyone is talented; everyone tries really hard, what creates those tiny differences?

I mentioned earlier that top athletes know themselves really well. At major competitions like the Olympics some athletes will tighten up, not skate their race, even choke under the pressure.

I think you have to be able to focus when it really counts. Maybe that sounds crazy because you would think everyone would be really focused when a big event like the Olympics come around, but the Olympics is the most distracting event you can ever compete in.

All of a sudden Mom, Dad, Uncle Bob and everyone you have ever known is watching, plus the amount of media is at least 10 times greater than normal.

Within 6 months of the Games US sponsors are suddenly interested in you and want you to win medals, and once you move into the Olympic village some athletes find it hard to relax.

The Olympic village can be noisy and it’s easy to spend most of your day playing video games, hanging out in the cafeteria people watching, or just sitting online all day. If you’re not careful the village, family, and media expectations can exhaust and distract you from what you came there to do.

On race day the media reminds you over and over again that this is the Olympics and you are here to win gold medals. A huge mistake athletes can make is focusing on the outcome of the race instead of the race itself.

You need to go to the start line focused on what it takes to go fast and worry about what place you will be after you’ve crossed the finish line.

13. Skating, when done correctly, looks effortless. The training and preparation for it is anything but effortless. What are the technical, physical, or lifestyle aspects to skating that you personally had to work very hard on?

The physical preparation for the sport is obviously very important, but everyone knows that and everyone works hard.

I would say continue to work hard but try to become as efficient of a skater as possible.

I believe there are some really strong and talented athletes out there that are not as efficient in their skating as they could be. Technique is so important for speedskating and something I have put a lot of time and energy into.

14. You have been to 5 Olympic games, have the games themselves changed since your first, and has speedskating changed?

I’ll start with speedskating. There are obvious things that have changed the sport like clap skates, rubberized skin suits and indoor ice rinks.

I think the generation of skaters that I come from had an opportunity to skate during one of the most exciting periods of speedskating history. We went from having a lot of our competitions outdoors on normal skates to having most of the competitions indoors and everyone on clap skates.

The largest technology advancements have been made during my generation and I have been able to witness, even take part in re-writing the history and record books. I always find it a little bit scary when I talk to skaters who have never skated outdoors or on classic skates.

Another way that speedskating has changed is an increase in prize money and sponsorship opportunities.

Before any of this existed I think the circuit was a little more relaxed. Everyone still worked very hard and they were focused but there was almost always a little party after a world cup. This was a great time to break down country/team borders and get to know everyone on the world cup circuit.

Now that skaters have a more professional opportunity they are less likely to cut loose after a competition. There is a lot more at stake today. Athletes are still social, especially if there is a Starbuck’s around, but not as much as it used to be.

My hope for the future is that the athletes will continue to be social and not get too stuck within their training groups/National teams. I also hope the sponsorship opportunities will continue to grow for everyone, not only the Dutch.

The way the Olympics are viewed in the US has changed. I remember watching the 1988 Olympics on TV and watching the entire event, or at least every US athlete plus the top 10.

The media coverage is now more focused on who is leading the overall medal count, and who the GOLD medalists are.

With some sports they have stopped showing the event and just show a recap of the medalists, which usual starts with some long, drawn out personal story of the media’s already chosen hero.

I enjoy the personal stories, but I also like watching the entire event (there maybe isn’t enough time to cover every sport in the Summer Games, but the Winter Games are still small enough). Why shouldn’t the event tell its own story?

I also think the strong focus on the overall medal count is taking away from the true meaning of the Olympics.

The principles of Olympism are being lost in the media. I bet most US athletes that have taken part in recent Olympics don’t even know Olympism is a real word.

“Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.” (Olympic Charter, Fundamental principles, paragraph 2)

For more information on Olympism, click here.

Maybe this is all a little too much but I have always been a huge fan of the Olympics. I wanted to be an Olympian before I wanted to be a speedskater.

15. You made the very difficult personal decision to go public with some awful experiences you had as a child, you expected that to be just a media blip, and it has become something far more. Was it hard to make that choice, and what have been the unexpected results of it?

It is a huge image risk to go public with a story like this but I never really cared much about my public image. I’m also aware that if I tell my story it will be published in a newspaper which can help raise awareness about child abuse.

If the average person told the same story it probably wouldn’t be published. Abuse of any kind exists because of secrecy and as I was working out my own personal issues I realized how important it is to break the silence.

Telling my story was my last step in the healing process but I also had other goals. I wanted my story to be inspirational to those who have been affected (1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18).

I hope that victims would be to use my story to stop their abuse and start the healing process. I also hope adults will be aware of the potential for abuse and learn how to talk to kids so abuse can be prevented.

The day this article in the Deseret News was published I received a lot of emails and phone calls from people who know me and wanted to share their stories, either about themselves or people they are close to. I have been able to encourage people to find help which I’m very proud of.

There are a few misunderstandings about coming out.

  1. I’m ok, if I weren’t ok with every thing I wouldn’t be able to talk so openly about what happened.
  2. Though speedskating is mentioned in my story it is not a speedskating article.
  3. Some reporters during and after the Olympics wanted to do sympathetic articles. I never did this for sympathy, I only wanted to heal and help others.

16. No elite athlete steps to the starting line alone, so many help along the way. Here is your chance to say thanks to those who have been there for you:

Of course I have to thank my family. My parents spent many weekends at the ice rink with me and my brother Mike. I also have to thank my brothers Brian and Clint for allowing us to take their parents away every weekend in the winter.

Coaches: John Chobot, Earl Liesle, Bob Fenn, Mike Crowe, Susan Sandvig, Nick Thometz, Guy Thibault, Gerard Kemkers, Bart Schouten, Tom Cushman, and Ryan Shimabukuro.

And thank you to Jerry Search for buying me my first pair of new skates.

Zen Haiku Round

1. Best pair of skates you have ever owned?

non-clap: Marchese boot, Zandstra blades.
Clap: Marchese boot, Finn Bendy clap system, Maple aluminum tube blades.

2. What city on the world cup circuit has the worst food?

Warsaw, Poland

3. What city has the best?

Collalbo, Italy

4. When I moved to Salt Lake City, I had a bunch of speedskaters help me unload the U-haul, a world class moving crew!!! What 4 skaters would you pick, from any era, to help you load/unload a U-haul, and eat Pizza with afterwards?

Eric Heiden, Eric Heiden, Eric Heiden, and Eric Heiden. The guy is a freak of nature and could probably still out squat any male skater in the US.

5. When you picture “perfect speedskating technique” what male & female skaters pop into your mind’s eye?

Johann Olav Koss (his technique never changes, even at the end of a race), Dan Jansen, Bonnie Blair, Jan Bos, and I loved watching Hiroyasu Shimizu in his prime.
Short track: Ahn, Hyun-Soo – one of the most efficient skaters I have ever seen.

6. Name 2 books that made a difference in your life.

1. Way of the Peaceful Warrior
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance :)

7. Favorite Rink outside of the USA?

Heerenveen, the Netherlands because of the great atmosphere. I also love Hamar, Norway.

8. Favorite place to relax, & what beverage are you drinking while relaxing there?

Sitting outside of The Coffee Garden on a sunny day enjoying a double tall, non-fat vanilla latte.

9. Do you get recognized very much? You seem to look redder on TV

Immediately after an Olympics yes, but that fades pretty quickly. I remember meeting a guy once who would not believe that I am who I am. He thought I could be the sister of Chris Witty but my hair is not red enough to be her.

10. If you could travel through a time-tunnel and give your teenage self a few words of sage advice, what would it be?

I should have been a better listener. I don’t know why I felt like I had to experience something to know what it is about. If I would have listened to other people’s advice I would have saved myself a lot of time and energy.

11. If your 2 beloved dogs took over your keyboard, what would they write?

Sirius, “I’m hungry.” Glacier, “I’m happy that you won’t travel as much so you can play with us and take us on longer walks.”

12. Name a really expensive habit you wish you could afford?

My current habit of sleeping in, drinking coffee and surfing the internet before I go skiing. Eventually I will have to get a real job. Somebody has to pay the bills.

13. Do redheads have more fun? Or is it all propaganda by our powerful, super-secret lobby?

Of course they do! Red heads rule! You know that!

Thanks Chris for your thoughtful responses!

I will take a moment of liberty on behalf of speedskaters worldwide and wish you the same sentiment expressed by Garrison Keillor at the end of his “Writers Almanac” radio show:

“Be Well. Do good work. And stay in touch.”

Zen 10 Questions: Chris Shelly

After a long search, US speedskating has hired Chris Shelly as US All-around National Team coach. Chris has quickly made his easygoing personality an important part of the community at the oval. I have enjoyed many conversations with him on a broad range of subjects.

In one of my rare moments of clear thinking, I concluded he would be an ideal person for the next Zen 10 interview! Welcome Chris!

These pictures are of Chris competing, some years ago, in both Austria & Montana! They are from the Baystate speedskating galleries; where they grant permission to use these images “respectfully” (I hope this qualifies!)

Chris is very funny, and he made me laugh here and there as we did this interview (so forgive my giggling behind the camera). This interview is a gold mine of information about skating, training, and Chris’ memories from his decades in the sport.

Click play to listen to each interview section:

Part 1
Chris talks about his own unique path he took towards becoming a national team coach, his experiences in Canada & how the Canadian system is different than the American one, and his opinions on old school training vs. modern training.

P.S. turn your computer volume up to max, my little camera has a fairly crummy microphone, and even though I edited the audio track on this interview extensively, Chris is a bit quiet.

Zen 10: Chris Shelly, pt.2

Part 2

Chris talks about what coaches influenced his own style, shares a fun Bob Fenn story, talks about his good friends in the sport, and recalls his own personal memories of the 1992 Albertville Olympic games.