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.

Champions Challenge Day 1 notes

For the first time in 4 years, I am not racing the Champions Challenge. Other things are going on that are more important than racing.

But I did take a few hours to watch the first day of racing. Around 100 athletes are racing.

This is the busiest I have seen the oval for a USA-centric race since Olympic trials. Catching up with so many of the good folks of the Midwest & East coast skate tribe is just life affirming & the racing is very exciting.

Yes I miss the sport, but I miss the people just as much.

I do plan on doing a video, but something happened at the races Saturday that deserves mention (and I am walking out the door in 10 minutes to go watch today’s action).

Bruce Conner, at 53 years young, qualified for the 2009 Olympic trials in the 500m! Skating a huge PB & mid 38 second 500m.

His final 100m technique looks the same as his opening 100m.

(bruce is just breathing in hard during this split second, really he is a trim guy)

We talked after his races, that we do this sport because it is so hard, and the rewards are so few. 98% is just pure determination and effort.

But on those 2% days, like Bruce had today, Nothing is as rewarding!

What he is doing on skates is so astonishingly hard, for any age, Bruce, you are an inspiration to us all.

Live WSD coverage

The world single distance champs is going to be LIVE on on the internet for the next couple of days. Click here to find out more.

MAR. 12 Day 1 – Men’s 1,500 m and Women’s 3,000m
3:30 - 6:00 p.m ET

MAR. 13 Day 2 – Men’s 1,000m; Women’s 1,500m; Men’s 5,000m
3:30 - 7:30 p.m ET

MAR. 14 Day 3 – Women’s 1,000m, Men’s 10,000m; Women’s 5,000m
3:30 - 7:30 p.m ET

MAR. 15 Day 4 – Women’s and Men’s 500m, Team Pursuit
3:30 - 8:30 p.m ET

DiNardo World Cup #1

Tom DiNardo’s high quality work got him one of the coveted photography passes, so he can watch the world cup through the lens of a camera.

He sent me a number of fantastic images-

Men’s 500m

This is Tucker Fredricks ripping thought the last turn of his 3rd place finish in the 500m.

I notice 2 things in this photo, Tucker is exhaling forcefully at this moment, that helps in power & relaxation, and also you can see the lane markers reflected in his glasses.

Women’s 1000m

Here is US national Sprint Champion Heather Richardson ripping it hard through a turn in the 1000.

There is an aesthetic moment in the speed skating stroke, when the leg is extended like this, that is completely distinctive and says “SPEED SKATING” even in the barest outline.

Full extension is not an absolute necessity for going fast on a clap blade. I could point out numerous world records set without full extension, but it sure is pretty.

The US Speedskating Logo is this moment. Heather does it tremendously well here. I have heard a long standing rumor that the skater on the US speedskating logo is actually from a photo of a Canadian woman. Someone should replace that with an outline of Heather here.

Not that there is anything wrong with superfast Canadian women, they do rock. But speaking of fast Canadian women, here is Kristina Groves, ripping it up on her way to a fine 6th place finish in the 1k.

Men’s 1500m

In all the years of sports I have done, NOTHING hurts like the last lap of a 1500m. Not a 3 hour bike race over mountains or playing 3 hockey games in one day. A 1500 is truly uniquely awful when you really go for it right from the gun.

Here is Trevor Marsicano, I bet he is in the last turn here. Ouch.

And these Next two images are of Shani, unlike Trevor, his expression tells me this is in the first half of his race.

Shani is a consummate technician, I called him a true Jedi in an earlier post, and I stand by that. His style is specific to his long limbs, but there is much to be learned here from how his shoulders & hips are set.

Jedi example: look how close his left boot is to the ice in the first image, it’s a paper thin margin. But I bet he never boots out (that is when your boots touch the ice during extreme lean angles, and you crash or stumble because of it).

Thanks Tom for these wonderful images!

Jessica Update

I am thankful I did not have to explain the concept of the Intensive Care Unit to RZ. I am thankful that at 4 months old she does not understand what is happening.

Although Jessica said she would sometimes catch her baby looking over at her in the hospital bed, with a sad expression.

I don’t want the terrible memories of the last few days to stay in my mind with any clarity. I want them to all go away, so I will not write them down.

But in the most general narrative, the story is this: for 4 days Jessica was not able to eat or drink anything; she was in terrible pain or completely out of it on heavy pain meds. Finally today her system got back on track.

She was able to eat & drink a little, and has improved measurably.

Jess could even walk… We had feared that she would end up with severe nerve damage in her feet from the arthritis, one of her feet has been completely numb for weeks, but that also seems to be slowly getting better.

The ICU is an awfully depressing place, and I am so thankful the Doctors are discharging her tomorrow.

Not good news

For the past few days, the weather was beautiful & cyclist/joggers/pedestrians were everywhere enjoying the sun. Spring was in the air; & Jessica’s health had been improving under large does of prednisone.

Although I felt guilty for being healthy (weird how the mind works sometimes) I dusted off the bike and have done a little bit of riding too..

Even though Jess has lost almost 15 pounds of muscle in the past month due to her illness, things felt hopeful.

The World Cup Long track final is in town this weekend, and I see national team jackets from every skating nation walking around downtown.

But then a blizzard comes in, and Jessica wakes up in the middle of the night in tremendous pain.

We end up in the emergency room, and then she is admitted to the hospital. A couple of feet of her digestive tract are not working anymore. This really, really hurts.

Here is the view from the window of her hospital room.

Yeah, so life pretty much sucks right now. I am not sure if I will make it to see any World Cup stuff & my own racing season is certainly over as well.

But I just don’t care— well, that’s a lie, I do care, but that part of me is very small & buried under an avalanche of vastly more important things. I’d gladly put every skate I’ve ever owned under a sledgehammer if it would bring her health back.

Most of “real life” seems so far away, like looking at the world through the wrong end of a telescope, or ill-fitting glasses, or some nightmarish kaleidoscopic hamster wheel of hospitals, drugs & doctors.

Jess says I can be a bit too dramatic about these things. Maybe I am, but this really sucks.


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.