The World Cup Circus

Remember when the circus would arrive in town, and transform some sleepy field or parking lot into a whirring, buzzing, neon cacophony of elephants, clowns, cotton candy and one huge Ferris wheel soaring up into the night sky?

Well, This coming weekend is the world single distance championships, and the normally peaceful Utah Olympic Oval is suddenly overwhelmed with coaches, trainers, fans, and skaters milling about in multi-colored warm-ups and suits.

Construction crews are everywhere erecting bleachers, TV crews are settling in, buses rush back & forth from hotels, and there is the constant hum of voices.

It feels like the circus is in town, like something special, dangerous, & extraordinary is going to happen in this strange, white building.

Here are some images.

A Korean and Japanese coach watching a Chinese Skater.

The Dutch media finishing an interview with a Dutch Skater. Oddly enough, the fellow in the Germany Jacket is not a German, it’s Gianni Romme, a multiple Olympic medalist for Holland, who now coaches German superstar Anni Friesinger.

Japanese Skaters… WHOOOOSH!! You can get windburn standing on the side of the rink when 3 human beings come whipping past you at extreme velocities.

Chris Needham traveling at warp 9. He skated a Personal Best of 35.1 last week in Calgary, and is poised to join the elite membership of the 34-club. His hard work has paid off this year with some exceptional races, placing him firmly in the top 20 in the world. Check out this knee drive/pressure! yeah…

Even though he won’t be able to hear me, I will be yelling for him every step he takes during this weekends racing.

2 trains worth of Canadians, one of women, one of men.

Why is it that so many European & Asian teams always are in perfectly matching suits/warm-ups-etc, and North Americans often display such a motley assortment of training garb & hats?

19 Responses to “The World Cup Circus”

  1. I’m looking forward to results of Martina Sablikova. The fastest women on 3 and 5 km distances this year. Crossfingers for her.

  2. perfectly matching suits/warm-ups-etc

    Hi Andrew, well done & let us know more and more from the middle of the action (centre of the universe).
    The suits (european/asian style) may have to do with the contractual obligation (sponsors; European) or/and cultural skatestyle (our Asian friends).
    As a matter of fact I prefer the” motley assortment of training garb & hats”. It reminds me of the colourfull outfits of balletdancers in warm-ups and classes- everybody having developed his own unique contraptions to keep their precious body warm and protected. I guess in wintertime, in balletclasses and in the skating rink - everything is possible according to needs, inspiration and style of the individual skater.
    Sure, some national outfits are splendid and add speed. Some are not. I hope I don’t insult canadian skate-fans. I would say that most of the canadians would skate -even- faster in some motley ensemble instead of their peanut garment. (Sorry).
    Sablikova is a miracle on skates - yes she is.

  3. Balud-

    Welcome to the blog from Czechoslovakia! I have been seeing lots of web-traffic coming from

    I too, am interested to watch Martina Sablikova, there are some skaters who are definitely more appreciated when you see them in person (for example: Shimizu), than merely via-TV/web footage.


    American skaters are under contract as well! And really should only be wearing their team duds.

    I asked Tucker Fredericks about the plethora of odd team wear last year, and he thought it was something to do with fierce individualism of North Americans.

    As for the Canadian suits, I will let one of my northern brethren comment on that!

  4. the first time I raced a 3k I had very little training and no experience to go on. In fact, proir to the race I had only skated 8 laps on the very inner lane once. My brother and dad had me watch some of our skating videos the night before and pegged Martina as the skater I would be able to emulate the most. Before my race, my dad reminded to skate like her…so I did. It was the funnest I’ve ever had racing, and I did reasonably well, too. I have Martina to thank for being my mental picture during those 7.5 laps!

  5. andrew, I think Tucker F. expresses a very recognisable feeling. He has a point about fierce individualism - just add a bit of casualness and there you are. I prefer the individuals - the more pittoresk the better. BTW Tucker skates like crazy these days (I promiss him a first place 500m).

    Mel, say thanks to your dad for his keen observation and smart tactics - what was your time at that 3K. (how did you manage the corners…)
    keep on pushing

  6. The non-matching, odd team wear? Is that because Tucker can’t get anyone else to wear that bright yellow farmer hat of his? Can’t blame them!

  7. Good to see the Japanese are finally discovering ankle bend. Still sitting way far back though. Good for maximizing the length of the push, bad for momentum and early muscle fatigue. Those long thigh bones are kind of a curse…

  8. The Americans don’t have to wear team uniforms; all they have to do is skate backwards and everyone will know what federation they represent!

    I should have worn my USA suit last week when I was skating laps with the Norwegians, so that everyone could see that sometimes American intellectual property goes so willingly with the Norwegians that they don’t even have to steal it

  9. Jules,
    sometimes it’s hard to appreciate your dad as a coach, but you’re right-he deserves credit this time. it was 4:45.05 at the pettit. and actually, the corners seemed the easiest! with a light quick tempo (paced mostly with armswing) I was able to stay relaxed and accelerate onto each strait. for most of the race, anyways.

  10. speedy brings up an exceptional point, that is worth noting..

    Every skater has unique & individual body geometries, and things like tibia-femur length ratios, hip width, etc.. affect your stroke.

    Some of the shorter Japanese skate with “Straight” shins up & down, The Dutch often skate with the knee waaaaaay forward over the ankle (and Needham does as well, as you can see in his picture, tall guys like Joey & Shani, you can REALLY see that).

    Certainly, there are National tendencies of what “ideal technique” looks like. But body type certainly counts…

    for example, I am 5 feet, 10 inches, but have very short legs & a long torso… my wife Jessica is 5′ 3″ & we have the same length legs!! It affects my skating…

    Every body type can go fast, this is an absolute truth, as you see every body type on world cup podiums. But techique is hugely influenced..

  11. mark says,
    in the bottom picture of the Japanese skaters, what kind of boot does the gentlemen with the silver boots have???
    thanks for the photos Andrew

  12. The Silver Japanese skates are from a Japanese company called Tokyo R&D (aka, Fuki).

  13. Perhaps the reason the Asians always are so uniform, even in practice, is the same reason ST skater Meng Wang was banned by her team from ST Worlds for giving her opinion to the press at the Asian World games. And remember, this is the same coach that many of the US skaters had an issue with, as well.

    Just my two cents, or maybe just a penny.

    On another note… I stopped by the Oval today for just a bit, and a Circus is an understatement. I’ve been to every International event held in SLC since the 2002 Olympics, except 1, and I’ve never seen it like this. Even walking up the sidewalk outside is like a being on a stage. Of course, this is bigger than a world cup, but still… You’ve gotta give the organizers a big hand for this one, so far. I hope it lives up to what we’ve seen so far, although I’ve never been disappointed with a LT event held here, so I don’t expect it this time around, either.

    May ALL the skaters skate well, and I look to see even more PBs than last weekend, and hopefully a couple more WRs. I’d LOVE to see Tucker take the 500m away from his good friend Kato, but it will be tough, as the one before that stood quite a while. And B Wang to take Cat’s would be great, too. You gotta LOVE her.

  14. Andrew, Speedy and all the other anklebenders,

    interesting this stuff about ankle angles and other skate-positionings of the skaters-body; and national tendencies (culturally influenced?). But don’t you think there are a couple of basic requirements in terms of body posture and especially ankle bend and balanced body structure? Looking at all the real fast boys and girls: they really seem to use ankle bend very efficiently. Yes, ankle bend is the skaters guardian angle.
    Sablikova - interesting to watch her skate. Just this morning there was an article about her training. Title: Skating corners in the straight parts. Her trainer works with her since het 10th (she is 19 now). He expects her to improve the WR 5k to at least 6.40. Martina’s training consist for large parts of numerous skeeler KM’s (I like that). One of the reason: poor ice conditions in Tsjechia. Well you know all this. Martina is making big impression with her corner-technique. After every corner she just keeps on stepping over till some 40 meters on the straight end. Accelerating as a real skeeler professional - I would say. Her trainer speaks of this technique as something they have developed over the years. They were ridiculised doing this. He calls it a new technique. Ennyways: maybe it’s not so new (maybe a very solid inline technique?) but she develops so well and so elegant so much extra speed in and after the corner — pure beauty.
    So Mel, here an advice of a father who never got his sons to skate: get on them wheels in spring-, summer- and all the time.
    good luck
    enjoy the races

  15. Where is this article you talk about Jules? Can you post a link?

  16. hi speedy,
    it was today in my morning paper “de Volkskrant” - I hope you know Dutch…. I tried to sort of paraphrase the most significant parts. Another funny thing is their financial situation. At first the trainer and Martina didn’t have much money at all. Now they are getting some income and the deal with Martina (and parents) with trainer is fifty fifty. The trainer’s income right now is around 1000 euros a month - around 1250 dollares. Not very much. Apparently this trainer and Martina are working in their homecountry with some 25 (very) young skaters…
    Let me know how your dutch is lately and we’ll see what we can do about it…
    ps. no link - you need a subscription ; they are very strict - so far i didn’t find the computer trick to copy their stuff and pictures..

  17. Does that newspaper title translate as “The People’s Rant” in English? If so, pretty cool name, if not, then my Dutch is even more non-existant than I had hoped. If you are able to cut and paste a version of the article here, that would be great. Maybe we can run through an online translation tool, or we can get Erik Kraan to translate it into Spanish. From there I can probably translate it into English. Sounds like an interesting article on many levels.

  18. I am interested too… but a little busy right now..

    feed webpages in other languages through

    one can generally get the gist of what is said.. and it’s often really funny the mistakes an automated translator makes..

    a speedskating skinsuit becomes a “package” for example…

  19. Speedy
    volk = people (connotation: plain people, normal people though I don;t know if we still have them in this part of the world. In contrast to people supposedly better or higher - through self-image or by popular demand)

    krant = paper

    volkskrant = people’s paper

    yes, you might say there is something “ranty” about this paper’s name.

    btw. this article was rather short and i gave you the skate-highlights. You’ll see her. She skates like this month of march - the other way around. Starting as a lamb finishing as a lion.

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