By Murray Gleffe, Correspondent
ASHWAUBENON- The Winter Olympics are less than three weeks away.
Interest in all sports is ramping up across the globe.
One in particular was put on the map years ago when Apolo Ohno took to short track speedskating and displayed his flair and charisma across the television screens for people to witness.
For those of you that know nothing about short-track speedskating here you go.
It began in Canada and in the US around 1905 on an oval track.
After years of not being in the Olympics, it debuted as a demonstration sport in the 1988 games in Calgary and then became an official sport in 1992 (Albertville) with two individual events and two relays.
Because of the quick bursts of speed, and close proximity of skaters around turns the sport turned out to be a hit for all involved.
In competition, men and women skate four distances: 500, 1000, 1500, 3000, and 5000 meters.
Four to eight skaters line up and race around the rink with designated markers in place around the edges.
Speed along with smart racing is key to coming out on top.
Officiating and judging is in place to assess penalties, and to make sure that the events are run fair for all athletes entered.
So now you know all there is to speedskating!
The US Junior Speedskating Championships (Qualifier) took place this past weekend (Jan. 20 and 21) at the Cornerstone Community Ice Center in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin.
All of the hard work in getting the event brought to the area was made possible by Cornerstone Speed Skating Coach Shannon Holmes.
Holmes grew up in Ontario, Canada and moved her family to the area around 18 years ago.
Figure Skating and Hockey were in her background but she wanted to try something new with the fresh start.
She stumbled across the Ice Center by accident.
She decided to give short-track speedskating a try and has been hooked ever since.
She has volunteered many hours and weekends to driving athletes to and from events and organizing such big events as a world qualifier.
“I try to focus more on personal best times and strategy and technique goals as opposed to winning or placing, “ said Holmes. “I feel that coaches need to keep in mind that it’s all about growth, not just as an athlete, but as a person. I hope that the skaters I coach will take the skills they learn on the ice, such as determination, perseverance and resilience, forward, turning them into life skills off the ice.”
This year, she has had the privilege of coaching four world class athletes. They not only are good speedskaters, they all go to local area schools and have an enormous job juggling the two.
“I learn more from these athletes than they learn from me,” added Holmes. “Each and every one of them means the world to me in different ways. They are all my kids…one of them literally!”
The four athletes (Ben and Steven Fredeen, David Scolare, and Sydney Holmes) took part in the competition on a world-wide stage with some athletes that will compete in the Olympic Games quite possibly in Beijing, China in 2022.
The ultimate goal of this prestigious event was to advance to Warsaw, Poland for US Junior Worlds in March of 2018.
The competitiveness and end prize is known by all athletes.
However, these four still wanted to have fun at the meet and enjoy each other’s company.
“It’s really neat to have your brother alongside of you in competition,” said Steven Fredeen. “It especially helps on long road trips where you have somebody familiar that you can talk with and encourage. However, when it comes to race time, the focus shifts to winning the race. Friends off the ice and sworn enemies on! We wouldn’t be competing at this level if that wasn’t the case.”
Advancing to this stage of speedskating is difficult enough. Some parents keep their kids and home-school them. They build their schedules around the sport.
That is not the case for these individuals.
“We go to school full-time, and then hit the ice three to four days a week at Cornerstone,” added Scolare. “It’s very hard to get ice time because there are so many events going on during the week and on weekends. However, when we do get on ice, we put in a ton of practice time dedicated to building up our strength in our legs. We use techna-core which I swear by. Additionally, we spend quite a bit of time going over races on video to see what we can improve on to gain a half second. That fraction of a second can be the difference between advancing to a dream event (like the Heartland Series which I made) or going home!”
Ben, Steven, David, and Sydney have estimated that they have logged over 17,000 miles traveling to California, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Utah, and Virginia for national events.
“My parents not only drive us thousands of miles, but they help with the event,” commented Ben Fredeen. “It is one thing to go up into the stands and just watch, but they go above and beyond with things such as printing results of the competition or handing out programs. I can’t thank them enough for what they have done for us.”
If you have been speedskating as long as these four have, you’re bound to have rubbed shoulders with some Olympians.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have raced alongside Maame Biney,” said Holmes. “At that time, it was amazing to be side by side with her during competition. She will be competing in Pyeongchang in a short time. I don’t have many events left at the Junior stage, so I want to enjoy every moment I have on the ice. I am off to College next year. I am so glad I got to experience this event with these three guys. We have been through so much for as long as I can remember. All the blood, sweat, and tears is worth it though at the end of the day. Thank you to everybody that has supported me.”
Even though none of the local talent advanced to Warsaw, the experiences learned over the course of the two-day event will certainly be beneficial.
When you flip on that tube in a couple weeks’ time, don’t just go to a local channel. Seek out when and where speedskating will air and check out the action. You won’t be disappointed!
For more information about how to join or sign up for Speedskating lessons, contact Shannon Holmes at 920-366-7428 at Cornerstone Community Ice Center. She can also be reached via email at [email protected]