What is the current state of speed skating in the U.S.A.? ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


14 août 2018

What is the current state of speed skating in the U.S.A.?

By Carl Savard

1976, Champaign, Illinois. The  United States are holding the first ever Short track speed skating world championships. At the end of the competition, two americans, Allan Ratray and Celeste Chlapaty, win the overall ranking at home becoming the historical firsts world champions of the discipline. For the first four years on the men’s side and three years on the women’s side, Americans were present on the podiums of the World championships. Around the same period, their compatriot Eric Heiden won the Allround world championships in long track three years in a row and won 5 gold medals at the olympics in Lake Placid in 1980. His sister Beth was also crowned world allround champion in 1979.

In the 80’s Bonnie Blair started  building her legend. First in short track, where she would stand on the World championships' podium three years in a row winning the title in 1986. She then continued on the 400m oval in the 90’s, concentrating on sprint distances and winning the sprint world champion title three times while stepping on the podium nine times over a ten-year period. By the end of the 90’s, the world of inline speed skating was ruled by one man: Chad Hedrick. The American is known for being the father of the double push, a technique that every competitive speed skaters on wheels still use today. A technique that also brought him 50 world champion titles.  Hedrick then jumped on the ice and from 2004 to 2006, him and his American teammate Shani Davis ruled the Allround world championships with Hedrick winning once and finishing second once and Davis finishing behind Hedrick in 2004 before winning the title in 2005 and 2006.

You can’t talk about speed skating in the first decade of 2000 without talking about short track’s legend Apolo Anton Ohno. In fact, you can’t talk about short track speed skating’s history without talking about Ohno. The Asian domination had already started at the time and Ohno was one of the only skaters able to battle with them. Same thing for Katherine Reutter in the next decade on the women’s side. She wasn’t able to win an overall world champion title like Ohno did in 2008, but she was an inspiration for Western skaters such as Elise Christie.  

While in long track, Shani Davis went on to have great results at the Sprint world championships winning the title in 2009 and getting on the podium two other times, on wheels Joey Mantia was the guy to beat in 2009 and 2010. He is now competing on the ice in long track.

But what about now? In long track speed skating, Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe have been amazing in the last 5 years. On the men’s side though, we’re still looking for the next Shani Davis. In short track, all eyes are on Maame Biney and her sparkling personality is a plus to promote the sport, but it’s too soon to say if her amazing potential will turn into major results. J.R. Celski was a force to reckon with in short track for a few years, but his star started fading in the last few seasons. With a medal at the Pyeongchang Olympic games, John-Henry Krueger looked to be the next one in short track but after a disagreement with US Speed Skating, the young man moved to Hungary and won’t skate for the United States anymore. As for the future on wheels, while the inline speed skating community was excited by the fact that the Youth olympic games would present an inline competition, the United States Olympic Committee has decided not to take part in it, although one of their own will always be seen as a legend and a builder of this sport.

You can’t really talk about speed skating in all its forms without talking about Eric Heiden, Apolo Ohno, Bonnie Blair and Chad Hedrick, but what’s next for speed skating in the U.S.A.? Is it just at the bottom of a cycle or is it sinking? As a nation who has always been proud of its successes in sport, with a population way over most countries taking part in speed skating events and being the nation of many historical figures in the sport, what’s missing to get back to its old self and be more of a leader? Who has the answer?

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