Deanna Lockett: The traveling Hungaroo ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


21 février 2020

Deanna Lockett: The traveling Hungaroo

I know I've told you in the past but one thing I truly appreciate about covering a sport like short track is having the opportunity to meet people from all over the globe. It’s actually something a lot of athletes enjoy too but while some just surf on the opportunity, others push it further by moving to another part of the world to keep their dream alive and make the most out of it. That’s what Australian-born Deanna Lockett did.

By Carl Savard
Photos by Oscar van den Bosch and Deanna Lockett's personal collection

It’s with a big smile and a laid back attitude that the 24-year-old from Sunnybank, Australia sat with me for a chat last fall when the short track speed skating World cup circus was in Montreal. Lockett, who’s now representing Hungary, was ready to talk about her life as an elite athlete, but first I was curious to know how a kid from Australia ends up choosing a winter sport.

“I started skating when I was eight or nine. Most sports are played outside in the middle of the day in sunny Australia and I have a pretty light color skin and my dad was worried about skin cancer risks so we ended up at the ice rink. At first it was just for general skating sessions. I liked going really fast so I tried speed skating and fell in love with it. I didn’t grow up surrounded by athletes but I’ve always been competitive and from the get go I wanted to become a high level speed skater. I was sixteen when I skated in a World cup event for the first time and I didn’t expect much but I ended up making the B final on 1500m and was really shocked. I started thinking that maybe I could be a really good skater.”

Known for her endurance on the ice and in need of a change of pace after a few seasons on the international circuit in short track, Lockett decided to switch to long track and give it a try. Despite physically having the stamina needed to compete on the 400m oval, the Australian figured out quite fast that long track wasn’t for her. “I’m really good to keep a pace in short track but I’m not as good with the racing aspect so I thought long track would be good for me but it’s really different. I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. It was really hard. I trained for about three months in the Netherlands and I didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t wait for the training sessions to be over. That’s when I decided to reach out to Hungary."

Outside of the the Netherlands, Hungary is probably the country that managed to have the biggest progression in the last eight years thanks to the prowess of the Liu brothers and the arrival of Zhang Jing as an advisor - and later coach - in 2012. Something else helping their program is their openness to the idea of welcoming athletes from elsewhere to either train or join their team. USA’s Cole Krueger started skating for Hungary last season while his brother John Henry, just like Lockett, started representing The Land of Magyars this season. Deanna Lockett knew she could have just surfed on the fact that it would have been a safe choice for her to stay in Australia and represent her native country at the Olympics three times, but she wanted more. She needed more. She felt she had to think outside of the box. “Although there wasn’t many skaters at my level to push me and train with me when I was there, Australia gave me so many opportunities and they did everything that they could. The thing is, I wanted to be part of a big team. I had the opportunity to train with big teams in the past, in Korea and elsewhere, but it’s not like having your own. I’m really grateful that Hungary has taken me on. Since I had train with them before I pretty much knew everyone and since I had to skip a season because I was going to skate for another country I had no pressure and just trained. The women’s team in Hungary lost a few older skaters, so there was an opening. It was kind of a perfect timing for me.“

Although the timing was perfect and she knew most of the people involved in the Hungarian program it’s still a huge change to settle elsewhere in the world and get a new citizenship. Lockett didn’t have clear goals for the season that's coming to an end other than getting accustomed to her new environment. “It’s been a lot to get used to Hungary, the program is different, I have a team now and also I skipped a year and I feel like the field as gotten stronger while I was away which is good but I’m not rushing for some results. I’m just skating and trying to enjoy what I’m doing . Maybe next season I’ll put more pressure on myself but I try to stay in the moment and not think to much ahead because when I think too ahead then I get too nervous.”

As a fan of short track since the end of the 80's, I’m always interested in knowing which national skater had an impact on an athlete when they were younger. Asking that question to a Dutch or a Canadian skater is easy since they have a lot of role models to pick from, asking it to someone from a country whose short track history is often linked to a historical anecdote at the 2002 Olympics (see Steven Bradbury) is another thing. For Deanna Lockett, one name popped in her head when I asked her the question and it's someone who had made similar career choices. “When I was between 10 and 12 years old, we had Tatiana Borodulina from Russia who skated for Australia. She won World cup medals and I’d say she was a pretty big inspiration for me. But other than that, I didn’t really look up to other skaters or even know about them too much before I showed up on the international scene.” 

Even when she was the only female skater representing Australia, Lockett was still able to perform to a high level. In 2017, she won her first medal on the World cup circuit, finishing third behind Choi Min Jeong and Kim Boutin on 1500m in Budapest. A year before, she had finished 4th on 1000m in Dresden. Now as a member of the Hungarian team and having the opportunity to compete in the relay events, Lockett knows her chances of visiting the podium in the near future are even better. “We need to adjust to one another and find our timing but I think our speed is good.” 

The traveling Hungaroo knows the life she’s living right now isn’t your regular everyday life and she tries to cherish every moment. “It’s great meeting people from other countries and spending time with them. You make new friends and learn things from other cultures. If you would have told me three years ago that I would become a Hungarian citizen I would have laughed at you. I now have three passports!*”

Deanna Lockett should be in action on the Mokdong Ice Rink in Seoul from March 13 to the 15 to compete one last time this season at the ISU Short track speed skating world championships.

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*Before obtaining her Hungarian citizenship, Deanna Lockett already had an Australian and British passports.

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