January 19, 2006

U.S. Speedskating: 65 Medals and Counting: For the deepest-ever U.S. team, the long track will be a short distance from the medal stand in Torino

The team for U.S. speedskating (a.k.a. long track) is complete after the Long Track Speedskating Championship ended in late December, rounding out the remaining open positions. With all the medalists from the 2002 U.S. Long Track Team returning, it's the deepest, most experienced U.S. team ever assembled, according to Melissa Scott of U.S. Speedskating, the governing body for U.S. Speedskating and a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Skating Union (ISU), the international speedskating governing body.

"We had a lot of excitement coming out of the Long Track Championships, a lot of records, American, junior and a world record set by Chad Hendrick in the 10,000 meter," Melissa explained during my recent interview after the Long Track Championships concluded in Salt Lake City on Dec. 31.

"This is the deepest, most experienced team -- probably ever, I believe, in the history of the U.S. Olympic team," said Scott. "If you look at the 1000-meter mens, for example, we have Joey Cheek, the bronze medalist in 2002; Shani Davis, the current world record holder; Chad Hedrick, who just set the world record in the 10,000 meter and had the world record in the 1500 meter. He's going for five gold medals, he's trying to equal Eric Heiden's record, then we have Casey FitzRandolph, four U.S. entries in the 1000 meter." The U.S. Speedskating team (short and long) has won 65 medals since they sent their first team to Chamonix, France, in 1924. They won 11 medals at the Salt Lake Games in 2002. "Our goal for Torino is 12," said Scott.

The U.S. Womens Speedskating Team is also considered one of the strongest ever sent by the U.S. "If you look at our womens team you'll see skaters like Chris Witty, this is her fifth Olympic Games -- fourth Winter -- in 2000 she competed as a cyclist at the Summer venue. Incredible athlete, team leader with tons of Olympic experience." What's incredible about the womens team is the strength of experience, with Amy Sannes and Jennifer Rodriguez each making their third Olympic appearance and Catherine Raney her second. "The Olympian skaters on the womens team know how to win and what it takes to compete at the highest level and I must say they will represent our country proudly," she said.

All six long track medalists from the 2002 Games are returning in an attempt to double their medal count. They are Rodriquez (1000 meter bronze, 1500 meter bronze), Witty (1000 meter gold), Carpenter (500 meter bronze), Cheek (1000 meter bronze), FitzRandolph (500 meter gold), Parra (1500 meter gold, 5000 meter silver). The Olympic Speed Skating Team is indeed deep and strongly experienced and with Shani Davis the current world all-around champion making his long track Olympic debut (he was the first African-American ever to qualify for the short track team four years ago) and second Winter Games, experienced might be an understatement.

"I'm excited for our team," said Scott. "We've worked hard to put the finest skaters our country has to offer on the ice for Torino. We expect an incredible showing."

The Americans, Canadians and the Dutch Team should put on a great show. The U.S. is bringing their deepest strongest team ever but so are the Dutch and Canadians. I can't wait for the fireworks!

Here's The U.S. Long Track speedskating team:

Mens team:
KC Boutiette, Kip Carpenter, Joey Cheek, Shani Davis, Casey FitzRandolph, Tucker Fredricks, Chad Hedrick, Charles Leveille, Clay Mull, Derek Parra
Womens team:
Margaret Crowley, Kristine Holzer, Maria Lamb, Elli Ochowicz, Catherine Raney, Jennifer Rodiguez, Amy Sannes, Chris Witty

The U.S. long track speedskating team is so strong they qualified four men and four women in the 500-, 1000- and 1500-meter races, based on international performance at the 2005 World Championships and the 2005-06 Fall World Cup competitions. For the womens 300 meter and mens 5000 meter, three U.S. skaters qualified for each. The total roster could not exceed 10 skaters each, mens and womens team. They are sending 10 men and eight women.

For the men, KC Boutiette is making his fourth appearance, Derek Parra and Casey FitzRandolph their third. The depth of experience just seems to get deeper and bodes well for the medal count of the U.S. Speedskating Team. Indeed, should be quite a show. Read comments about this column.

posted by skydivedad to commentary at 09:14 PM - 0 comments

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