jeudi 16 octobre 2008

USA speedskating optimistic after two dim years

USA Today -
The next Olympics, the 2010 Vancouver Games, is little more than a year away. This season's first international competition, a short track World Cup, begins Friday at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, a Salt Lake City suburb.

Short-track speedskaters work out at the oval in Kearns, Utah, the site of this weekend's season-opening World Cup event. Lead skaters are Jessica Smith (dark helmet, right) and Allison Baver (white helmet, left).

"The bottom line is (the training center) has a lot of things that are hard to duplicate," says five-time Olympic medalist Apolo Anton Ohno, who moved from the OTC dorms to his own house in Salt Lake City and now prepares his own meals.

Bob Crowley also hired two-time Olympic speedskater Guy Thibault, a Canadian, to fill the new position of high performance director. By the start of last season, they had new, highly respected coaches in place, such as allround coach Bart Veldkamp, a four-time Olympian from the Netherlands, and short-track head coach Chun Jae Su, from South Korea.

Last season had its highlights, with the short-track men winning their first team world title and Ohno winning his first world overall title. In long track, both Hedrick and Shani Davis won medals at the world allround championships.

There still is much work to be done. The U.S. women haven't had many top results. Everyone, from Crowley to coaches to the athletes, bemoans the lack of a long-track development program. The budget still is still at belt-tightening levels with sponsorships hard to find right now.

"We have our challenges," Crowley says, "but who doesn't?"

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