U.S. long-track speedskating faces time of reckoning
Now comes the Shani & Stephen hangover.
By the time speedskating competition finished up at the Richmond Olympic Oval on Saturday, the exploits of
American long-tackers had their most glorious day of the Games on Friday, taking out the heavily favored Dutch men and Canadian women in team pursuit qualifying. But both had comedowns with medals on the line.
After being reminded of the quality of Friday's achievement by watching the Dutch obliterate the Olympic record in one of Saturday's classification skates, the U.S. men lost to Canada and had to content themselves with silver. The Americans fell behind early, and a late rush from
But considering that the three, plus sub
The U.S. women lost a chance to skate for gold or silver when Germany defeated them in the semifinals.
Before the bronze-medal race U.S. coach
Parra called the Americans' 10 speedskating medals "pretty amazing," given the chaos in advance of the Games, in which the team lost its primary sponsor, the Dutch bank DSB, and alpha dog Davis first indicated he would, then said he wouldn't, skate the team pursuit. But six of those 10 medals came in short-track, and no women long-trackers reached the podium.
When U.S. Speedskating holds its annual meeting at the end of April, the organization's board will face tough decisions on coaches, budget, and how best to integrate skaters based at two domestic training sites, Milwaukee and Salt Lake City.
"Even if we have a plan of action, we have to have a sponsor," said Parra, after sharing a tearful behind-the-scenes hug with Raney-Norman. "We have no sponsor for next year. And if we have no budget, we'll have no coaches.
"For some reason, every four years Americans come out of the woodwork and skate our best. We have no one like
But a lot can happen in four years, and Kuck provided an example. As a 15-year-old devoted mostly to short-track skating, he had watched the Turin Olympics on TV at home in Champaign, Ill. "It's cool to go from sitting on the couch to a silver medal," he said. "U.S. speedskating should be just fine."
But even if legions of Americans are ready to get up off their couches and skate for medals, they'll flail without coaches and infrastructure. And for that you need sponsorship. "You can't go to the store with a list," Parra said, "unless you have money to buy your groceries."