In the sauna that was St. Louis last week, some sports looked as if they were more fun than others. The white-water kayaking slalom competition actually took place on the flume ride at the local Six Flags amusement park. Another cool event was short-track speed skating, which is like stock car racing without the jalopies.
But Tony and Julie Goskowicz, who won eight of a possible 10 gold medals in short track, weren't at the Olympic Festival to have fun. Nicknamed the Ogres by their short-track teammates because of their work ethic and seriousness, the siblings from New Berlin, Wis., saw their small mountain of medals as a means to an end—the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
"Our dream is to compete together in Japan," says Julie, a Pippy Longstocking look-alike whom national team coach Jeroen Otter calls "a pit bull." Indeed, there she was at the finish of the 3,000-meter final—in which she missed winning her fourth gold medal by .002 of a second—elbowing for position like a Bay City Bomber.
Julie, 14, is particularly driven because, despite holding U.S. records in the 1,500 and 3,000, she failed to make the '94 Olympic team by one spot. Last winter she drove the rest of her family nuts, screaming, "I can do that! I should be there!" whenever short-track skating was on TV.
Tony, 16, was in Lillehammer as an alternate, but he didn't get to skate. He will in Nagano. In winning five gold medals last week Tony was not challenged, taking most of his races by five to 10 meters. The only suspense came in the 5,000-meter relay when one of his teammates on the North squad fell. It looked as if Tony would fail to get a medal in his final event. Instead, he devoured the half-lap deficit and helped the North pull away for an easy victory.
The rising stars of U.S. speed skating got their first pairs of skates on the same day seven years ago. That was a Monday. They entered their first races the following Saturday. Both finished last; Tony fell four times. Afterward he dashed up to his father, Brad, shouting, "Dad, this is great!"
That same year they joined the West Allis Speed Skating Club, where they got to know a sweet, star-crossed guy named Dan Jansen. Slowly, the Goskowiczes got better. "Ninety percent of the kids racing at the Festival have beaten Tony and Julie," said their father last week. "A few years ago there was a breakthrough, and they both started to move up and beat people."
This fall Julie and Tony will leave home to attend school at the U.S. Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Mich. There they will work out three times a day. The Ogres' legend will grow. "In endurance training we can go forever," says Tony. "We just keep going."
All the way to Japan.
By '98, however, the Goskowicz Duo may have become the Goskowicz Trio. This winter, at Wisconsin's Tiny Tots state championship, six-year-old Catie Goskowicz fell down a half lap into her race, bruising her leg. She skated the final 1½ laps in tears...and won.
That's one tough little ogress.