The need for speed (skating)

Check out the entire the Olympic Blog Blitz by WomenTalkSports.

Somehow, I ended up on the U.S. Speedskating’s public relations email list.

I’m not quite sure how that happened. As best as I can tell, there are no athletes on the national team roster from the greater western New York state area. While I adore Apolo Ohno, I’m pretty sure my quiet adulation didn’t earn me a routine blast of emailed press releases. Further, there was no reason for me to get them, other than to pique my speed skating curiosity. Which, upon further review, may be the point in the first place.

Because along with wanting to catch women’s hockey and curling (more on curling later in the Games) I am now tracking speed skating — both the distance and short track events.

Sunday marked the first women’s medal event — the 3,000 meters.

Short track events are more exciting because of the crashes, the speed, and oh, yeah, the crashes. (Then again, isn’t that one of the reasons why we watch car racing and cycling, for the crashes? Same applies here.)

The long track stuff features two skaters at a time racing the clock. At the end of the day, whomever has the fastest time, wins. And there still is excitement. Like in that 3,000 meter race. It looked as if Canadian Kristina Groves would skate to silver but out of the final turn, German Stephanie Beckert sprinted through the finish line, pushing Groves to the bronze medal.

It was Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic who won the gold. Smooth and consistent in her turns around the rink, the NBC commentators noted that she was one of the smallest competitors at 5-foot-7 and 117 pounds. I guess she did look a bit willowy, compared with some of the other skaters. In some arenas, willowy is an advantage. In a sport where you need power, it’s not always an advantage. A point to ponder next time I start to harshly critique my own body during training. By I digress.

Speed skating is clearly my new favorite Winter Olympic sport if for nothing else but the uniforms. Lycra covered (at least I assume, it’s lycra, or a lycra-like material) with their heads wrapped and eyes protected with indoor-looking sunglasses and skates with extra long, golden blades, the athletes look lean, mean and ready for business.

My favorite unis belong to Team Canada. The red, black and white design seems to give theillusion of suspenders or perhaps old-fashioned long johns. Either way, they have me thinking of the television show Due South for some reason and wanting my own Team Canada speed skating suit. Well, not exactly to use for speed skating. Perhaps in a more relaxed-fitting pyjama style. Or underoos.

The U.S. women aren’t expected to contend for many medals (at least that’s what one NBC preview told me) but the Canadian team is deep and experience with high hopes. Since secretly I’ve always wanted to be Canadian, I have no problem being a country switch-hitter while hoping that the Americans can pull through for a podium spot.

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