Reports by Wolverine Speed Team Coach Jay Ingram from the 2006 World Speed Skating Championships in Anyang, S. Korea.
9/3/06-Anyang, S. Korea – Observations - Points Elimination Race
Team spirit and excitement ran high today at the 2006 World Roller Speed Skating Championships. The track, nestled by mountains on four sides, proved to be a bit of an obstacle for team USA. Skaters looked strong early, but struggled to maintain their stamina as longer races went on. Nonetheless, the athletes kept their drive to push on, and are eagerly awaiting the road track portion of the competition, which begins on Wednesday. Jessica Smith explained, "I'm not used to this track, but I can't wait to get on the road and show everyone what we can do."
Team USA was shut out of this event, the point eliminations, Jr and Sr. men and women both. Many athletes, coaches and spectator parents from all over the World were asking what was up? The athletes looked flat unable to sprint when it was needed and get their legs moving. There was drive and power there but not sustainable for a long period time. Points were picked up by team USA in many of these events during the beginning but no one was able to hold onto making them a win or placement in this event. Jonathan Garcia was keyed on by all skating against him for he had dominated the lead in the sister race the night before helping bring home the Gold but it was not going to happen tonight. He just was not able to get it going for a repeat performance from the night before. None the less Team USA has gone out and skated each and every event 110%, giving it all they have including this one, the veterans of the team pushed themselves and the rookies to stay positive through support and encouragement. There was still the 1000 meter finals to skate and everyone skating these events and or cheering on their teammates had to stay positive.
Koreans have a strong unity as well. Beginning with a huge and lively fan base, home field advantage, and a cohesive race strategy, many early races went to the host country. New Zealand also faired well, especially in the Elimination Point events. The senior men and women both took 1st place in their 10,000m races. An interesting strategy was employed by the New Zealand men. Having lead most of the laps on a break, SCOTT ROBERT ARLIDGE had picked up 8 points and a commanding lead. However, he too began to fade 2/3 of the way into the race and was only able to win with the help of his fellow countryman. His teammate stayed behind him to ensure that he would not come in last and be eliminated. For me, this proved a prime example that Speed Skating is indeed a team sport. (Eric Braid)
9/3/06-Anyang, S. Korea -- Going For It
Yesterday's events began and ended with the 1000meter race. Not exactly a sprint but not exactly endurance, well that all depends on who (what countries) your skating with and if it is a heat, semi or final. Team USA Showed that a positive attitude would most defiantly create a positive outcome no matter how bad they were struggling. The American Athletes to skate were Jr. Women Briana Cramer, Emily Scott. Jr. Men Chad Horn and Terrell Bradley, Sr. Ladies Jessica Smith and Brittany Bowe and Sr. Men Dane Lewis and Joey Mantia.
The heats and the semis proved to be tough for all involved, athletes from all countries had heart break for many who you would think, would be skating the final, were not going to. Falls, trips, team work and aggressive non-sportsman like behavior were all part of the key in making it or not making it to the next round. Team USA's Cramer, Bradley, Smith and Lewis all meet this type of fate which took them out of the hunt to gain a medal of any sort, while Scott, Horn, Bowe and Mantia were given a chance to go for it in the final.
Scott Started team USA off in the Jr. Ladies race and was looking strong throughout the whole day in this event. She was in a good position until about two laps to go when she got tangled up with MI-YOUNG KIM from Korea. Her hope of bringing home some sort of placement in this event was cut short from this mishap though she continued to skate hard to the finish ending up 5th.
Chad Horn met much the same fate in a very, very aggressive race. It was basically anyone’s race to win with the top five men sprinting to the line pretty much together. When all was said and done Horn would end up a respectable 5th place basically going over the line just a few 10ths of a second behind the man who won it KYOUNG-DUCK KIM.
Brittany Bowe did everything perfect at the start of this race for her hunt to gain a win, place or show in the Sr. Ladies 1000m event. She was beat up a bit with two to go and ended up being placed 2nd to last with about one and a half laps to go. With a power move out of the turn into and down the back stretch it looked like the Brittany Bowe who is often seen at prior championships going for the win. She moved into 2nd into the last corner but her speed with a bit of help from JENNIFER ALEXA CAICEDO MEJIA from Colombia carried her up the bank where she was passed back by the rest of the pack. She tried to come back from that mishap and sprinted to the line a bit behind the winner and ended up 7th.
The Evening wrapped up with the much anticipated Men's senior 1000m race. Joey Mantia, the USA Sr. competitor, who seemed to be confident and collected, was the shining star in the day's series of disappointments for US athletes. This was our last hope of bringing home a metal for the long day of competition. The 5 lap race began with Joey on the starting line neighbored by Colombians on both sides, JORGE BOTERO and JORGE LUIS CIFUENTES. As the gun shot to begin the race, Joey placed himself into the lead for the first lap. By the start of the second lap he was tucked comfortably into the middle of the pack. His fans watching and offering shouts of encouragement, Joey looked strong as he began the race. With 2 laps completed, the shouts became louder. "Make your move, Joey" and "Gotta move up!" could be clearly heard by the athletes racing around the track. Lap 3--Joey made his move, only to be shut out by CIFUENTES, who was working in tandem with BOTERO to dominate the race. Again, Joey made an attempt to gain position on the menacing Colombians going into lap 4, only to be kept behind the first and second place racers. Maintaining his spirit and drive, Joey would not give up. On the back stretch of the final lap, Joey showed that he had the power to make one last move for the front. As Joey took a low path and tucked inside, CIFUENTES lunged into Joey's path, protecting his teammate JORGE from being overcome. Having no room to maneuver, Joey thrust his arms into the air in frustration. As they turned the final corner, Joey gave one more push to move to the front. With 10 feet to go, Joey lunged to his right, splitting the Colombians like bowling pins, and stretched his way into a second place finish. As the public view screens rebroadcast the controversy, the crowd let out a unified "BOO" showing their disgust with the Colombian tactics. JORGE LUIS CIFUENTES was disqualified from the race, as perhaps was the strategy all along; however, JORGE BOTERO emerged with the gold metal. Joey, a true sportsman, offered thanks to his supporters who said that he should be proud of the way he skated the race.
Many comments posed a thought that both members from Colombia in that race should be taken out. But those of us whom have been around are starting to get use to this abuse of declassification and disqualification to create the win. I ask those of you out there reading this, would you want to become a World Champion Like this? Today that race is still being talked about and the Colombian team though very, very strong here is looking like the black sheep of the competition.
Let’s see what Today Holds for us, The 500 meter and Relays will be next. Stay Tuned…