Reports by Wolverine Speed Team Coach Jay Ingram from the 2006 World Speed Skating Championships in Anyang, S. Korea.
9/4/06-Anyang, S. Korea – 500 Meter Heats
The 500 meter heats started on a hot morning in Anyang city, South Korea at 9am Monday, September 4th, 2006. That would calculate to be 8pm eastern standard time Sunday evening September 3rd, 2006.
Some eight hours later I am writing this at the start of the relay events after a nice meal, friendly conversation and a little relaxation. My arms and legs show signs of being cold through the goose bumps. The Jr. three lady relay team is about to race in relay heat #2. But before we get to that lets go back a few hours away from the cold back to the hot humid morning.
Team USA faired well in the heat rounds in this event. The Jr. Ladies showed that they were strong, making it look easy getting out of these heats. Heather Richardson and Mariah Richardson, unrelated, were the young ladies representing team USA, they had no issues making it to the quarter final round.
The Jr. Men 500 meter was the same and both Chad Horn and Kevin Quandt had no problems navigating through this round either to make the Quarter finals. They too had started out the day looking good and with confidence. Chad's fast powerful feet and Kevin's long power strides helped each move on a round.
Brittany Bowe who was in the 2nd heat of the Sr. Ladies went out, won the start, stayed in the lead to win the race, Jessica Smith followed Bowe's lead in heat three and did exactly the same thing. Both made it to the quarter finals with ease.
Chris Creveling and Joey Mantia were the Men from team USA in the Sr. Division. Both had it a bit tougher than everyone else for the World skater's from other countries tended to be a bit wild and reckless. Basically just going for it, nothing held back NO MATTER WHAT IT TOOK. A few athletes in other Sr. men heats were in front comfortably, but were taken out by the skater in 3rd trying to move up into that qualify position. With quick powerful feet Creveling managed to stay away from the hackers and make it through to the next round while Mantia TOTALLY powered his way through his heat to the next round by stopping all challengers who tried to get him before the finish.
500meter Quarter Final & Semi Finals
The 500m quarter finals proved to be filled with bitter frustration for some from team USA, while those remaining had the sweetness of victory to make it to the next round. Heather Richard, Brittany Bowe, Jessica Smith and Joey Mantia were those who ended up on the sweet side. They were the only American's to make it through to the next round which would be the semi-finals. For Mariah, Chad, Kevin and Chris their quest to try and gain a medal in this event would end here in the Quarter finals.
The semi finals had no mercy what so ever on any American athlete that skated it. Heather Richardson won the start and tried to control the front but her speed was a bit to slow which opened the door for the pack to knocked her around, block and shove her the whole race. Richardson clearly the fastest never got to her speed which to this viewer would have clearly left that field in the dust. Third place would be were she finished and that don't get you to the finals in this event.
Bowe was caught on the start, ended up second pushed and shoved from that position to 4th and fought the whole way to the line to try and move up but it wasn't enough. Smith did pretty much the same on the start was sitting pretty in second until Argentina made a move for the front, Smith made her move to command control from the front, was blocked, pushed back and taken down hitting head first onto the track. She got up and finished the race, looking like she could kick some butt. Let's just say those athletes knew to stay away from her.
Mantia was commanding the lead but his speed was not fast enough to keep everyone behind him, he left that door open a bit and went back to 2nd place, then by the next turn 3rd. He made a good move, passed into second and made it to the final. Well, that is what we all thought, he was declassified, yes declassified to 3rd place for that last pass. That same pass was done in the semi before his, in Jessica's race that took her out and a few others before that. Where were those declassifications? Team Manager Chris Tidwell and Coach David Downing protested with the required $100.00 fee which placed a delay to the start of the Sr. Mens 500 meter final, a delay of about 30 minutes.
Now by this time all the other finals had raced and as the cards would have it an athlete from Colombia had won each race that went before this. The Races were good, strategized and fairly clean producing not only a champion but second place for the events that had two Country men/women in it. With USA staff producing a protest it brought about viewing a few races before, which clearly had situations in it that were no different than what had transpired in Mantia's race, where were those declassifications? Well this protest produced one. Jeoy's outcome would not change but the Colombian skater from the semi before did the exact same thing as Joey in a more brutal manner and JORGE LUIS CIFUENTES was going to be declassified too. Well, all hell broke loose in Spanish and broken English tongues, we all knew that the Colombian coaching staff was not going to have any of this. They produced the $100.00 fee to protest that call and more time was added to the wait. If that skater was allowed to skate and managed to produce a win, that would mean a sweep in this event for Colombia. Well in the end CIFUENTES was allowed to skate. I guess the politics and things hidden from the general public create these types of changes. Joey was ripped, the Colombian did not win but was declassified and the fastest sprinter in the timed events from these championships was the man who came out on top in this event. KALON DOBBIN from New Zealand was victor in the 2006 Sr. World Class division for the 500 meter track. JULIEN DESPAUX from France was second, WEI LIN LO from China Teipei skated to a third place finish and JORGE LUIS CIFUENTES from Colombia 4th.
For individual track racing this would be a disappointing ending for team America at these 2006 World Inline Speed Skating Championships but the track racing would end with the three person Relay events that still had to be skated. There were still many hopes and dreams for all who may have come up short here to date. The racing has been exciting, competitive and as usual, at times very brutal. Many countries looked at this as being their last chance to go for it on the track. So far the USA had been beaten pretty badly based on historical standards set from teams past, but no matter what has been thrown their way, they have hung tough, pushed on and were ready for these relays, this Americans team was not broken yet.
9/4/06-Anyang, S. Korea – 3000Meter Track Relays
The three lady relay heat events for the Jr. Ladies was going to prove to be one of speed, strategy, technique and opportunities taken and or missed. There were a lot of great teams in this division skating and only six teams would be allowed to make it to the final and race for a 2006 World medal of some sort.
Team USA Consisted of Emily Scott, Briana Kramer and Heather Richardson. From the gun these ladies started out in the front and changed the lead with Chili, Argentina and Korea. To be safe with about 11 laps to go, that’s 2200 m, they decided to be safe and break-up the pack by going faster than the other girls wanted to go. They ended up having about a full straight away lead on Korea and the other teams who were wrestling to get a placement in the top three to make it to the final. When all was over team USA would make it to the final for the hunt of a possible Gold medal in this event finals later this evening.
The Jr. Men heat started out what seemed at first glance a bit troublesome for team USA’s Chad Horn, Terrell Bradley and Kevin Quandt. It looked like if they were not careful they would be taken out or just stuck in such a position that they would be beat. Better observation showed that these young men were having fun with this mess, late passes, going from 4th to first, first to last, pushing, shoving, the crowd got into it from the oooohhhhsss and aaahhhhssss. Fun it must have been because it was fun to watch. When it got down to it this trio decided it was time to be safe and broke from the pack about half way through the race. They cruised through the rest of it making it to the final for their quest for a gold medal in this event.
SARA VANH SAYASANE from team USA was more than ready to get "the show on the road" for her heat, she took off from the start and was on fire. You know what she had on her mind, it was all in her demeanor before the start of this race and it was clear during it, she wanted to be safe, make it to the final and win. Brittany Bowe and Jessica Smith followed suit and cooled things off a bit in the beginning but poured it on in the middle to help create a gap which broke up the pack making it an easy cruise towards the end for an easy out to the final.
They were gone from the gun, this American Sr. team that was comprised of Dane Lewis, Jonathan Garcia and Joey Mantia. They did not wait around to let everyone know that they were going to be in the final for their attempt to gain a World Medal at these 2006 Track World Championships for the Sr.Three man Relay. They seemed to be the fastest and strongest team based on their performance in this heat finishing more than a whole straightaway in front of second place which happened to be a very strong Italian team.
9/4/06-Anyang, S. Korea – 3000Meter Track Relay Finals
Ok, it is cold and dark and the start of the relay finals for the track began with the Jr. Ladies under a dark sky. The track was illuminated by a means so great that you would forget the darkness beyond the track. This trick of man would be utilized to show all who came some exciting racing for a relay title. Argentina, Italy, Korea, Colombia, China Taipei, and USA would be going head to head for this prize.
Heather started this event placing her team in front, the pace was semi fast and after 3/4 a lap she pushed Briana Kramer Flawlessly at the first tag. "Bri" kept the team in front even when it was taken from her for a split second. She then helped produce another great relay exchange with Miss Emily Scott who followed the lead of her teammates keeping her team in the lead. Their lead was consistent for the next four exchanges and the relays were flawless but so were the competitors. They were sitting and waiting, then Argentina made a move and so did everyone else, skaters were everywhere. The lead changed an exaggerated twenty times in just 200 meters. "Bri" had enough and took off with four to go to produced a slight gap, Emily kept the lead but lost the slight gap it was three to go when she pushed Heather who was challenged for the lead out of the turn. She used her power to hold off the Colombian and produced another slight gap with that power move out of the turn and with the push Emily took over the lead. She stayed in front through the turn but Colombia and Korea closed that gap. She exited the corner mid track while those two went high using the slight hill as an advantage to effortlessly pass her by. She tried to hold them off but they became one with the track using it to gain speed. They battled for first and second while Emily gave it all she had to possibly get them down the last stretch. It was not to be it ended up Korea, Colombia, USA. There were many upset athletes from all four corners of the World over this event, ears flowed down Briana Kramer's face and from her heart over this event that was so close, she was comforted by the Jr. Coaching Staff. For her, there should be more World track championships, more World skating opportunities to gain a Gold.
Terrell Bradley got jumped from team USA as the start of the Jr. Mens relay event got underway. He was in last place out of the first turn but managed to get his team back up front by the time he pushed Kevin Quandt. Kevin was challenged several times for the lead each time he was out on the track as was Chad Horn but they both managed to get back into the lead via perfect relays or just by out skating their opponents. The Korean Team decided it was time to get things going, they got away with 9 to go and stayed there to the finish. It was a fight for second place by team USA and that was a struggle between them, the Colombians and the Netherlands. With five to go Korea was a whole straight ahead USA, Colombia and Netherlands changed leads each exchange and it was a fight to the end. Miscalculation on skating the track correctly for Chad Horn out of the final turn produced an open door for the Netherlands skater to squeeze by to capture second place. This would be the first medal for the Jr. men at these championships, hopefully there will be more to come.
The Sr. Men's Event was Brutal from the start, based on the times produced by the heats, it was going to be a close race by the teams who were victorious in the qualifying heats. Victory in this event would be given to the team who stayed on their feet and who skated each turn hard. The USA was towards the back off the start. Pushing, shoving, grabbing and passing were the key elements in the running of the first 200 meters. This was going to be a very, very nerve racking race. Leads changed but team USA could not move up any further than 3rd. Jonathan Garcia made text book perfect moves that should have worked coming out of the turn after the tag to place him in the front. But he would be stopped by the pack who were going to force him over the wall if he did not back off.
Mantia tried to move up on the inside but he too had to scrub his speed to navigate through the turn. Lewis would pass but would get passed back by the jam produced from his effort and that of the skater in front. A missed relay by team USA produced a gap of over a straight away. They managed to catch back up in just 600 meters of skating, but only four hundred were left and they were in 5th by a slight gap from fourth. 1st through 3rd were bunched together but they were at a full out sprint now and unless something drastic happened in that pack to produce an opportunity, it would be hard for Garcia and or Mantia to make a move to gain some sort of placement.
There was a mix of mess with teams changing leads between New Zealand, Colombia and France. If someone should scrub their speed and or produce a fall this would basically be the only way the USA would gain a medal. Speeds were not slowed and no one fell. There was a pass by France on New Zealand out of the last turn down the straight. A miscalculation by the New Zealand skater in letting the Frenchman squeeze by on the outside to the finish produced Frances first Gold Medal of these Championships. The French would be victorious in this event, followed by New Zealand, Colombia, Italy and the USA.
SAYASANE was going to win the start, and go fast the whole race no matter what, to this writer it was a given. She dictated how this race was going to start and no matter what she would be a factor to how it would finish whether that be win, loose or something in the middle. This 2006 World track Sr. ladies relay team Sara Sayasane, Brittany Bowe and Jessica Smith commanded the front for most of the race. They were shadowed by Colombia, who were shadowed by Korea with a fight occurring in the back between Italy, China Taipei, and Argentina. With 1200 meters finished it was clear that this was going to be a fight to the end, who ever won was going to have to work extra hard for it.
Sara decided after a fall from China Taipei she was not going to fool around anymore, it was not safe, and no one was going to take her out of this race so she began winding it up. If someone was going to pass her they were going to do it at a full out sprint and it was not going to be easy. Bowe and Smith followed Sara's lead and skated their turns in the same manner. Three to go it was USA, Korea second, Colombia 3rd. Sara was skating/racing all out, Korea and Colombia tried to challenge, she held them off, perfect relay to Bowe. Bowe kept the lead off the tag trucked through the turn down the straight no one was going to get by her, not unless they wanted to take her out, it would be basic suicide in attempting to gain a medal because they would probably fall.
The Colombian passed out of control into 2nd with an attempt to push Brittany out from first the next turn with the same type of reckless pass. The Colombian skater wasn't even by the Korean cleanly the corner before and she still had the nerve to try and take Bowe out too. It almost worked but Brittany gave a bit of a Roller Jam hip, with a tuck and a grab, and forced her way to Smith for the tag who had to clean-up.
CECILIA BAENA received her tag before Smith but decided to place herself behind Smith with 200 meters to go. Jessica Smith took the challenge and did not wait, she busted into the turn, through the turn, out of the turn and down the straight. Repeated it all over again into the final turn and down the final straight with Baena breathing down her back. A perfect line skated on this tricky track by Smith produced speeds for her those last 200meter that could not be challenge by Baena even though she tried. This dictated that Team USA would be victorious in this final track event for the Sr. Ladies. Colombia finished second followed by Korea and Italy third and fourth. This win would be the first Gold medal for a Sr. Ladies member from team USA at a World Championships in over a year. It would be the first gained by any this year so far. Let’s hope there are more to come, stay tuned.