(pictures by Linda Wood)
- Many international stars will be missing these Worlds, in particular the italians were excluded mainly due to their participation in the WIC:What do think of it?
For me personally, it is sad when an athlete has to choose between their country, which I know each athlete is dedicated to and completely respects, and their loyalty to their sponsor, which puts food on the table, a roof over their head and pays their bills and allows them to do what they love to do most, which is skate. Without the sponsor many of
these athletes would have to quit training, go to work at a real job and would not be able to train the hours they do each day and be at the level that they are today.
I have not talked to the Italian skaters, but they are no different than the Americans... They love their country and want to represent them in the toughest, most demanding 7 days of competition that the World has to offer... but we can't forget that they must eat too!!!
- We are aware that Team USA has been having trouble financing their travel to China: How where those problems solved?
Yes this is the first time that the majority of Team USA has had to pay 100% of their fee's. But I believe it has been a blessing in disguise! My own son had to pay $3500.00 and his airline ticket to residency (which for him was almost $400.00 US dollars), but the whole country came together to support these athletes. A young female athlete (16 years old) came up with the idea of a "Speed Skating Calendar" to sell. The next thing you know we had a printer who donated 1500 calendars, and then trading cards (like those the US sells for baseball or football), we sold t-shirts and had raffles at our Indoor National Championships. We raised well over $15,000.00. Now that does not come close to the funding needed for 32 athletes, but many of these skaters did fund raising at home and very few have had to "foot the entire bill".
On top of that USA Roller Sports did everything that they could to help us raise the funds and have continued to support us with their outside connections, they located funds for our top 5 Senior Ladies and our top 5 Senior Men and paid 2/3 rd's of their way to China. But in the end, what originally was seen as a "negative" became a positive. It brought our
whole country together and for that we will be much stronger within. We are after all, Team USA!!
- What are your objectives as a group in these World Champs?
To be a Team. To work together. We have many new skaters this year. And they are hungry to prove that they belong on Team USA. Our coaching staff is one of the strongest "Teams" as well. The knowledge that David Downing father of Derrik Downing), Gypsy Lucas-Tidwell (former World Champion Sprinter), myself (returning for my 4th year as Sr Team Manager and coach of Josh Wood) and Michael Stieb (second time Team Manager and National Indoor Champion) is like a well oiled machine. I see us at the beginning of another era of great skaters to come. Yes, teamwork and being there for each other is our objective for Team USA!!!
- Which ones of your athletes are likely to obtain medals in China?
Oh, If I had that information I would be worth a million dollars!! Many of our skaters have the ability to obtain medals and will do so, some will learn what it takes to win them and come back next year to bring the medals home and others will be right there if there is an opening or someone else makes a mistake, they will be ready to take the lead. But we will do it together, as a team.
- Joe Mantia been ill lately: how will this affect his performance at Worlds?
Joey has been in constant contact with our coaching staff and of course his own coach. He has done what the doctor has ordered and that was complete bed rest. His mind is clear, his body is rested and this young man loves to win!! We have all agreed that Joey will communicate with us before and after each race as to how his body feels. Again it will be a
team effort to ensure that Joey competes at the level that we all know that he is capable of!!
- How come 2 stars like Jessica Smith and Julie Glass are out of Team USA?
Jessica Smith is currently training on the ice for the upcoming Olympic Trials which will be held in the US in December. She is skating fast from what I understand and cannot afford to be switching back and forth between the ice and inline competition, so her total focus is ice and the Winter Olympics. The whole United States will be pulling for her as well as former World Champions, Jordan Malone and Chad Hedrick this coming December. Once again, three incredible athletes who started on inlines, just like Apolo Ohno, Jen Rodriguez and Derek Parra will be trying out for the Olympics and we will be there all the way with them!
I just spoke to Julie 3 weeks ago at our Indoor National Championships and asked her why she hadn't competed for a spot on Team USA. She said that part of it was money but the main reason was that she has a business to run (she and her husband Doug run POWERSLIDE) and that eventually they would like to start a family. Training for the World level takes 100% dedication, 7 days a week as you know, and they have a business and
someday a family to think of.
- Is it true that Theresa Cliff-Ryan is retiring from the races?
I have not spoken to Theresa since World's in Italy last year. I do miss her dearly and hope to see her and Gary in China. If she is completely retiring from speed skating I have not heard that, but again she is married and may want to settle down somewhere or try her hand at another sport. We will just have to see.
- Are "trials" the best possible/fair system to select a national team?
There are always better ways to do things. And the USA is constantly trying to update their selection process. We obviously only want the best to represent us at the World Championships and if we can find a better way to do so we will.
I do believe that our way is as "fair" as it can be for our current requirements. We have very strict rules in our competition in the US, much different than is allowed in International Competition. During International competition, skaters can and do become "more physical" than what is allowed in the US. Again we are in the process of constantly updating our rules to match the most current CIC rules so that when our skaters go to World's, they are as prepared as possible.
- Please name the 3 best coaches in the world
Nothing like putting me on the spot!! Ha ha... You know it is very hard to select 3 coaches. If you look at the many countries that participate at each World Championship, many of the countries have coaches who start those same World Champions many years before they are passed on to the next level of coaches. Those beginning coaches are the coaches that no one really sees or remembers. They are the ones who inspire the young athlete and teach them the basics. This is the most important level in a young skater's career.
Then it takes someone to continue to work with that skater to build their confidence as well as their skills, which would include much more difficult manuvers. There are very few coaches that can start a beginner skater and take them all the way to the World Championships all by themselves. Those would be the coaches that I admire the most. We have a saying in the United States, "It takes a whole community to raise a child". This means it takes many, many people to coach a speed skater.
Not one coach is solely responsible for a skater's success. And yes, I am trying to avoid naming three coaches!! However I do repsect any coach that gives of themself, no matter what level they coach at, they are as important as the next one!
- Are you fully dedicated to Team USA, or do you coach in a club as well?
Our system works very different than most countries. Each one of us that coach speed skating, has our own "home team". My team consists of 50 skaters. They skate indoors (at a skating rink) and from the indoor skaters we encourage our skaters to go outdoor, some for cross training and others to compete. Once they start competing, then we try to get our
skaters to do International competition and from there, onto our trials and then World's. You need to remember that Speed Skating in the US has to compete with many other sports that other countries do not have readily accessible, like snowboarding, snow skiing, water skiing, wake boarding, football, baseball, basketball, soccer (your football) and many other sports.
Our coaches for Team USA are chosen for many different reasons. When we are chosen, it is all on a volunteer basis. Our trips to World's and residency are paid for, but we do not get paid for any of the time that we dedicate to the athletes. We just spent 3 weeks in our residency program, where everyone had to take off from work with no pay for those 3 weeks, we also have clinics throughout the year which we run, again without pay and then while we are gone to World's we do so without pay. Usually a coach must give up 8-10 weeks a year of their own time to show their dedication as well as their skills and ability to work with all levels of athletes. Then they must be truly dedicated to the athlete. I have had 2 skaters on the last 5 World Teams, and you must be able to separate yourself as a
coach from them. Treat them exactly like the rest of the team, good or bad. You must demand no more or no less from each of them than you do the other skaters and to be truthful, there are some coaches who just can't do that. When I am with these 32 kids, they become MY kids. I would honestly die for each and everyone of them. They may not be the fastest in the World, but they are the best and they are our kids, Team USA!!!!!
- What's your recipe to motivate a group of young guns into skating for hours every day? ;)
Ha... Sometimes they need to motivate me!! Honestly all I ask from a skater is that "they want to be there and they will give 100%". If they don't want to be there, no matter how much talent that they have, they will never be a champion. You can not "want" it for them. They have to want it. An athlete with all the talent in the world and no desire will only go so far, an athlete with no talent and a burning desire to learn and win, will be that winner. It may take them a little longer but they will succeed! For those that do want to train and need a little prodding periodically when trying to get through tough workouts, we are always positive with our coaching. Negativity brings people down and makes them not want to give you their best.
Think about it this way: If you come home from school everyday and your dog is on the grass and you kick the dog and then go into the house and then. And when you leave you kick the dog, someday either that dog will bite you in the a$$, or just be gone when you come out. There is no sense in being negative. It accomplishes absolutely nothing.
Thanks, Linda. All the best!