November 2017 - SPEEDSKATING
Saratoga Winter Club - Local club has rich, glorious history
By Darryl Caron
Speedskating is the fastest human powered sport on the planet, where elite skaters can reach speeds over 30 miles per hour!
You can’t talk speedskating in the United States without including the Saratoga Winter Club. It began as the Saratoga Toboggan Club in 1888 with a slide (similar to Mirror Lake) that shot sleds out onto Saratoga Lake. Skiing and ice skating were added, along with the coronation of a winter snow queen, then the name was changed to Saratoga Winter Club in the 1930s. The major annual event was the Eastern States Outdoor Speedskating Championships on a 400-meter oval at East Side Recreation Park, which attracted national champions.
In addition to “long track,” speedskating moved indoors in 1988 with new “short track” events on 110-meter ovals. SWC skaters excel in both disciplines with 1990s team members Moira D’Andrea, Kristen Talbot, David Tamborino, Erin Porter and Amy Peterson Peck (co-Athlete Profile, March 2002). The winning tradition continued as Trevor Marsicano (Athlete Profile, February 2010) won a silver medal at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. 2018 SWC Olympic hopefuls are training out west for the Olympic Trails, which will take place in January 2018, just prior to the Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. These include Trevor Marsicano, Petra Acker (Athlete Profile, January 2011), Rebecca Simmons, Jennifer Kirsch and Christian Gawek.
Many young SWC aspiring skaters attend weekly training sessions hoping to add their names to an outstanding list of athletes. Assisting and coaching these skaters to enjoy the sport and fulfill their goals are Olympic-level enthusiastic coaches that bring skills, enthusiasm and hard work. Paul Marchese has been involved as a competitor, international coach and premier skate builder (84 Olympic medals so far on his skates); Amy Peterson Peck is a five-time Olympian with three medals and was the flag bearer at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games; and Pat Maxwell is a champion skater and short track coach that has helped many skaters achieve racing success.
At the Saratoga Winter Club, the speedskating season usually runs from September through March/April, and you can join them as a guest at any time. As a speedskater, you can choose among different paths or mix or combine them: Short Track, Long Track or Marathon Skating (on 400-meter oval tracks or natural lakes and rivers on tracks of varying size).
Some skaters choose recreational skating and do not race. They practice, get coaching, work on their technique, workout to get in shape, stay fit or cross-train for other sports. Other skaters like the thrill of racing and compete at a level in line with their ability. Competitions are available for novices on up through world level throughout the US during the season in all three forms of speedskating.
In addition, competitions are organized into different formats. “Pack style” is the most common with a group of skaters going to the start line all at once and racing each other for a finish position. “Time trials” or “metric style” competitions are also held where skaters compete only against the clock and themselves. Skaters are grouped by age class and/or ability to provide a fair and rewarding experience for all participants.
If you’d like to try their Learn to Skate training sessions, there’s no experience necessary so stop by and try it out at no cost. Visit saratogawinterclub.com to checkout their calendar for beginning and novice skaters on Tuesday or Thursday from 6-7pm. These free sessions, held at the Saratoga Springs Ice Rink on Weibel Avenue, are ideal for the beginning and novice skater. There is a six-session series on Nov. 7, 9, 14, 16, 28 and 30, and again on Feb. 1, 6, 8, 13, 15 and 27 (dates subject to change). Basics of technique, safety and equipment will be covered with on/off ice training by top coaches and veteran skaters. All ages are welcome and some skates, helmets, neck, shin and need guards are available to borrow. For more info or to register, contact SWC at (518) 587-9438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn to Skate organizer, Maxine Lautenberg, recently sent this note to new skaters: “One of the first times my son came off the ice he wistfully said, “It fee-ills sooo good!” He had just turned seven. He is now 19 and although he stopped skating competitively after middle school, he continued in high school to use speedskating as a cross training sport for track, downhill skiing and football. My daughter is 16 and no longer races, but has also determined that speedskating is “way harder than soccer,” and appreciates the health benefits. Whether or not you choose to continue after the first few weeks, Saratoga Winter Club hopes you have moments where it ‘fee-ills sooo good!’
Saratoga Winter Club will host the Short Track Age Group Nationals and American Cup 3, the largest nationally attended meet, on March 22-25 at Weibel Avenue Ice Rink in Saratoga Springs.
Speedskating is more than high speed, fast lanes and tight turns, it’s a lifetime of good health and fun!