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The City Journals

World Cup short track speed skating inspires young athletes

Dec 11, 2018 10:00AM ● By Greg James

US speed skater Aaron Tran competed in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics as a member of the 5000-meter relay team and finished fifth. He recently competed at the short track World Cup event held the Utah Olympic Oval. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James |  gregj@mycityjournals.com 

The World Cup of short track speed skating slid into the Utah Olympic Oval. As the athletes sped around the ice, future Olympic hopefuls stood on the sidelines watching and learning from the best.

“It is really cool to see these very good skaters,” Will Valentine, a volunteer at the event said. 

Valentine is a 17-year-old local long track speed skater. He sat wide-eyed on the sidelines watching the speed and technique of the World Cup participants. He was working as an on-track volunteer, a member of a crew of 10 other local skaters. His job is to repair the ice and replace the turn markers, sometimes during competition. 

“That is what is great about this,” Utah Olympic Park Sports Director Derek Parra said. “Some of these athletes were once on the pads (volunteers). They have come up through the ranks and are now winning on the world scene. I am a lucky guy to be able to come here every day.”

The Utah Olympic Oval was built as part of the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics. Utah has the only stand-alone Olympic facilities still in operation. (Calgary facilities belong to the college, which still operates them.)

“I think this facility is a bright beacon,” Parra said. “I cannot imagine growing up here and having this in my backyard— to have a world-class facility with world-class events. It gives these kids a chance to look outside the box and see what they could be in the future.”

The International Skating Union World Cup held Nov. 9–11 at the Oval had athletes from 27 countries. The event was the second on the World Cup schedule. 

“This is incredible,” Parra said. “The Olympics are coming back. The Utah Olympic Legacy board has seen the vision of what we need to do to keep this facility alive but also share them with the public. We have youth hockey, curling for the adults and public skating. It makes it possible for anyone to get into the door and share the ice with Olympians and future Olympians.”

The World Cup event showcased some of the fastest skaters in the world. American Maamey Biney advanced to the semifinals in the women's 1500. The 18-year-old took up short track skating in 2006 when her figure skating coach told her she was going too fast. She has recently moved to Salt Lake to be closer to her training home.

“I am really happy and excited to be skating here on our ice,” Biney said.

She qualified for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang and said she hopes to prepare to skate in the Olympics again.

“I am going to work harder so that next time I can be on a podium,” Biney said. “If that is in China (2022) or wherever the Olympics are in eight years.”

The facility is open to residents for recreational use as well as the international events.

Valentine trains with his local teammates six days a week. As a student at the Winter Sports School in Park City he said, “I hope to one day to be skating in events like this.”

“There are people that don’t want to skate they just come to the Oval to watch the skating,” Parra said. “The Olympic spirit is great. We are excited to do everything we can every day to pass on the values to the youth and adults.”