Fall Short Track World Cup Team NamedSunday: Aug//25
The first competition of the speedskating season has come to an end. And, as they have done all weekend, J.R. Celski and Jessica Smith were atop the podium again for the third straight day, finishing first in the Overall Classification at the U.S. Short Track Single Distance Championships.
But there is another athlete—somewhat an elder of the team at the ripe old age of 29—who has emerged as the comeback kid of this competition.
“I'm basically having to shake a lot of the rust off,” said Jordan Malone, who finished first in the 1000m today and third overall, earning himself a spot on the Fall World Cup team.
“It's been a year-and-a-half since I've competed in a major competition. Last season I was plagued with injury and illness and I thought I was going to quit.”
Malone decided to push on, knowing he would be disappointed to quit so close to the Olympic Games.
“It's one of those situations where most of the time if you put your head down and don't give up, you'll be happy with what happens.”
And while he is happy to have performed so well this early, he is very aware of what’s at stake later in the season.
“It's still early,” he says. “It's August, but we still have to keep telling ourselves that despite this being an important trials, January is where it's at. Nobody is going to remember who makes this World Cup team but everyone will remember who makes the Olympic team. It's an opportunity for us to flex our muscles a little bit and get a feel for what we have to work on for the next few months.”
It is worth noting that in a sport where athletes are required to wear head-to-toe Kevlar, Malone was still accidentally kicked in the 500m race on Saturday and required stitches on his shin. But just 20 minutes later he was back on the line.
Malone isn’t the only comeback story. Last year was a tumultuous one for the Short Track National Racing Program. But if this weekend’s performances are any indication of what’s in store, it seems the athletes are coming together as a team.
Stephen Gough, who stepped in as the interim Head Coach last season, and has since taken over coaching duties permanently, was pleased with the team’s performance this weekend.
“These athlete are really on their own out there. I give them a little bit of insight on the races and what they should do, but I really want them thinking about their own plans and developing their own strategy,” said Gough.
Gough has also been working on improving the team dynamic and keeping athletes focused on the ultimate prize this season—The Olympic Games.
“They're not all going to be best friends, but I think generally we’ve been able to create a more positive and respectful atmosphere and I'm happy with the progress we have made.”
“Ultimately, we are going to have to come together as a World Cup team,” said Gough. “We have big ambitions for the relay races and we need them to be on the same page when it comes to that race.”
Given how early the season got underway, Gough was happy the athletes were able to compete on their home ice at the Utah Olympic Oval.
“We're at our home environment so a lot of them have friends, coaches and different people around them that they can lean on for help.”
For the next several weeks, the Short Tracker will get back to training until the first World Cup of the season, which is being held in Beijing, China, on September 26-29.
Here is a list of the athletes who will represent the U.S. in the fall at World Cup:
- Jessica Smith
- Alyson Dudek
- Emily Scott
- Sarah Chen
- Lana Gehring
- You Young “Sally” Chea
- J.R. Celski
- Chris Creveling
- Jordan Malone
- John-Henry Krueger
- Eddy Alvarez
- Jeff Simon
For complete results of today’s competition, visit the US Speedskating website and click on the events tab.