Emery Lehman competes during the men's 10,000-meter speedskating event at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games at Adler Arena Skating Center on Feb. 18, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Kendall Coyne (R) skates before taking on Finland during the women's ice hockey preliminary round Group A game at the Sochi Games at Shayba Arena on Feb. 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Ice skates took both Emery Lehman and Kendall Coyne from the Chicagoland area to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, where they became friends.
Since coming home, they’ve partnered to share their experience to others.
|Emery Lehman and Kendall Coyne speak to children at a Team for Tomorrow event at the West Cook YMCA in Oak Park, Illinois, on June 22, 2014.
On Sunday afternoon, Lehman (long track speedskating) and Coyne (ice hockey) spoke to a group of roughly 25 children at the West Cook YMCA in Oak Park, Illinois, as part of a Team for Tomorrow event.
Team for Tomorrow began in 2008 as a partnership between the United States Olympic Committee and U.S. Olympians and Paralympians. Through Team for Tomorrow, U.S. athletes offer assistance and support to those in need and also spread Olympic values in their communities.
“It’s been really good,” Lehman, a long track speedskater who competed at the 5,000- and 10,000-meter distances in Sochi, said. “I love talking to kids. I love the questions. I love showing them what I do.”
Sunday’s event consisted of a highlight video of the Sochi Games, speeches by Lehman and Coyne, a question and answer session with the children, an up-close opportunity for the kids to see the skates and uniforms Lehman and Coyne wore at the Winter Games, and then an autograph and photo session.
“I thought it went really well,” Lehman said. “I always love going and talking to people, and sharing my story.”
Lehman, an Oak Park native who just graduated from high school and will be attending Marquette University in the fall, talked to the group about how he began his skating career as a hockey player. While attending a hockey clinic, Lehman’s mother saw a flyer for speedskating and signed Emery up. He reluctantly gave the sport a chance and quickly became hooked.
Lehman, who in Sochi was the youngest male athlete on the entire U.S. Olympic Team, and also the youngest speedskater from any country competing in the Winter Games, said he has been doing lots of promotional events in the Oak Park area.
“When I am in Oak Park doing these things, it definitely makes me feel like more of a celebrity, even though I may not be,” he said. “I love the support that Oak Park has given me. That’s why I’ve been trying to get around to all of Oak Park and sign autographs, take pictures, anything they want.”
As for his Sochi experience, Lehman told the kids in attendance on Sunday that he loved it.
“There was free McDonald’s, and the sun was out,” he said, which drew a round of laughter.
Passion for their respective sports — and sports in general — was a common theme for Lehman and Coyne.
Coyne, who was a member of the silver-medal-winning women’s ice hockey team in Sochi, shared stories to the group about how she pushed her parents into letting her play hockey at the age of 3 because her older brother was a hockey player. Coyne also mentioned a passion for doing her homework because only when she was done could she play the sport she loved so much.
“It’s pretty neat to compare the sports and give examples to the kids of the differences between speedskating and ice hockey,” said Coyne, who is originally from Palos Heights, Illinois, and attends Northeastern University in Boston.
This is the second Team for Tomorrow event Lehman and Coyne have done together.
“It’s awesome,” Coyne said of Team for Tomorrow. “They had great questions today. Just to get another kid out there and try a sport like speedskating and hockey that we do, which are not common sports, maybe some kid will try it. That would be really special.”
Coyne said she felt Sunday’s event was a great success.
“I think it definitely opened up eyes to our sports, but I hope it opened up eyes that they can achieve something,” Coyne said. “Especially since Emery is from this town, and he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He was just a normal kid. Hopefully they realize that we are normal people, and that anyone can achieve their dreams if they work toward it and love it.”
John Juettner is a sportswriter from the Chicago area. He is freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.