The first event of the World Championships is the 300m Time Trials on the track. That rare bird, the sprinter, has to add up an opener (the first 100m) and one lap (200m) in the least time possible. To decrease their time, they break the race apart even further. They work on start positioning, lines on the corners, where to position themselves on the straightaway before corner two, and how to give it their all on the final straightaway. When it comes right down to it though, the toughest part is to keep yourself held together --- mentally and physically, before and during the race. And, adding to the pressure, as if all of the above weren't enough, is the fact that you are all alone on the track. It's just you against the timer – with everybody watching.
This year's senior sprinters are world champion sprinter Sara Sayasane and first time worlder Misha Averill. Keith Carroll and Justin Stelly are the Senior men sprinters. The Junior women sprinters are first timer Mckenzie Browne and Hailey Leach. Junior boys include Michael Ringer, Eben Jackson, and Donovan Sellers – whom coach Charlie Lucas affectionately refers to as “My three sons.” And that creates a challenge because only two athletes from each country can enter each race. “Having to choose among these three has been one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make,” says Coach Lucas. “They all have done a great job of cutting time all week in practice. They've worked hard to get comfortable with the track and find their lines. No matter who skates it, it is going to be an exciting race.”
Decision time came on Monday afternoon just prior to the opening ceremonies. After discussion at this impromptu meeting, Coach Lucas selected Eben Jackson and Donavon Sellers to run the 300m Time Trial on the track. Of course, it was a bitter disappointment to Michael Ringer at this juncture.
His time will come in the 500m.
I caught up with Eben and Donavon shortly after this meeting to get some pre-race thoughts.
BL: What's your impression of worlds so far?
Eben: Since I've been here before I know more what to expect this year. I really like this track. Some people feel that the corners are bumpy, but I feel really comfortable with it, really feel that my style of skating fits this track. I'm looking forward to a really good run. I'm ready.
Donavon: I didn't realize that this week of training would still be so much about competition. I guess since there were three of us, it made it tougher. We all had to be on the top of our game the whole time.
BL: What are your impressions of Korea so far?
Eben: Both things and people are different. People are more quiet and solitary. There doesn't seem to be much open conflict.
Donavon: It's funny. I watched a lot of Japanese cartoons growing up. I see a lot of similarities in the way the Korean people act compared to the Asian cartoons. I wish my brother was here. He would really notice this and find it really cool. Also, people stare at you a lot because you are loud, obnoxious, and arrogant.
BL: What word of advice would you offer to other skater hopefuls?
Eben: Don't fall into a wrong path; don't let anyone talk you out of your goal. Train hard and pursue it. Oh, and always skate to the line. Even though I didn't do that my first year. [laughs]
Donavon: Don't try to fit into any crowds. Focus on skating; do what you need to do to win.
So, now we have to wait and see what will happen among these 40 countries represented here. Good luck competitors.