It was a perfect night for racing. The weather was cool with a slight breeze. Spirits were high. Drew Valenski got a great start and led out for the first points of the race. Two points, then one point, then two points again. Back and forth with the other skaters. It was a tough and dirty race. There was grabbing and pushing. Staying near the front, Drew didn't have to contend with the elimination issues in the back. The pace was so fast that it was difficult to keep the lead. At points Drew dropped back to regroup. But, then, with two laps to go, he pushed to the front again and captured the final three points by crossing the line first. Now it was up to the points total to determine the winner. And it was a close one. They were still reviewing the video and counting points when we left the track last night. The award ceremony for the Junior men was deferred until tonight.
“Well, we've officially broken the ice. We have our first medal,” says Coach Charlie Lucas. After a grueling day of competition, Junior man Drew Valenski pulled off a bronze medal in the 10k points elimination race. Congratulations Drew!
I had a chance to catch up with Drew at the track.
BL: What were your thoughts as you stepped onto the track last night? Did the race go like you thought it would?
D: I was really nervous but confident at the same time. I kept telling myself, “Do it just like practice, like you did at ODN.” Toward the middle of the race I hought I might not make it. But then I thought about my mom and dad and the money they spent to get me here and I thought, “Man, I'm here at the World Championships. Stay in and see what happens.”
BL: How will it feel to be the first American to stand on the podium at this Worlds?
D: Really great! This is my first individual medal. Last year I got two silvers in the relays. I really feel honored.
BL:What word of advice would you offer to other skaters?
D: If you want something bad enough- deep down you have to really want it, then you will work through the pain to get it. And believe me, my legs really hurt after that race.
BL: What is your philosophy of training?
D: Try to listen to your body. If you're really fresh, push hard at that practice. If you are a little tired, try hard, but don't kill yourself. I try to skate as hard as my body will let me.