Ethan Cepuran celebrates winning the men's 5,000-meter race at the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Long Track Speedskating on Jan. 5, 2022 in Milwaukee.
The men’s 5,000-meter long track speedskating race is one where finishing positions are often separated by several seconds. As the U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Long Track Speedskating opened Wednesday in Milwaukee, the battle between Ethan Cepuran and Casey Dawson was decided by four-hundredths of a second.
In a race that came down to a heart-stopping photo finish, 21-year-old Cepuran from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, out-sprinted his training partner to clinch the first men’s spot for next month's Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Maybe it was the last few weeks of training or a determined motivation to get back on track after the less-than-hoped-for performance at the final world cup of the year last month in Calgary, Alberta, but Cepuran arrived at the starting line with a mindset of believing in himself.
Knowing how well another training partner, Emery Lehman, had just raced, Cepuran stayed focused throughout the 12.5-lap race. Though Dawson held the lead going into the final lap, Cepuran unleashed a burst of speed at the end to finish in 6:16.54, with Dawson following at 6:16.58.
Dawson just edged Lehman’s time of 6:16.71 to clinch the second potential spot. Whether he goes to Beijing will depend on how the rest of the week plays out at the Pettit National Ice Center and how the 10 Olympic berths are split up between the seven men selected for the Olympics.
Those last few laps Cepuran told himself to keep putting in the effort, keep building and stay locked in.
“You can’t die too early. The moment you give up in a 5K you know the race is over,” Cepuran said. “You can’t get it back. I just said, ‘All right, it’s go time.’”
Finishing so close to his training partners and teammates in the team pursuit meant everything to Cepuran. Although they are competitors, the Cepuran, Dawson and Lehman — along with Joey Mantia, who competes later this week — move as one.
“We train together every day. We race each other day. I wouldn’t be out here without them,” Cepuran said.”
The foursome in various combinations has had much success in the team pursuit so far this season, with Mantia, Lehman and Dawson combining to set a new world record at the world cup stop in Salt Lake City.
“We push each other to new depths every day,” Cepuran said. “It’s not just the three of us, it’s Joey Mantia also. Two people can support the one person feeling down. I just have to do my job and we can put something together spectacular. I think we’re an absolute unit.”
In addition to his brotherly connection with his Team Pursuit comrades, Cepuran cited the support from his parents and two older brothers.