It was only three years ago that Conor McDermott-Mostowy started long track speedskating – and he just earned a spot on the 2020-21 National Long Track Team.
“I’m very excited about it,” he said. “Someone pointed out to me the other day that I started only a few years ago and now I’m the national team. I thought that was really cool.”
As a previous short track skater, Conor’s first coach was Olympian Nathaniel Mills who always told him he should try long track. But living in Washington, D.C., that wasn’t an option. Conor started skating in third grade, eventually joining a competitive club where he skated short track for eight years.
Conor’s breakout year was in 2016, when after his first race at the Junior Team Trials, he felt he had a chance to make the junior world team. Instead, he was knocked off in the final race of the event. He was disappointed and frustrated. In the 2017 world junior team selection, he fell in one race and was DQd in another, landing in 31st.
He decided to take his coach’s advice. Conor went to Milwaukee for a couple of weeks to practice long track skating at the Pettit National ice Center. He then traveled to Salt Lake and made the 2017 Junior World Team.
“When I first started skating, I wasn’t the kid you’d pick out as one who would make a world team,” he said. “But I think I had a good physiological base from short track skating. Short track makes your corners a lot better. But my straightaways were awful. Just horrible.”
Conor thinks it’s easier transitioning from short track to long track than the reverse, and he enjoys the mass start which is basically short track skating on a long track oval. He misses short track training, but not the competitions.
“Conor embodies determination,” Mills said. “The sport didn't come easy for him at the beginning - it didn't for most of us - but his enthusiasm and patience never faltered. It's a great lesson for young skaters. For a long time, he wasn't even among the fastest kids in the speedskating program in Washington, D.C. (just like Maame before him) but he stuck with it and now he's among the fastest speedskaters in the United States.”
Three years after the switch, Conor is flourishing. At the 2020 LT Four Continents, he finished sixth in the 1000m, and at the 2018 Long Track Junior World Championships, the team set a junior national record in the Team Pursuit.
He’s been working with the national team and says even with the COVID precautions, it’s starting to feel more normal. “Once I started training with everyone else, like Joey [Mantia] and Kimi [Goetz], it started to feel more like I’m on the team.”
Conor’s speedskating role models are Shani Davis, who he met right after the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and Olympian Brittany Bowe. “It’s inspiring to see Brittany is somebody who’s that good but also very humble,” Conor said.
This will be a growing season for Conor, who admits he still has a lot to learn about long track skating. All his personal best times were set last year, including his 1000m time that he improved by three seconds. He would love to make the world team again, skate with the A group, and visit more places around the world.
“Conor brings a lot of enthusiasm to the team,” said Ryan Shimabukuro, National Long Track Coach. “He looks eager to make the most out this opportunity so he can maximize his growth into the skater he wants to be.”
Outside the skating world, Conor studies neuroscience. He just finished his sophomore year at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, and plans to take pre-med classes in Utah.
“I just stumbled upon neuroscience,” he said. “I want to go to med school, but I don’t want to go into neurosurgery. I’m interested in biomedical research like using gene editing to treat genetic diseases.”
Conor is also a classically trained vocal artist who has performed in many choirs and loves to spend time drawing and reading. One of his favorite authors is Ta-Nehisi Coates and his book that Conor read several years ago, “Between the World and Me.” Always up for a challenge, Conor is excited to see what the next season brings as he continues to improve.
“He’s a testament to perseverance,” Mills said, “and the unconditional love and support of his parents, Elizabeth and Tom. I can definitely see my younger athletic self in Conor, although I never went as fast or looked as smooth as he does already.”