Whether it was long track, short track or dry land, US Speedskating members from across the country have been competing in US Speedskating’s Virtual National Challenge. The challenge began in November and has continued every month leading up to March. Then, on March 21-22, the athletes were able to compete in their final challenge in person at the Utah Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, Utah due to pre-competition COVID-19 testing, masks and continued social distancing.
The first day of the challenge started off with skaters from all age groups competing in a mixed gender 500m, 1000m and a one lap time trial. The final day of the challenge consisted of a 777m, 1 lap sprint and a mixed gender 6 and 9 lap pursuit. For a majority of these skaters, it was their first competition in over a year and the athletes could not have been more ecstatic about racing.
Anoshka Roa (Union City, CA), 13, from Northern California Speedskating Club, could barely contain her excitement.
“It just felt really good!” Roa said, while grinning from ear-to-ear. “I haven't skated in awhile so it felt good to be back on the ice!”
What made this challenge even more special was that skaters from all different skating abilities were intermingled in the events.
"Despite COVID-19 and the cancellation of Age Group Nationals, it was great to have the opportunity to host an end-of-season competition for all of our athletes from the grassroots to elite levels. It was a special occasion for the younger athletes to race alongside US Champions like Maame Biney who raced this weekend,” said Short Track Program Director Andréa Do-Duc.
“We also implemented a mixed-gender ability format with different distances, time trials, and team pursuit events which was a nice change of pace and great overall experience.”
After an entire year of uncertainty and rapidly changing travel plans, there was a sense of contentment as over 50 athletes from across the country came together to once again compete in a sport they love.
“The [skaters] are very happy for the opportunity and we are so thankful that US Speedskating was able to put this on,” said Colorado Gold Speedskating Club Coach Patrick Wentland. “Just giving them a chance to see where they are at and to push themselves for next season.”
The National Challenge completed the 2020/21 season and the athletes are already looking forward to next season, which promises to be an exciting Olympic year!
Click here to view results from the weekend.