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St. Louis Sports Fan Ian Quinn Could Be The Gateway City's Next Olympian Himself

By Karen Price | Sept. 27, 2021, 3:09 p.m. (ET)

Plenty of young athletes dream of becoming Olympians, and that desire fuels the countless hours of practice, training and hard work. 

Ian Quinn wasn’t one of those kids. 

He started speed skating at 8 years old, enjoyed it and simply kept going. 

“There are still some days I feel like I’m still doing it just to enjoy it,” said the 28-year-old from St. Louis. “I want to be an Olympian really bad now, but at 16 I wasn’t like, ‘I have to be an Olympian.’ I just wanted to keep skating and get as good as I could at it.” 

A short track skater turned to long track whose specialty is the mass start, Quinn is working every day to be part of the U.S. team that will compete at the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China, in February. Initially, however, he was just a kid with a lot of energy. 

“My parents were always looking for a sport for me to try,” he said. “My godfather was involved in skating, his sons skated, and they said, ‘Why don’t you come try it.’ I was this 8-year-old on hockey skates clinging to the boards for the entire time, but I just never really stopped doing it. I enjoyed it, so I just kept going back.” 

Growing up in St. Louis, Quinn was — and still is — a huge fan of the city’s sports teams. While two of the Cardinals’ 11 World Series titles have come during Quinn’s lifetime, seeing the Blues win the Stanley Cup in 2019 was something he and the entire city got to witness for the first time ever. 

“That was a ton of fun to watch,” he said. “We’d been waiting a while. I grew up going to games with my dad and my family and we were always waiting. They’d get kind of good, then they’d get bad again. That year, that playoff run was so exciting to watch. It was so reminiscent of the Cardinals’ last World Series.” 

Watching the Cardinals make their playoff runs isn’t the only thing that Quinn remembers about fall in St. Louis growing up. Another is Halloween, where the holiday is celebrated a little differently. 

“People would come out in the neighborhood and have fires in the driveways and pot luck dinners,” he said. “Another big thing is that in other places, if you want candy you knock on the door and say trick or treat. In St. Louis you have to tell a joke. It’s always about coming up with what joke you’re going to tell, then your friend steals your joke and you have to come up with a different one, so you always have to have two or three prepared. If you wanted candy, you had to tell a joke. My parents got me this big book of jokes, so I’d pick a couple and go with those.” 

The speed skating scene in St. Louis wasn’t particularly robust in the sense the city had full-time paid coaches or big-time programs, Quinn said. Growing up, there were two club teams in St. Louis, plus a few others in nearby, and they were run by volunteers. Yet the area has produced a number of Olympians over the years, including 2006 Bronze Medalist J.P. Kepka and two-time Olympian Dan Carroll. 

Quinn hopes to be the next. 

He switched from short track to long track in part because it’s easier to control the outcome skating against a clock and not having to worry about what the person next to you is doing. But when the mass start was added to the Olympic program beginning in 2018, he found that he could bring his experience in short track and even in cross-country running in high school to the long track.  

“It’s always interesting,” said Quinn, who made his World Single Distance Championships debut in 2020. “Every race is a little different, and you can have a plan but in the first three laps that plan can go out the window so you have to go to something else. I enjoy that mental aspect. It keeps you in the race, whereas with the time trial, especially in the 5K or 10K, you have a lot more time to think about things other than the race. It really takes me back to my short track days and how much I enjoy that aspect of racing. That said, things can go wrong and it’s frustrating when that does happen, but it’s always a lot of fun, no matter what.” 

Any time Quinn races, he said, he picks up little bits of information and experience that can help him in the next race. It also doesn’t hurt that get gets to train with mass start World Champion Joey Mantia. 

With the 2021-22 season getting ready to kick into high gear, the world cup opener in mid-November will be here in no time. The weeks between that event and the US Long Track Olympic Team Trials in early January will fly. 

“For me (the key to this season) is just staying mentally calm and trusting the process,” Quinn said. “I have a lot of belief in coach Gabriel Girard and that he knows what’s best for me at this point. We’ve put in the work and have to have faith that what will happen will happen. I’m looking forward to it because I think we have a lot of talented people on the team and we’ve all been working really hard to skate really fast.” 

Karen Price

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to USSpeedskating.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. 

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