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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Engineering student Emery Lehman’s second Olympics within reach

John Steppe
Emery Lehman skates at the latest International Skating Union World Cup in Salt Lake City. Lehman achieved his personal best in the 5K race (photo courtesy: Emery Lehman).

When Emery Lehman takes the ice at the Pettit Center in Milwaukee Tuesday afternoon, he will be returning to his home ice, the same rink he trained in for most of his career. However, this week has far more implications than his average training session.

After four years of grueling training, schoolwork and illness, Lehman is just one week away from finding out his Olympic fate in the U.S. Olympic Long Track Speedskating Trials.

Lehman, a junior in the College of Engineering and a long track speedskater, is attempting to get to the Olympics for the second time, as the games will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He first made headlines when he became the youngest male American at the Sochi games in 2014, giving Lehman a sense of confidence.

“Obviously, this time around, I have my goals and expectations going into (Trials) and so I feel pretty good,” Lehman said. “There’s been a big learning experience between going into the Olympic Trials this year and going into Olympic Trials last time.”

Speedskating came naturally to Lehman while growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He started the sport at age nine and made the U.S. Junior World team at 14. From there, he qualified for two events in the last Olympics.

That doesn’t make these upcoming trials even a bit more forgiving, though.

“Going into an Olympic Trial, it does not feel any easier,” Lehman said. “Everyone, I think, feels that they have a target on their back. It does not get any less stressful because looking up and down the roster, anybody can make the team.”

Most of Lehman’s last year has been spent in rinks. He went to four International Skating Union World Cups. Two were in Europe, one was in Calgary, Canada and his most recent one was two weeks ago in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Going to as many World Cups as possible is necessary to have a chance at qualifying for the Olympics. In order to do that, Lehman decided not to enroll at Marquette this past year. Balancing the travel schedule and keeping on top of schoolwork was too much.

“With the World Cups and World Cup Trials, I would have missed over a month of school at least, maybe even six or seven weeks,” Lehman said. “It worked in high school just because they were more lenient, but it’s a little different in college.”

Lehman’s studies and training have faced several obstacles including two bouts with mononucleosis and one coaching change.

“Mono took a lot out of me and put things on hold for quite a while,” Lehman said. “It was a lot of ups and downs with training because it was tough to know when my body was feeling good and when it wasn’t. It was pretty tough just to get through each training day. I asked myself, ‘Was I tired from training, or was I tired from mono?'”

Lehman has faced a different challenge in his final weeks of preparation: getting coordinated with his fellow skaters. The last time most American competitors were together was in October, an eternity when it comes to skating.

“A lot can change between October and January,” Lehman said. “It was a while ago, and everyone has been doing time trials and stuff like that, but not everyone has been at the same rink, at the same time and skating on the same ice.”

The next few weeks involve a lot of nerves for Lehman. Even if he does well in the time trials, U.S. Speedskating selects the Olympic team. It’s not a guarantee that the fastest skaters get chosen. Lehman will be fighting for one of eight spots for a chance to go to Pyeongchang. In the interim, Lehman is expected to compete every day of the trials, including in his favorite events, the 5,000 and 1,500 meter race.

“There is obviously a time standard, but (U.S. Speedskating) can pick who they think, and it is entirely up to them,” Lehman said.

Meanwhile, Lehman anxiously awaits the moment he can step onto his home ice, surrounded by family and friends, with the chance to represent his country at the highest level one more time.

“It will definitely be special,” Lehman said. “Getting the chance to represent my country is always an incredible feeling, but it will be extra special to do it on the rink I grew up on … To get back to the Olympics, with all of the things that I’ve had to overcome these last few years, I would be stoked to make it. It would be even better to do it in front of my family and friends.”

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