Trials Day Two: Experience just as intense for fans

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Photo by John Steppe

The United States team pursuit trio finished in eighth place late Wednesday afternoon and were beaten by Canada by nearly eight seconds. Emery Lehman’s Olympic Games are over.

Tom Riley has been involved in speedskating for more than 40 years as a coach and skater. This year is his first as a spectator.

“It’s a lot easier being here watching, but it brings a lot different smile to my face watching everybody else from this view,” Riley said. “It’s a lot of fun to see from this side, being in the bleachers.”

Excitement and nervousness were common emotions among Riley and other spectactors sitting in the bleachers at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee Wednesday afternoon for the second day of the Long Track Speedskating Olympic Trials.

A sold-out crowd of approximately 1,300 people packed into eight grandstands. Some of them wore “Team USA” apparel while others had custom signs. Cowbells were a common sound, as were fans stomping their feet and clapping loudly. No one seemed to be cheering for or against a particular skater.

Family and friends of skaters Sugar Todd and Brittany Bowe were unknowingly in the same section as one another while the skaters were paired with each other in the final heat of the women’s 1,000-meter race. Bowe won the heat and snatched an Olympic spot while the Todd family went home empty handed. Sugar finished in seventh place.

Todd, originally from Omaha, Nebraska, moved to Lake Mills, Wisconsin with her parents in order to focus more on training. That’s where she met Riley.

“There is still a part of me that will want to be yelling her splits,” Riley said. “Without a doubt, I want to be on the ice yelling or doing something.”

The longtime speedskating coach was among the dozens of people who made the trek from the Madison area over to the Pettit. All of them donned navy blue coats that read “Team Sugar Todd.”

Although Todd went home empty-handed, there are still three days left of racing.

“This is a big event,” Todd said. “You see the intenseness of the skaters, you see how much it means to the fans, and I’ve been through all of the events in between, but this, this is definitely a step above.”

NOTES

  • Marquette junior Emery Lehman set his personal best in the 1,000-meter race, skating to a time of 1 minute, 10.90 seconds.
  • Lehman held the 11th out of 16 pairs, or when one skater squares off against another, and he held the lead until the final two pairings, when the experienced skaters held their own.
  • Joey Mantia won the event with a time of 1:09.14, followed by Shani Davis (1:09.22) and Mitchell Whitmore, (1:09.30). Lehman finished seventh. “It’s a pretty good feeling to set my personal best,” Lehman said after the race. “I set a personal best in my 1,000 earlier this year, and to do it here again at sea level, at Olympic Trials, is not a bad time to do it.”
  • Lehman still has two events left, including the 1,500-meter race on Saturday and the mass skate on Sunday. “(My legs) are a little tired,” Lehman joked. “After my race yesterday, I told my coach that my legs don’t hurt that bad, because after a really good race, those are the ones that don’t hurt the most. But then, trying to fall asleep last night, my legs were throbbing, so I was a little tired this morning.”