Derek Parra, 44, was recently recognized by his peers and inducted into the U.S. Speedskating Hall of Fame on Friday, May 30. In 1984, Derek began inline skating and within only two years, he had become one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the sport. As an inliner, he was a three-time national champion, two-time overall World Champion, and two-time World Record holder. He was outstanding in the 1995 Pan-Am Games winning five gold, two silver and a bronze medal. However, he was missing just one thing, an Olympic medal.
In 1996, Parra made the switch from inline skates to ice skates, going after what he considers the biggest chase for his dreams. A native of San Bernardino, California, he lived and trained in Milwaukee from 1996 to 2001, where he took some of his longest strides toward achieving his Olympic dreams.
"When I came to Milwaukee I didn't know anybody," he said. "Everybody at the Pettit Center took me under their wing. They were out there every day before my time and now long after my time. They're truly the backbone of the sport."
One year later, after being chosen to carry the 9/11 Flag at the Opening Ceremonies in the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games, Parra officially stomped his goals of achieving an Olympic medal. He raced the very next day in the 5,000-meter and won silver. Just a few days later, he successfully won gold in the 1,500, placing with a world-record time of one minute, 43.
Parra went on to win numerous medals in ensuing World Championships and World Cups. After hanging up his skates, Parra pursued a career coaching future speed skaters and is currently the sports program director at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.
Parra is also the author of the book "Reflections in the Ice," a memoir of his successful years skating. Parra is the first ever Mexican-American to medal in the Olympic Winter Games, establishing himself as one of the greatest Latino pioneers of his day. Along with this notable achievement come off-the-ice rewards such as Inland Empire Latino of the Year, Hispanic Heritage Award recipient and being named in the Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S., recognized by Hispanic Magazine with a Hispanic Achievement Award as Sportsman of the Year. Earning respect on multiple levels, Parra has truly proven to the U.S. and the entire world that he is not just an Olympic medalist, but a true icon deserving his utmost spot in the U.S Speedskating Hall of Fame.
Joining Parra in the 2014 induction were Bob Planert and legendary coach Lyle Lebombard.