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Locals satisfy need for speed

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff
Ray Thacker, far right, president of the Oval Speedskating Club, instructs a group of students on Sunday morning at the first class of the Park City Speedskating Club.
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The country’s next Anton Apollo Ohno may have made his first step toward short track superstardom this Sunday at the Park City Ice Arena.

Under the direction of Parkite David Harris, 40 participants spent the morning learning the basic techniques and rules of the sport. According to Harris, the warm reception of the sport in the area has been fabulous.

"To get a club started for a first session, its unbelievable," Harris said.

In fact, the introduction of the sport to Park City has been a bit of a whirlwind. The Park City Ice Arena’s grand opening occurred on the same weekend that Ohno claimed gold in the 500 meters. Needless to say, Harris’ sign-up table suddenly became quite popular.

"I was a marketer in my life and I couldn’t have planned it any better," Harris said.

Members of the Oval Speedskating Club also came up on those first days and demonstrated the skill and excitement of their sport.

The first session was immediately filled, and Harris soon found himself turning people away.

Harris has already organized a Park City Speedskating Club that will function under the direction of the Wasatch Speedskating Association and U.S. Speedskating along with the Oval’s club.

The positive response from the community is evident in the makeup of the first session. Kids as young as seven and adults as old as 60 attended. In between are men, women, parents, hockey players and cross-country skiers all interested in trying something new.

"Because of Park City being Park City, the response has been overwhelming," Harris said. "People want to try new sports."

During the two Sunday sessions, Harris and two coaches from the Oval divided the groups of 20 into smaller sections and carefully taught them the fundamentals of speedskating, including positioning, stride and crossovers.

The 72-year old Harris, a Brooklyn native, has been speedskating for the past 55 years, and rekindled his love affair with the sport when the Olympic Oval was built in Kearns for the 2002 Olympic Games. He was travelling down there twice a week for Oval Speedskating Club activities before the Park City rink was completed.

Within the scope of the six-week class, Harris will cover the rules and regulations of the sport as well as fine-tune the skaters’ skills. At the end he plans to hold a race or time trials.

With many Olympic speedskaters living and training in the area, Harris is hoping a few can make an appearance during the sessions to inspire the rookie skaters. This weekend’s start coincided with a U.S. Speedskating meeting in Salt Lake, and Harris said one official observed the class.

To get started, the fledgling club purchased 21 pairs of skates from Bont, an Australian speedskate manufacturer, to be used for the club. Harris has a personal friendship with owner Sarah Bont, who gave the club a large discount to help the program get off the ground. The RAP tax also benefited the club, providing safety pads to cover the boards, protecting skaters from slamming into the hockey boards.

Harris has also made the club a non-profit organization and will join the Youth WinterSports Alliance umbrella organization, to help support the continued growth of the club in the area both financially and through publicity efforts.

The Park City Speedskating Club will continuously hold introductory classes while the rink is open for six sessions every Sunday from 8:45-9:45 a.m. or 10-11 a.m. For more information on the club or classes, sign up at the Ice Arena front desk and Harris will contact those interested by e-mail.

"We’re off to a great flying start for the Park City Speedskating Club," Harris said.


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