Putting Park City on track | ParkRecord.com

Putting Park City on track

Former U.S. Speedskating national team member Michael Kooreman leads Leif Ahlren and Ryan Wheeler around the track at the Park City Ice Arena.

The Park City Speedskating Club is getting help from some of the best..

The new club, started in conjunction with the Park City Ice Arena’s first session of basic short-track speedskating instruction, is the pet project of Park City’s David Harris. With Park City in such close proximity to the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, renowned as the world’s fastest ice and home to most of the U.S. national speedskating team, Harris seized the opportunity to use some of the top level coaches to help the Park City program start on the right foot.

From the beginning, Leif Ahlgren, Olympic Oval coach and a former national champion skater has been working with the new speedskaters in Park City. Two weeks ago, Michael Kooreman, 10-time national and five-time world short-track team member and former roommate and training mate of Olympian Apollo Anton Ohno, also began working with the program. Kooreman recently retired from the sport in Colorado Springs and moved to Utah to work with developmental and national level short-track speedskating teams.

According to Kooreman, both Park City and the Oval are lucky because most American speedskating clubs are coached by people who only participate in the sport for fun and recreation.

"A lot of coaches have been out of the sport for awhile," Kooreman said. "The sport is improving rapidly. You have to keep up with the new techniques and equipment."

Both Kooreman and Ahlgren said that when they learned of the number of interested Park City residents, they were floored.

"I’ve never seen a club start with this many people," Kooreman start.

In fact, about 40 people were turned away from the initial beginning class. Both skaters hope to begin offer more in terms of coaching and club activities in order to capitalize on this extraordinary interest.

The Park City rink will close over the summer, which means that the Park City speedskating activities will have to take a short detour to the Oval. the beginning of August though, Harris and the other coaches hope to offer more speedskating sessions in Park City to accommodate the growing interest.

Kooreman himself first began speedskating in his native home of Grand Rapids, Mich. with the West Michigan Speedskating Club and realizes how important a good program is to start skaters out with good fundamental technique.

Kooreman and Ahlgren both suggest that Parkites caravan down to the Oval for summer classes if they want to maintain their newly learned skills or get a jump-start on the fall session.

"It’s not exactly like riding a bike," Kooreman said.

Kooreman says that anyone interested in joining the program should consider its benefits. Any age or body type can be successful at the sport. It provides excellent core strengthening and cardiovascular fitness. There are recreational and competitive outlets for the sport and may seem less complicated than figure skating and hockey to some people.

"The whole concept is fun," Kooreman said.

He added that speedskating can help build endurance and speed for hockey players and keep the leg muscles of Nordic skiers strong and ready for the winter.

Short-track speedskating is also ideal for the more competitive Parkite, because skating at altitude allows for a faster performance.

"The higher the altitude, the faster you can skate," Kooreman said. "It will be interesting to see how fast it is here."

A beginner session includes learning the basic concepts of the sport, correct body positioning, proper pushing technique and handling the corners. Club classes are continuous, because there are also new things to learn, even in the higher levels of the sport. Ahlgren compares it to track and swimming where coaching and learning can last a lifetime.

Right now the program’s only obstacles is a need for more ice time and equipment, but all three coaches agree that as the program continues to blossom, the kinks will be worked out.

As Park City skaters get better, they can directed into many avenues. The local contingent will soon begin competing with local clubs. There is also a Masters competition circuit and a myriad of opportunities for youngsters. If children show promise, they can focus on long- or short-track skating and join a training team at the Oval. Currently, Ahlgren leads the Strength Training Endurance Performance (STEP) program for budding young skaters ages 9-12, and Kooreman leads the New Edge Short-track Team for kids with national potential. They both expect that as the sport evolves at the Park City Ice Arena, the higher level programs and competitions will soon move up there as well. Harris is planning to host an in-state race next winter as well as a Utah Winter Games competition.

Anyone interested in joining the Park City Speedskating Club or just checking out the sport, can watch the final class of the first session on Sunday. The classes are held from 8:45-9:45 a.m. and 10-11 a.m. After the second session, Ahlgren and Kooreman will open up the ice for an hour to allow people to try the sport. People will need helmets of some sort, gloves and shin guards if possible. Skates will be provided. People may sign up for the fall session on Sunday as well. Registration for Oval classes will also be on-hand or people may visit the oval website at http://www.utahathleticfoundation.com . Information on Park City Speedskating can be found at http://www.pcice.org.

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