Park City speedskater Casey Dawson heads to Olympics — 4 years ahead of schedule
He is set to compete in three events in Beijing
The Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns has a reputation for being the “fastest ice on earth” due to the high altitude and the sheer number of world records that have been set there, including when it hosted Olympic speedskating events in 2002. Skating on home ice at the World Cup, Park City speedskater Casey Dawson and teammates Joey Mantia and Emery Lehman decided to add one more record to the list in the men’s team pursuit in December.
The three men broke the world record in the event with a time of 3:34.47. The team pursuit requires all three team members to be perfectly in sync and skating right behind each other without getting tangled up in the midst of swinging arms and legs.
“It was amazing, we have the crowd to cheer us on, and being at our home rink showed that we are dominant there and that we can skate well there and it just shows our prowess skating,” Dawson said. “It was awesome being able to celebrate with my family and so forth after and everyone watching. It’s just like a different experience (than) if we’re skating in Norway or something and we set the world record.”
That experience was not the only memorable moment of Dawson’s season, however. He was named to the U.S. Olympic team earlier this month, and the team pursuit is just one of three events he’ll be racing in alongside the 1,500-meter and 5,000-meter events. Setting a world record — and then winning that same event again just a week later at the World Cup in Calgary — has been the most notable highlight of Dawson’s first full season on the circuit, and he now has the opportunity to represent Park City at the Beijing Olympics.
“I feel like I’m going to skate my best, and it’s my first-ever Olympics, so it’s definitely going to be a learning experience,” Dawson said. “I just have to go into it thinking I’ve been skating well in practice, just have to translate it at the Games and just skate my best.”
Cheering on the sideline as Dawson and his teammates crossed the finish line in the team pursuit in December were Mike and Tami Dawson, his parents. Mike and Tami have spent the season traveling across the world for World Cup races after realizing that visitors wouldn’t be allowed for the Olympics. But this time, they were back at the all-too-familiar Utah Olympic Oval watching their son help break a world record.
“I don’t think I could feel my legs, we just couldn’t even believe it.” Tami said. “It was like a simultaneous roar amongst all the parents and U.S. Speedskating and all the VIPs that were there. Mike and I, of course, were just like, ‘Holy cow, what did we just see?'”
Mike and Tami didn’t have a background in skating prior to their son developing an interest in it. Dawson tried speedskating for the first time through the Youth Sports Alliance and fell in love with it immediately. He’d tried other sports in the past like cross-country skiing and soccer, but nothing stuck like speedskating.
“They brought in the speedskates, and I’ll never forget his sweet, little face that said, ‘Mommy, sign me up, sign me up for speedskating,'” Tami said. “I was like, ‘What? Speedskating?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, that was so fun!'”
At first, an Olympic appearance this year didn’t seem likely. It felt like 2026, when Dawson would be a little older, a little stronger and hopefully a lot faster, would be his year. Dawson even said that he’s not too stressed out about the Olympics this year as an individual because he doesn’t think he’ll peak as a skater until then.
But his performance this season earned him a chance to compete in the Games four years ahead of schedule.
“Tami and I, we’ve always believed in Casey, and we would always look around and kind of gauge if anybody else noticed — you can’t help yourself — you’re looking around and saying, ‘I wonder if anybody else even knows who Casey is or thinks he’s any good,'” Mike said. “Because we’re his parents, and maybe we’re a little biased, but we think he could actually go places with this. … It was organic, it was a steady progression, there wasn’t an ‘Aha!’ moment.”
Dawson won a bronze medal at junior worlds in 2020 in the 5,000-meter event and continued to improve until he was skating full-time on the World Cup tour for the first time this year. That was another big step in his young career.
As an individual, he’s doing his best to hold his own against the world’s top skaters. His top results this year were two personal bests in the 1,500-meter and the 5,000-meter events at none other than the Utah Olympic Oval.
“This has definitely been a different experience, and I showed that I can actually skate internationally,” he said. “It’s definitely a different pressure skating against the best in the world and trying to make a statement.”
Away from the rink, Dawson is an outdoors enthusiast who is also studying computer engineering at the University of Utah. He’s an avid biker and hiker and also enjoys hanging out with friends and family.
His parents know him as a pretty humble, level-headed guy. Growing up, he wasn’t one to make a big deal out of a bad race or tough day at practice. In the same vein, he didn’t let his early success get to his head either. He’s more likely to come home and ask about what’s for dinner than tell his parents that he’s chasing down a national record.
“He just learned from any down days that he had and would be more interested in going to the Cheesecake Factory afterward,” Tami said. “He’s just never has had a bad day skating.”
Now, heading into his first Olympics, Dawson is surprised at how far he’s come since he was just a kid begging his mom to sign him up for speedskating. He and his parents are doing their best to keep expectations low and enjoy the Games for what they are. It wasn’t that long ago that he was just like any other kid who imagined going to the Olympics.
“Being a part of Team USA is pretty crazy, and just all the support I’ve been getting and all that is amazing,” Dawson said. “I have to get there first, but I feel like it’s just going to be a humbling experience and I’m just going to skate my best and do what I can do and show the world what I can do.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.