Parkite Casey Dawson took home a bronze medal at the ISU World Junior Championships in Poland on Feb. 22.
Before Parkite Casey Dawson arrived in Poland for the ISU World Junior Championships in speed skating at Arena Lodowa on Friday, Feb. 21, he made a stop in Belarus for a junior world cup competition.
While most athletes wouldn’t like to compete the weekend before their biggest race of the year, Dawson embraced it.
“The ice is a lot different over in Europe so I went into Belarus thinking to just get my skating dialed down and get used to the ice and the environment,” Dawson said. “Although the (3000-meter race was shorter than the following 5,000-meter), I wanted to get my skating dialed down and my technique rock solid before going into the big one. I was happy to be able to race the week before because I feel like it really helped me mentally for what came next.”
What came next for Dawson was arguably the best result of his career.
Dawson took home the bronze medal in the 5,000-meter race on Saturday, Feb. 22 — marking his best finish at a world championship.
“The race played out exactly how I wanted it to go and how my coach wanted it to go,” Dawson said. “We started off where I wanted and didn’t really go up or down, but just kept it solid throughout. I really wanted to build it down after four laps but that’s difficult to do on that ice so I just kept it consistent the rest of the race instead and it worked out in the end.”
The only downfall was that when Dawson crossed the finish line, he didn’t raise his arms in triumph. In fact, the one thing he was sure of when he glanced at his time was that he hadn’t won anything;
“I was pretty stoked seeing my time, and then seeing how fast it was I knew I probably had a top-five finished based on who was going in the next quad of guys,” Dawson said. “I knew I had a chance at the podium but I wasn’t getting my hopes up to high, although I was excited for myself and my performance. It wasn’t until this one kid, who was a 2018 Olympian, started dying in the race. … That’s when I knew I was going to podium so that was a great feeling.”
According to Dawson, there were three things that really helped set him up for his success at the race.
First was the 3k race that he took part in the week prior. That was a huge mental hurdle that Dawson was able to clear because he finished in fourth in that race, which, considering he’s more of a long-distance speed skater, is a great result.
“After that race, I really started to believe that I could do something special in the 5k because I usually get stronger as the race goes on,” Dawson said. “I did race that race as a combination of both the 3K and 5K. … I started it like I would a 5K, a little slower, and then began to get faster later on, but I actually went at a faster pace than I usually would for the 5K.”
The second thing that helped Dawson en route to the bronze was the training sessions the week before the championships.
Although he competed in other races at the championships — 500, 1,000, 1,500-meter and mass start races — Dawson was focusing primarily on the 5k so his training sessions were more geared towards that.
But the training sessions were all about getting used to the stickiness of the ice, which in turn cause slower times and more fatigue.
Knowing this going into the day of the race made a huge difference because Dawson wasn’t afraid of the extra fatigue setting in, he was ready to embrace it.
“The conditions there are just way more different. … Beginning with the air pressure in the building and the ice not having as much glide,” Dawson said. “Getting on the ice and just used to it was the biggest part for me because I was able to understand what was coming. It’s almost a second or two longer per lap, which means more stress on your body, but I was ready for it.”
Finally, Dawson also took a different approach to his pre-race warm-up.
Rather than slowly getting warmed up like he’s been accustomed too, Dawson put himself through anintense warm-up to make sure he was physically and mentally prepared for the coming pain.
“The ice is 10 degrees colder than most rinks so your legs get a lot more fatigued a lot quicker because the cold literally just locks them up,” Dawson said. “The intense warm-up helped get my legs prepare for that and just put me in the proper mentality. I knew that I was really warmed up and this allowed me the ability to stick with my original plan.”
Now that Dawson is a bronze medalist among the best youth speed skaters in the world, he has his eyes set on becoming one of the best in the world regardless of age. He believes he’s on track for the 2022 Olympics, a longtime goal of his.
But if he does get there and finds a way on to the podium, he promises it won’t be as awkward as his time on the podium in Poland.
“You could obviously tell I’ve never been on a podium before because I was confused as to what to do,” Dawson said with a laugh. “I was turning the wrong way, just definitely in shock to be on it. But now I’m looking forward to more medals in the future, and I’ll know how to act on the podium next time.
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