Speed skaters to compete
in Marquette for Olympic slots
This fall, Marquette will welcome the best short-track speed skaters
in the world to town for two events leading up to the 2010 Winter
Olympics in Vancouver.
Northern Michigan University and its U.S. Olympic Education Center
are hosting the U.S. Olympic Team Trials from September 8 to 12,
with competitions at the Berry Events Center in Marquette.
The purpose of the event is to select athletes for the U.S.
Olympic speed skating team to compete at the 2010 Winter Olympics
in Vancouver, said USOEC director Jeff Kleinschmidt. He
said between fifty and sixty short-track speed skaters in the
United States have met prerequisites to get this far, although
not all of them are registered to compete in Marquette.
They had to meet minimum time standards to even be here,
Kleinschmidt said. So these really are the best of the best
speed skaters in the United States.
Of the dozens of athletes competing, the top five men and the
top five women will go on to the Olympic team, but must further
qualify at another event, the World Cup, held in November in Marquette,
Several NMU USOEC skaters will be competing in the team trials,
he said. There currently are twelve short-track speed skaters
living and training at the USOEC, and attending area schools.
Kleinschmidt said ten of those twelve met the time standards to
compete for a spot on the Olympic team and will be doing so this
The competition begins September 8 with time trials, and an opening
ceremony scheduled for September 9, with qualifying rounds and
finals following. September 10 is a rest day for the competitors,
and September 11 and 12 hold more qualifying rounds and finals,
with an awards ceremony held at the end of each days events.
The Lake Superior Community Partnership has put together a business
and community marketplace and exposition on the rest day on September
10, held at the Westwood Mall in Marquette. Pat Black, a member
of the events marketing committee and director of the Marquette
Country Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the event is a chance
for speed skating-related vendors to show their wares, and provides
visitors, residents, athletes and spectators with an activity
in the day off from the competition.
She added the marketing committee had started its work early in
the year, and saw a resulting increase in the amount of advance
tickets sold for the Olympic trials. For the areas economy,
that should mean an increase in hotel, restaurant and retail business
at the beginning of the month, Black said, since they are mostly
Traditionally, the week after Labor Day, tourism takes a
nosedive until the leaves turn, so having something like this
is a real kick for us, Black said.
Organizers expect even more ticket sales once Northern students
return to town. Kleinschmidt said he estimates about half the
tickets have been claimed already, leaving about 1,500 for students
and residents. He said hes been encouraging people to get
tickets as soon as they can, since it looks like theyll
be sold out before the event opens.
Once the trials for U.S. skaters are completed, in November the
center will again host a crucial Olympic-qualifying event with
the International Skating Unions World Cup for short-track
speed skating, drawing competitors from all over the globe who
are seeking to make their countrys Olympic teams.
That event will bring in 150 to 250 athletes from all around
the world, [representing] approximately twenty-five to thirty
countries, Kleinschmidt said. They will be trying
to qualify for their countrys Olympic speed skating team.
This includes those on the United States team who still have to
make the cut at the World Cup before heading to Vancouver in the
winter, Kleinschmidt said.
They dont actually get to go to the Olympics until
they qualify at the World Cup, he said.
This is one of two qualifying competitions that skaters can participate
in; the other is in Montreal the week before the World Cup, he
Having both events hosted at the Berry Events Center in Marquette
has been a real coup for the USOEC, and, Kleinschmidt said, a
testament to the quality of the facility and the support from
the community for past speed skating events.
Marquette previously hosted time trials for the Olympics in 2006
and the World Cup in 2003.
Its extremely rare for one community to host two of
the most prestigious speed skating events in the same year, and
one of the reasons, I believe, is the huge outpouring of community
support, he said. When you fill the Berry Events Center
with spectators all cheering the athletes on, thats a great
benefit for them.
The effort of Berry ice crews and the meticulousness of their
work also has paid off in getting international speed skating
events to the area, he said.
Its also extremely important to have the quality of
ice we have here at the Berry Events Center, Kleinschmidt
said. Last time, we set two world records on this ice, and
one of them still standsand thats after six years.
Supportive local business sponsors and the efforts of many volunteers
also contribute to the success of these and past speed skating
events, he said.
Northern Michigan University Communications and Marketing director
Cindy Paavola said there have been several student groups helping
out with the preparations of the trials, including extensive testing
by physics students of locally manufactured padding for the rink.
It has been improved to meet the highest international standards
for rink pads, she noted.
The theatre department at NMU planned and put on the opening and
closing ceremonies, while the languages department is recruiting
and providing translators for the World Cup in November to aid
the many international visitors and athletes, Paavola said. In
addition, public relations and marketing students have arranged
for music and entertainment during the events, while a student
construction group created more than 100 wooden skates to be mounted
on downtown light posts, welcoming athletes and visitors.
Efforts from the community include help from the Downtown Development
Association and the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service
Agency, Paavola said. Gwinn elementary students even made posters
welcoming athletes and visitors at K.I. Sawyer International Airport,
I think one of the things that impressed the selection committee
is the amount of community involvement, Paavola said. The
community is what has made it so special in the past, both at
the 2006 World Cup and the 2003 trials.
More information on events and athletes is available at www.goldrushskate.com
Tickets can be purchased at NMU ticket outlets, by calling 227-1032
or at www.nmu.edu/tickets
VIP ticket packages also are available from the USOEC at 227-2888.
Notes from the North Country
If you talk that way, youve come from a far distance,
was the greeting from a waitress in a Kinlochewe café on
the west coast of Scotland. And here we had been thinking we were
blending in just fine on our visit to Lynns ancestral lands.
We had explored both the old and new MacLaughlin castles
(the clan had a female chieftain), developed a quality ranking
for a wide variety of scones, boated to the Summer Isles, explored
the Isle of Skye and even driven on the wrong side
of the small-sized roads around Fort William and other western
First impressions are very strong, so when we had conversed with
folks in London, we thought: How nice it is to hear English
spoken in the manner it was intended. Then we tried to decipher
the instructions and conversation directed to us by train conductors,
cab drivers and tourist information clerks in Cornwall, Wales
and Scotland. Have you ever tried to decode the local accent in
Its not just the accent or manner of speakingresidents
of the British Isles have a different vocabulary (or perhaps those
who settled here in the colonies developed a new vocabulary
after emigrating from the home countries). It took us a while
to figure out exactly what messages we were hearingand days
to master the pronunciation of Welsh town names. At least we left
a wave of amusement in our wake.
In the interest of cross-cultural understanding (and with a nod
to Marquette Monthlys own Gerald Waite and his column A
Word to the Wise), we have compiled a word quiz from our
Can you match up words from the first (English/Scottish/Welsh)
column to those with the same meaning from the second (North American)
I Heard What You Said, But What Did You Mean?
After you finish, you can drop your page (with your name and phone
number) in the mail slot at the front of the Marquette Monthly
cottage. On September 25, well draw a name from all the
correct answers and award a North Country Publishing Upper Peninsula
book as the prize.
Lon and Lynn Emerick
Editors Note: Comments are welcome by writing MM or e-mailing
Lon and Lynn Emericks Upper Peninsula books: The Superior
Peninsula, Going Back to Central Mine, LumberjackInside
an Era, Sharing the Journey, You Wouldnt Like it Here and
You STILL Wouldnt Like it Here are available at area book
and gift stores or by visiting their Web site at www.northcountrypublishing.com