Speed Skating With an Olympic Athlete

The suits, designed by Nike, are tested in a wind tunnel and designed specifically for going fast. A solid, black rubbery material covers most of a skater's body. On parts that move, like arms, a softer, blue material covers the skin. It is dimpled like a golf ball and helps cut down wind resistance.

But there's only so far technology can take you. Training, talent and the ability to stay focused are all key.

"You're going crazy right before the gun goes off. I try to stay calm, but you're tense, you're nervous," Pearson said. "I get nervous just before some of our hard practices so you can imagine, going to a big competition, how nervous I get. But usually nerves, for myself, play with me. I skate well when I'm nervous. When the pressure is on, I do well. It's not always a bad thing but it's hard to handle right away."

A Family-Friendly Winter Sport

Pearson said skating is a family-friendly sport that is not too expensive to start.

While you can't take to the ice and train with an Olympiad yourself -- hey, sometimes being a reporter has its perks -- you can skate almost daily on the oval. The Utah facility even offers "learn to speed skate" classes: short track for children ages 5-12 and long track for those 13 and older.

(The cost is $45 for six lessons, including skate and helmet rental. A more-extensive, $3,250 program with video analysis and weight room training is also offered for those hoping to compete at the World Cup level. For more information visit www.olyparks.com)

"The sport is very kid-friendly. Anyone can come out and learn how to skate. There are programs at almost every rink the country," Pearson said. "Speed skating ovals are harder to come by. There are only four of them in the country, but this one here is open to public."

Speed skating is a relatively small sport and Pearson said that works in beginners' favor.

"Olympiads," he said, "will be right around all the time at rinks like this and there to help you."

So how did I do?

Well, I think I was worse at speed skating than regular ice skating. Luckily, Pearson was nice enough not to laugh. But there is nothing harder on the ego than like gliding around the track at about 4, maybe 5 miles per hour while professional after professional whizzes past you at 40 mph.

But I can gladly report back that after a few laps around the oval -- trust me, no world records were broken that day -- I managed to remain upright. My feet hurt from the skates and I had broken a sweat, but luckily I walked away without any bruised legsā€¦ just a bruised ego and a new appreciation for the sport.

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