(ATR) Speed skating returns to its roots this week as all four events are held outdoors at Innsbruck’s Olympic Oval.
Mi Jang of South Korea, the first double gold medalist of these Games. (ATR)
Not since Albertville 1992 – when stars like Bonnie Blair and Johan Olav Koss dominated the ranks – has the sport been contested on an outdoor oval at an Olympics of any kind.
In the ladies 1500m on Monday, Mi Jang of Korea became the first double gold medalist at these inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games. Not surprisingly, she didn’t mind competing in the elements on what was a sunny but chilly day.
“Indoors you don’t have to think about the wind or mist coming off the ice,” said Jang. “It’s much easier to compete indoors than outside, but today was a very good experience.”
Fan Yang led a 1-2 Chinese finish in the men’s 1500m. Clocking a fast time of 1:54.20, Yang won by an enormous margin of more than six seconds.
“I’m really used to this outdoor environment because as a child growing up I trained mostly outdoors,” said Yang.
Despite the overwhelming victory, Yang would have rather skated under a roof in a controlled environment as is the case with modern high-tech speed skating venues these days.
Fan Yang of China circles the outdoor Olympic Oval. (ATR)
“I prefer to race indoors,” said the gold medalist. “It’s a little bit cold outside and it's much more comfortable to compete indoors.”
“I like to skate inside because its warmer, you can breathe normally and the ice is consistent for everyone,” agreed Sanneke De Neeling of the Netherlands, who won silver in the ladies 1500m.
“Today the elements were very good, and it was a perfect outdoor competition,” said Norway’s Magnus Kristensen. “But I think races should be inside because the weather isn’t always as nice, so it’s better to have the same ice and wind for everyone.”
Speed skating continues outdoors on Wednesday – whether the
young athletes like it or not – with the 3,000m for both men and women. The new mass start event comes Friday.
Father-Son Hockey Rivalry
Wearing number 14 for the red, white and blue in Team USA's 5-1 loss to Canada on Sunday evening was forward Ryan MacInnis.
USA and Canada faced off Sunday before a packed house in the Tyrolean Ice Arena. (ATR)
Ever since Sidney Crosby’s gold medal-winning goal in Vancouver, it seems the U.S.-Canada rivalry has intensified no matter the level of competition.
“Canada plays more physical than the European teams and it's great playing in this atmosphere here,” MacInnis said. “We really want to beat each other so badly.”
If his last name sounds familiar, it’s because Ryan’s father
Al spent 23 seasons as an NHL defenseman known for his blistering slap shot with both Calgary and St. Louis. He hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Flames in 1989.
A native of Port Hood, Nova Scotia, the elder MacInnis skated on Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. On three other occasions, he also played for the Canadian national team.
Ryan, one of four siblings, was raised by his parents in St. Louis, where Al settled after retirement and has opted to represent Team USA in international competition.
"It's pretty cool," Ryan MacInnis says of his father Al's 2002 gold medal. (ATR)
“There’s a little bit of joking around between us, but he respects my decision and I’m glad that I play for the USA,” said Ryan.
However, Ryan can’t help but be reminded about his father and Team Canada’s 5-2 Olympic triumph over the Americans in 2002.
“He has his national jersey hanging up in our basement with the gold medal,” said Ryan. “It’s pretty cool.”
Ryan and the Americans face-off against undefeated Finland on Tuesday followed by the Russians on Thursday prior to the medal games.
If the red, white and blue can generate more offense in upcoming games, perhaps the young MacInnis might have the opportunity to hang a jersey and a gold medal next to his father's.
Written and reported in Innsbruck by Brian Pinelli.
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