22 February 2018

Success at Our Fingertips: We Need to Give Purpose to More Than Just Medals

Jeffrey jr. and coach, 1998
As the girls Team Pursuit Speedskating took advantage of their 4th lady and succeeded, so could the men have used a 4th man in preparation and potentially in the races to have succeeded as well. The event has been for the US, an historically miscalculated race, resulting in more strategic failures than athlete failures. Just saying...

Luck is where opportunity and preparation meet. Was the men’s team fully prepared? The team was more than capable but a full team may have made the difference. Play the odds here...to be able to select from 4 for a team of 3 or to select from 3 (with no options). Enough said.

Before you say I’m belaboring the point, mark my words...as they have always  taken a 4th man in the past, this being the first time they did not, they will now ALWAYS take a prepared 4th man in the future. It WILL happen.

And then the entire mentality of medals being the driving force of the USOC in the future...that will change as the pundits are already saying. There is an unusual precedent recognized from the past 3 Olympics. It is a precedent not only talked about in the press, but amongst the athletes that the fall-off of medals is a direct consequence of the lack of attention and resources (by the USOC and the sport organizations) to the athletes just under the medal spots. Ask those who just missed the medals and beyond. They arguably are as good as gold. It was just the day...as are those further down.

If they are given the attention given the “top” athletes, more athletes can be that top athlete–self fulfilling prophecy. It needs to be recognized when you are getting closer to the top, it’s a matter of being able to stay in the game to develop...that is the game changer. To increase the odds, you need to have the numbers from which to choose. Enough of the elitism and the belief that fewer spots will make the athletes work that much harder. The mentality is not working. 

Stop banging the head expecting a different outcome. The athletes are there. They just aren’t treated as such. And it starts at the top the USOC.

- Nancy Sr.

30 January 2018

Olympics; Right, Wrong, or What's Best?

Jeffrey anticipating that this finish would put him on the Olympic Team
It would seem that this would be a time of simply anticipating the Olympics, but it is not for many. In speedskating, it resurrects examples from many who've experienced unjust selection or even reversal of selection once on the Olympic Team as has happened to Jeffrey just recently. This has happened too many times for it not to be indicative of an inherent problem in USS discretionary selections.

Yet to me, it doesn't need to be an involved written change, but simply the overlying rule that the athlete's best interest always comes first.

I didn't involve myself in the conflicting reasons as to why Jeffrey wasn't ultimately selected because I wanted to trust the system that justice would prevail, as I had been asked to do for the last 4 years.

I am challenging now because the U.S. Olympic Team Pursuit selection process was unjust. This is a necessary rehash. Skaters, coaches, parents and followers continue to this moment question what happened and rightly so because it was not only unjust to Jeffrey, but can be unfair to the other Team Pursuit athletes, as well as the Team Pursuit decisions in the future.

Team Pursuit selection is quadrenilaly a serious issue and medals are lost because of discretionary decisions. This has happened before in 2010.

The reasons Jeffrey wasn't selected, stated by the selection committee (not National coaches), seem valid IF the goal is to take fewer skaters and be less prepared.

The committee decided:

  1. "We don't plan on using a 4th Team Pursuit skater in the Olympics, but if we were to race you [Jeffrey], we won't win a medal. And if we won't win a medal, we don't want to bring our 4th best Team Pursuit skater and we will just use a sprinter instead." -False reasoning because skaters' performances ebb and flow. Also, luck is involved. As well as the fatigue factor on the 2nd day of Team Pursuit racing with back to back races (1 hour apart). And the National team coaches both recommended Jeffrey as the 4th Team Pursuit skater. The sprinter to now be used is already on team, who has not even raced the 2 races used to decide a 4th skater as well as he does not have a qualifying time for either of the 2 races that the ISU requires to skate the Team Pursuit as a specialist, if he were a specialist. This was more a staff (less tuned to the nuances and necessities of this present Team Pursuit) driven decision rather than a coaching driven decision, which crosses the expertise of those coaches who should be making such a decision.
  2. "We simply don't take alternates." -false. "Alternates" is not a Team Pursuit selection term. The team is a "4-man team" with potential "specialists" for the purpose of giving the skaters every chance, over 3 heats of racing, to have the option of 4 skaters is necessary and responsible (3 race at a time, but a 4th man is used to replace a skater that could be tired from the previous heat, someone is sick/hurt, used for an "easier" heat to save another skater's energy, etc). There was an extra quota spot. Use it! As a team, the business strategy is: always be prepared. The team is simply not fully prepared for this 2018 Olympics.
  3. There was a concern over taking a Team Pursuit specialist without an individual race (the said ISU requirement). -It is already known there only needs to be "intent" to skate an individual race, which they can make happen. It is a loosely used term.
  4. Having been in this sport for 50 years, no reasons like these warrant leaving someone off an Olympic team spot that can potentially bring home a medal.
The 4th Team Pursuit spot could easily have been taken to the Olympics and would indicate that all skaters' best interest are considered. There was simply no downside to any skater, coach, the organization (USS), nor the USOC. It was a decision simply against the athlete than for the athlete.

This should bother the public who believes they have their athletes' back, especially all those invested in the skater.

This should bother the aspiring skater who would only want to see a fair path to make an Olympic Team.

This should bother the USOC that it is an exclusionary action that goes against their own written Olympic Creed.

Why keep bringing this all up? There was an injustice, and something needs to be done for the future of this sport. In order for there to be change, there needs to be a recognition of the wrong, a willingness to accept criticism and a passion to make a difference in this world for the future athletes. Don't we want to get better? Don't we stand for excellence?

-Nancy Sr.

23 January 2018

US Speedskating Not in Line with Olympic Core Values

No doubt we all watch the Olympics to see who will win gold. But what truly inspires you?

For many of us, its the story of overcoming struggle and an athlete's journey that reveals the true champion. It's those athletes that have overcome so much, but still fall short of ever being close to the podium. Their journey and accomplishment to just make the Olympic team is a story worth knowing. Recently I read that Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan TaeKwonDo Olympian sensation from 2012 just made the 2018 Olympic team in the Cross Country skiing having just put on skis one year ago

Why bring this story about Pita up? Well his message inspires and its the most recent example of why I love the Olympics.  He said "I want to show people who aren't in sport, or are having struggles that they can do something out of their comfort zone, enjoy the journey and get themselves somewhere with it." Yes, he wants to win a gold medal, but he's had to overcome great obstacles just to get to the Olympics. For him, he is willing to challenge the impossible, to sacrifice a lot in order to be an example to others that they can accomplish feats they never thought possible. He inspires.

When I was a little Nancy Jr., my mom was one I looked up to (and still do!) because of her strength, her perseverance, her dedication, her fight for justice in the face of trials and obstacles. She did the unorthodox way to making 4 Olympic teams by doing football workouts, training without a speedskating coach and taking coaching from her father, using her old swimming workouts that she converted to ice workouts, working out with a 1 year-old baby, and more. She was the first U.S. athlete, men and women, to make 4 Winter Olympic teams and competed in her last Olympics when I was just a 1 year old, having made a 4-month comeback. It was because my mom embodied what it meant to be a part of the Olympic Movement, to inspire others by pushing the boundaries of limitation, to stand up for justice and create a sport environment that focuses on the grassroots, but develops elite caliber athletes. Nancy Sr. is a coach that not only coaches for excellence, but teaches lessons on how adversity in sport applies to life, to faith, so as to not just prepare them to reach their potential, but to transfer that to their life outside of sport. 

This is what inspired me to be a part of the Olympic Movement, to personally take up striving to make an Olympic team despite the fact that I was following my mom's footsteps. I liked how she was able to inspire others and used her platform for good by putting in countless hours of time giving back to the sport, and I wanted to do the same. You can say that her understanding of the Olympic Movement was holistic. It's not the medals, but its how the journey, to be the best, has shaped people's lives and developed tough character which ultimately inspires people beyond the Olympics.

For a while now, I have seen a slow change in Olympism in America. Turning from this holistic view to focusing more on medals and winning. Focusing on winning is a necessary thing, but not when it begins to overcome the reason the Olympics exist. The USOC says it best on their site about the Olympic Movement:

Olympic Creed: The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.  
Olympism: Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining the qualities of body, will and mind in a balanced whole. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced in accordance with Olympism and its values.  
The Olympic Movement represents the belief in grassroots successes and podium triumphs, and the strength of sport to unify communities, nations and the world. No matter if U.S. athletes win gold or struggle in its pursuit, the USOC’s goal is to make sure they are better citizens for participating in the Olympic Movement.

I am writing about these core values cause it concerns me that USS is falling away from such and has an extreme emphasis on medals and not everyone is going to win a medal.

As many of you know, we have challenged them not taking a 4th Team Pursuit skater and not filling the men’s Olympic quota for US speedskating. Their reason for not taking a 4th person is, to paraphrase “we don’t plan on using a 4th Team Pursuit skater in the Olympics, but if we were to race you, we wouldn’t win a medal. And if we aren’t going to win a medal then we don’t want to bring our best 4th Team Pursuit skater and we will use someone already on the team that isn’t specifically prepared.” This means that US Speedskating would essentially be throwing out an Olympic team race if they found themselves in this situation. A reason that goes against the core values they supposedly represent.

To anwer some questions you might have in your mind:

  • It's not a spot issue. They are taking 7 men, but can take up to 8 men because there is 8 quota spots available. 
  • It is not a financial issue. They allowed for 8 spots both men and women and they are taking 6 women and 7 men right now.
  • And Jeffrey is the next best skater to be taken on the Team Pursuit team based on 1500m/5k times, technique compatibility, team skater, coachability, dedication to team pursuit preparation camps, team attitude, etc (in the USS regs).

The unfortunate detail is that it is a discretionary spot so even though he is fully qualified and it is in US Speedskating's best interest to take Jeffrey, it is up to the committee's decision.

I am writing this blog post upon request from more people than I could deny. I am hoping to being transparency to issues that are not being challenged. I am, along with so many people that are emailing and speaking up as well, are sticking up for justice, for what is best. This, to ultimately help bring back the focus of Speedskating in the US to Olympic values for the future of this sport, for the grassroot kids who dream like I once did.


Nancy Jr.

18 January 2018

Heartache (by Nancy Sr.)

Steve Penland
We know many of you do not know or are uncertain as to the outcome of the 2018 Speedskating Olympic Trials for Jeffrey and Nancy Jr.

So many of you have supported us through so many years with heart, soul, prayers and resources. You have been our backbone and we are grateful.

It is so hard to not be able to give back to you the excitement of being able to follow us through this 2018 Olympics. But what is so unusual is that there was no expectation from you, the supporters. You have repetitively supported and encouraged us graciously and for that we are blessed. But it is still very difficult to not be able to “give you” a “team Swider-Peltz" Olympics experience.

For Nancy Jr., we knew things were seemingly not coming together to make the Olympic Team, but anything can happen and she stayed tough to the end in the face of the odds brought on by ensuing injuries from her broken back some years ago.

For Jeffrey, we knew it would be tough, but the spots he trained for and had his best chances in were the Team Pursuit and/or the Mass Start. There were 4 spots to be filled on the Team Pursuit. And at the Trials, Jeffrey earned that spot from the criteria set out and that criteria was understood as such by those skaters vying for the Team Pursuit.

Because it was discretionary, the organization decided after the races, in an unprecedented stance to take 3 team pursuit skaters instead of 4. Such a decision is one all international Olympic Team Pursuit teams, as well as International Skating Union technical members, would not agree with. We trusted the organization to make a decision in the best interest of ALL skaters. It is simply to the other 3 skaters advantage to have a prepared 4th skater in case one is unable to skate. There are also 8 spots for the men to be named to the Olympic team and that 8th spot is being left unfilled. We do not agree with the fairness or logic of this decision. The Team Pursuit is the one race where luck can come into play and the odds are greatest for medal potential because of only 8 teams in contention at the Olympics. Also upsets happen just like Nancy Jr’s 2010 Vancouver Team Pursuit team where they were seeded 8th and upset the 1st seeded team, the Canadians. That Canadian team was expected to win the gold, but the US girls knocked them out in a situation where in the beginning no one believed they could do it.

In the mass start race, Jeffrey came into the Trials in 2nd place from 2 previous team pursuit races. He needed to beat 2 guys to maintain his spot. He was second by 0.1 seconds. It could have gone another way in a moment. It was the hardest moment of his career and my coaching, accepting that 2 possible ways onto the Olympic Team were gone. 

It was his boyhood dream that in (0.1) vanished. 

Jeffrey didn’t leave a stone unturned. He was student of the sport, a technician, and made the physical and mental sacrifices necessary for this level.

Knowing the sacrifices many of you made, as well, to get him there, of course was a huge motivation in his career. 

The heartache does not just go. The harder you work the harder it is to loose. Something you sacrifice so long for, has become your life and it isn’t a simple answer. I personally as a coach am struggling almost beyond what I can handle. Jeffrey, in case there is reason to be called up, is still training to be ready. For him this is hard, but he doesn’t want regrets.

It has been my privilege and blessing to have been able to coach my two kids throughout their careers. I couldn’t be more honored. 

Many of you came, called, wrote, left messages that have overwhelmed us in a positive way. Again, we so wanted to give you all an Olympic experience with our Olympic story. It will not be, but know we will stay strong and your part and faith in us will be forever etched in our hearts and minds....of course we know to trust in God's plan and realize in the light of eternity where this moment stands.

Nancy Sr.

06 January 2018

Last 2 Days of the Olympic Trials -how/when to watch

Steve Penland
Brief recap, this past Tuesday Jeffrey raced the 5k and I, the 3k. I took 4th overall and Jeffrey placed 3rd, racing to a Personal Best on this lowland (slower) ice here in Milwaukee, a race that he was super happy about as you can tell from the picture above. So proud of him for going out and finishing strong! You can re-watch his full race below...

Now for the last 2 days of the Olympic Trials...
2 more races to go for Jeffrey, Brian and I at the US Olympic Trials here in Milwaukee, WI. Later today we will be racing the 1500m and tomorrow, the Mass Start.

For the 1500m today there are 3 spots for the men and 3 spots for the women to make the Olympic Team. The men race first. Races begin at 5:09pm CST. Jeffrey will be 9th pair going off at 5:34pm CST (approx) and Brian is 10th pair racing right after at 5:37pm CST.

For the women, start time is 6:06pm CST and I am racing in the 5th pair, going off at 6:20pm.

See below for the pairings of both the men and women's 1500m.

Tomorrow the Mass Start begins around 5pm CST. There are 2 spots for the men and 2 spots for the women to make the Olympic Team. Jeffrey, Brian and I will be racing this last race. For those attending, arrive an hour before for a chance to watch some of our warmup before we compete! 

For those that need a good explanation (super informative including history) on how the Mass Start works, thanks to Daniel Yeow, head here ---> https://www.danielyeow.com

For those of you not attending, check out the NBC schedule here on how to watch the next 2 days via live stream: http://www.nbcolympics.com/news/how-watch-us-olympic-speed-skating-trials

Pics from last Tuesday's race day...
Shelby Knowles

Shelby Knowles 
Shelby Knowles
Only some of the incredible crew that came out to support and cheer on Team Swider-Peltz! So thankful 
Shelley & Steven still repping the t-shirts that they had made for my 2010 Vancouver Olympics when they came to watch! 

Shelby Knowles 
Shelby Knowles

Shelby Knowles
Shelby Knowles
Shelby Knowles
Steve Penland
Steve Penland
Shelby Knowles
Shelby Knowles