15 February 2014

Day 8 -Today's Inside Story by Nancy Sr.

15 Feb 2014

Brian gave it his all today in his 1500m and then some, but it was only 7th place, .5 behind the winner. He showed the style that I will coin his trademark because few can ever do this - THE FIFTH GEAR. He came around into the backstretch with 3/4 lap to go and threw it into a fifth gear at a time most are losing it to "glide in" mode. Another coach described him as digging down to everything he had and then fighting like hell to the finish.

It's impressive to see and as his coach I couldn't be more proud, yet for this race, more sad, because he deserved a better shot. It's one of those moments that you see your athletes face and can see through to their heart and know it's devastated.

This particular race was steeped in controversy because the US team had decided to switch from the secretly prepared 300hr wind tunnel tested revolutionary skin suit, to the Fall World Cup used skin suits. Results across the board on the US team were sub to below sub par for the first 3 races and the athletes were confused. In a fair democratically decided decision, the athletes chose to not live with regrets and take a financially risky move to switch skins in an attempt to reverse the negative results ensuing.

Brian finished his race today saying, as a truly honest athlete would say, I could maybe have pulled out that something extra...but I also believe the suit played a factor for me because I felt better (will never know). And Brian is a calculating person very attuned to his legs having a 6th sense to know what his legs are saying to him. We "scientifically" (ha) use this info to make a majority of our decisions!!!!! But after 15 years, this is an intuitively scientific determination. Those who saw him felt he gave his signature effort and his final lap was the 2nd or 3rd fastest of the day!

But I contend our preparation would have brought him a medal had other factors not come into play that were forced upon us.

We worked this pre-Olympic preparation period so carefully. We sacrificed 2 World Cup races and a Sprint World Championships to get an edge, just for it to be compromised by the decision of US Speedskating to do a pre-Olympic training period in an outdoor higher altitude training venue for their "scientific" purpose of altitude, similar (not) ice conditions, and a place to introduce 3 new "experimental" factors. I was forced to sign (by the high performance director, the executive director, the president of the board, senior sports consultant, the team leader and USOC representatives) under a "gag" order of sorts to go to this camp or I would not receive an Olympic accreditation. It was basically a threat.

A successful organization knows that you don't force people to comply unless you need them to follow because you aren't inherently good enough to be followed in the first place. Then the motives become unethical. As an organization, you should be trustworthy and so good that people WANT to follow you.

If you give freedom you get commitment. If you demand, you get a fight. Savy organizations just make themselves desireable because it's a more lasting and ethical way to keep your people.

The US Speedskating's high performance director said this was the only choice we had because the entire high performance team determined this would give the entire team, no matter from which place they came (high or low altitude) that it would give the "secret" edge.

I am a self proclaimed intuitive/experiential coach and I determined simply logically that we couldn't afford more than 1 mis-step (for which one should always make room), and you try not to use it. I knew that by going to Collalbo, Italy we would have to deal with the following:

  1. higher altitude which requires acclimation which creates a certain fatigue in adjusting
  2. outdoor conditions -cold and wind which forces different technique, different timing, and fatigues you doing something you're not accustomed to especially 3 weeks before an Olympics 
  3. ice conditions dissimilar to the Olympic ice conditions which causes a different feel and connection with the ice that you have to adjust to then readjust when going to the Olympic ice 
  4. walking to and from the facility which is not normally an issue yet 3 weeks before an Olympics is not necessary
  5. for us who were not coming from altitude, the time change just complicated the altitude change
  6. then the "scientific" benefit of altitude training is to simply give you a higher red blood cell count , which can hold for up to 2-3 weeks diminishing daily. For those coming from lowland the retention time for the Olympics would be expired so the effort to acclimate would be wasted .
  7. several new " scientific " developments were also brought out at this time in Collalbo, Italy with which to be experimented. But the consensus became inconclusive because you can't throw new factors into a new environment and expect to determine which factor is making a change. That is simply and irresponsibly faulty reasoning and contributed to the frustrations of the athletes who should have been relaxing and becoming comfortable in an atmosphere most similar to the competition.

In addition to those complications, we had to leave from Collalbo getting up at 5:00am, then traveling 4hr to Munich, then going through Olympic gear processing (on your legs) right into a BMW (sponsor) dinner. The getting to bed app 11 pm and up at 4 am to travel to Sochi was not close to ideal. In Sochi at the Olympic Village, it took the US team over a week to figure out that the walking needed to get from place to place was starting to take a toll, so bikes were brought in. But the damage was done. Between the Collalbo travel, to the time the walking issue got solved, it had been about 8 days. Enough to give the athletes another hit .

So do the math. Almost 3 weeks of adjustments and changes are not conducive to Olympic success and these factors took a toll on Brian (as they did on much of the team I can only surmise).

I am writing all this because I am letting those people know who were interested in what I was saying was the probable reason for the US speedskating team's Olympic debacle. For sure for Brian, this gave him some setback that made winning a medal the difficulty we had never prepared for it to be. Brian may or may not say this, but this entire debacle cheated him of a FAIR chance to try to win an Olympic medal.

I am also writing this because as a private coach with my education and experience level and 15 years coaching Brian, I should have been given the respect by US Speedskating and the USOC to have made a determination I thought was best for my athlete. 
(Interestingly Gerard Van Velde is the Dutch coach of the gold and bronze medalist 500m and he is an intuitive and experiential coach who who skates with his skaters as I also did. Doing so teaches the ability to coach in such a way).

It is something you can never get back and these organizations should think more ethically about how their athletes and coaches are treated. We're not talking money here.

We're talking justice and fairness---the Olympic creed!

Goodnight (good morning for me) from Sochi,
Nancy Sr.


Before Brian Hansen's race today, as I said in the earlier videos, I sharpened skates, rode around the entire park (hadn't done that since I've come 2 weeks ago) on my way to workout, then met Brian and rode with him to the rink. Here is one of the views that went from the palm trees on the sea through a winter Olympic park to cruise ships on the sea...just a kind of interesting juxtaposition...

Another short clip from my ride around the park this morning.

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