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.

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