Posted on February 14, 2014

US Speedskaters Get a Litte Help From Their Friends…and LASIK

Article information courtesy of NPR

Speedskating is one of the United States’ most successful winter Olympic sports. This year in Sochi, great things are expected once again for the team.

The secret to their success includes talent, skill and hard work, but there’s also a great network of support that buoys them as well.

Two-time gold medalist, Shani Davis, is looking to win a history-making third medal. Davis would be the first speedskater to win the same event in three different Olympics.

During the eight years since earning his first gold medal, Davis has brought many new participants into the sport and now he’s starting to compete with some of them. One of those competitors happens to be his teammate, Brian Hansen.

“Just look at Shani Davis,” says Hansen. “He has two gold medals and two silver medals; first black athlete to ever win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics and in an individual event. In my opinion, he’s underrated.”

As good as Davis or any of his other teammates are, when you’re involved in a sport with such legendary names as Apollo Ohno, Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen, the expectations are very, very high.

“Sometimes we joke, you know, a gold medal’s almost not enough,” Hansen says. “You need a gold medal and a story, or you need three gold medals.”

Hansen is one of the speedskaters who grew up in the sport. Many of his teammates, however, switched from inline skating to ice skates.

Brittany Bowe is one of those athletes who made the switch to speedskating. Not only was she a competitive inline skater, she also played college basketball and says that out of all of the team’s she’s played on, this one is different.

“We all help each other,” says Bowe. “We all pick each other up and we make each other better every day. Having Heather next to me, who is one of – if not the – fastest women in the world, is definitely an advantage.”

Bowe is talking about Heather Richardson, her teammate and roommate. Both Richardson and Bowe are considered favorites to medal during this year’s Winter Games. Richardson says even though there’s a lot of pressure on speedskating athletes, when you skate with people who’ve won gold medals, winning your own medal doesn’t seem so out of reach.

“One person has a medal and then everyone else is going to want a medal,” says Richardson.

Part of what makes that goal so attainable is the help that the speedskating team has received. A New York doctor actually gave each of the athletes who requested it free LASIK eye surgery.

Joey Matina, who is new to speedskating, made the switch from inline skating to the sport. He says LASIK surgery helped him to see better and gave him more confidence. Matina says with new eyesight, you never know what’s next.

“Bionic legs,” he jokes. “I’m going to get the procedure done. Never get tired again, because big legs get tired. You never know who the next mad scientist is who is going to dream something like that up.”

“We’re just real lucky that we have a lot of good support staff to give us these little benefits as we come into the Olympics.”