Injuries plague Olympic team trials

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The Olympic short track trials concluded their run at the Berry Events Center on Sept. 12, and the final results are in.

The 2010 U.S. short track women’s team will consist of Katherine Reutter, Kimberly Derrick, Alyson Dudek, Lana Gehring and Allison Baver. The men’s team consists of Apolo Anton Ohno, J.R. Celski, Jordan Malone, Simon Cho and Travis Jayner.
Reutter, Derrick, Baver and Jayner are all former USOEC resident athletes, and were glad to return to their roots.

“It’s great to be back in Marquette. I [trained] here for four years,” Derrick said. “It’s great to come back, I have a lot of friends and supporters in the Marquette community.”

Of the current USOEC athletes, Cherise Wilkins came the closest to making the Olympic team, finishing eighth overall with 1,591 total points. After finishing 10th overall at the last Olympic trials, Wilkins believed that her improved performance this year was due largely to her ability to concentrate in the presence of large crowds.

“I’m a lot more calm all around,” Wilkins said of being in high-pressure situations. “It’s nice to relax a little bit and feed off the crowd.”

Wilkins is currently training for long track speedskating in Milwaukee and will participate in the Olympic long track trials held there in October.

Chris Creveling, the lone male USOEC representative, finished 15th overall.

Following Wilkins for the USOEC females was Kristen Biondo, who finished 12th overall with 832 points. Biondo’s best performances came in the first rounds of 1000-meter and 1500-meter races. She finished ninth in both.

Erin Bartlett and Tamara Frederick rounded out the finishers for the USOEC women, finishing 14th and 15th respectively. Both Bartlett and Frederick had their competitions hampered by injuries incurred during Friday evening’s 1000-meter D finals. Frederick tried to pass on one of the final laps but lost an edge around a turn, sliding into Bartlett and carrying both into the rink’s padded boards.

“She set up a pass and there wasn’t enough room, when we came around the turn she was too close,” Bartlett said of the incident. “When she fell, there was no way I could have avoided it.”

The competition was stopped as medical personnel tended to the two athletes. Bartlett sprained her back in the collision and Frederick fractured her collarbone. Frederick underwent surgery on Wednesday.

While Frederick did not return to competition, Bartlett was able to earn points in the remaining events. She intentionally false started out of the second round of 1500-meter races the night of her fall, but competed in both races the next night. Overall, Bartlett was pleased with her performance at the trials, having set personal bests in the 1500-meter and 500-meter races on Wednesday.

Bartlett believes her experiences this year will help her in training for her ultimate pursuit.

“My main goal is for the 2014 Olympics. That’s what I’ve always been shooting for, just because I’m not up to that level yet,” she said. “It gives me something more to work for, I know where I need to be and now I know how much more I have to put in.”

Serious injury at the meet was not confined to the USOEC athletes. Maria Garcia and J.R. Celski were carried off the ice on stretchers after accidents during Saturday’s 500-meter races.

Garcia, a member of the 2006 Olympic short track team, bruised her sternum in the collision and was taken to Marquette General Hospital for monitoring.

Celski cut his right leg on his skate when he slid into the boards, halting competition for several minutes as paramedics tended to the wound. Although Celski was unable to finish the remainder of the competition, his point total to that point was enough to earn him a spot on the 2010 Olympic squad. Overall women’s champion Katherine Reutter said crashes are an unfortunate fixture in their sport.

“Everyone knows that our sport is extremely dangerous,” Reutter said. “Seeing that out there, a lot of us were really jittery. You kind of forget sometimes, that stuff really happens and it’s really scary.”

Although terrifying and unfortunate, the injuries showed how efficient and organized the event’s medical staff were.

“They did their job exactly as they were told to,” said USOEC and event director Jeff Kleinschmidt. “Frankly, I’m very proud of the way that Marquette General and EMS handled those situations.”
Those situations exemplified the organization of the meet as a whole.

“Overall, I think the event went fantastic,” Kleinschmidt said. “We had almost exclusively positive comments from all of the athletes, coaches and officials.”

Marquette will get another chance to showcase its facilities and support during the World Cup competitions this November.
Because none of the current USOEC residents made the Olympic team, they will not be participating at the World Cup event.

Up next for the squad is the first in a series of American Cup races to be held in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Oct. 3-4.