Speedskating returns to Marquette


Starting Nov. 12, Northern Michigan University will host the largest gathering of Olympian athletes ever assembled in the Upper Peninsula. They travelled here from 34 countries around the world to participate in the International Skating Union’s World Cup event.

The over 350 athletes, coaches and officials will need to be housed and transported during their stay here, and much of the coordinating responsibilities fall on the shoulders of Jeff Kleinschmidt, director of the United States Olympic Education Center. He explained that enormous logistical hurdles come with an event this size.

“The number one thing is the sheer volume of people that are here,” he said. Among the requirements are circuitous bus routes from Marquette hotels to the Berry Events Center, as well as transport from Sawyer Airport. Some of the hurdles of a world cup event are even more basic, however.

“Also, the language barrier,” Kleinschmidt explained. “Every country is supposed to bring an interpreter that understands and speaks English, but a lot of times they can’t do it very well.”
The USOEC staff has learned a lot from past speedskating events, including a 2003 world cup event and the Olympic team trials earlier this year.

“Having the experience of already hosting the World Cup is invaluable,” Kleinschmidt said. “There are literally thousands of different little details that we realized we can improve upon and do a little bit differently the next time.”

The city of Marquette turned out in force to support the Olympic trials earlier this year, and Kleinschmidt expects no different for the World Cup.

“We’re expecting a bigger turnout,” he said, noting that only around 500 tickets remain for each day of competition. “We’re anticipating a full house every day.”

Preliminary races will begin around 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, and the event will conclude with an awards ceremony at approximately 6 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15.

Tickets can be purchased at NMU EZ Ticket outlets.

— Trevor Pellerite