…and speaking of Wilma…

While double checking the spelling of her name, I ran across this wonderful article. A bit dated, but a great read all the same.

Wilma Boomstra: New hot spot for short track
The Orange County Register
Published: Dec. 12, 2005 3:00 a.m

LAKEWOOD – A pair of 10-year-old boys, their oversized speed-skating boots and helmets making them appear even younger, sneak across the ice at the Glacial Gardens rink, each of them clutching a ball of icy slush.

Their seemingly unsuspecting target is Wilma Boomstra, their coach, who is relaxing against the rink’s sideboards holding a cup of coffee.

“Don’t even think about it,” she barks, barely looking up, just as they are about to fire. She gives them a faux hard look before breaking into laughter.

Lakewood is 2,396 miles and about 70 degrees from Marquette, Mich., (-2 degrees one day last week). But the U.S. Short Track Speedskating Championships/Olympic Trials, which open today in the frozen town on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, are expected to solidify Orange County’s and Los Angeles’ growing – and unlikely – reputation as one of the sport’s international hot spots.

Olympic champion Apolo Anton Ohno will share the headlines this week with Orange County’s Rusty Smith, the 2002 Olympic 500-meter bronze medalist, and Hyo- Jung Kim, who swept all four women’s events at last season’s U.S. championships.

The success of Smith and Kim, both medal contenders for the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, is a sign of things to come. Four of the top five men’s overall finishers at the U.S. Junior Short Track Championships last month were from Southern California.

So how did Orange County and Los Angeles come to be mentioned in global short- track circles in the same breath as Quebec, Seoul, and Beijing?

“I tell people it’s all the sun we get,” cracked Jade Wheeler, an Olympic team contender from Los Alamitos.

“How’d this area get to be such a hot spot? That’s her doing,” Southern California Speed Skating president Jerry Search said, leaning over the sideboards and pointing at Boomstra.

“Because of Wilma,” Smith said, “we have people coming from all over the country to California.”

As her pint-sized would-be assailants can attest, Boomstra, 34, a native of the Netherlands, misses nothing. “Right shoulder down, Jade,” she yells, always looking to shave a hundredth of a second as Wheeler leans into a turn.

This renowned attention to detail has helped Boomstra create a unique skating technique all her own. Not Dutch. Not Canadian. Maybe a little Korean. Definitely not American.

“Just Boomstra,” she shrugs with a laugh.

“Wilma knows a lot about technique, and with a lot of the coaches that’s what they’re missing,” Smith said. “And technique is what’s going to get you the farthest in this sport.”

But Boomstra and her troops’ successes aren’t strictly a technicality. Her personality has attracted a training group that, unlike most other winter Olympic sports, reflects Southern California’s ethnic diversity.

A tall, striking woman with an ever-present red headband unable to corral a blonde mane that seems to have a mind of its own, Boomstra has an energy level that’s pedal-to-the-metal all day.

“I’m very intense,” she says in a low, hoarse voice with a heavy Dutch accent.

If she pours herself into the sport, she expects her athletes to do so as well. “I’m not for everybody,” she admits. Summer workouts of repeatedly sprinting up steep Manhattan Beach sand dunes reveal both her intensity and that technique is not the only unique facet of her method.

“Running up the sand, I have them training so hard that you actually throw up,” Boomstra said.

“Then, when the workout’s over, Wilma says ‘OK, let’s go surfing,'” Wheeler said.

Speed skating’s roots in Southern California are nearly as old as surfing’s. In 1938 four Dutch skaters living in the Long Beach area established a speed-skating club at a Paramount rink. Ice Club De Morra was named after the Netherlands lake the four grew up skating on as children.

Lake Morra is about 10 miles from where Boomstra grew up. She put a promising skating career on hold to enter the Dutch national coaching academy at 16. A decade ago she was hired to coach the U.S. national team. She spent two years at the Olympic Training Center in Marquette before moving with her now ex-husband to Southern California so he could pursue a music career.

Shortly after arriving in the area she showed up unannounced at Ice Club De Morra. It didn’t take her long to turn would-be roller bladers or hockey players into world- class short-track skaters.

“What she’s created really is an elite program, it’s just not in Marquette or Colorado Springs,” U.S. national team director Derrick Campbell, referring to the two Olympic Training Centers.

After Smith’s bronze medal in Salt Lake City, 50 kids showed up to train under Boomstra. “About two of them stayed with it,” she said. “It’s tough.”

One of those who have stuck with it is Fullerton’s Austin Yun, a 5-feet-5, 117-pound 15-year-old. Because he didn’t turn 15 until September he missed the age cutoff to compete at this week’s Olympic Trials. Boomstra is unconcerned.

Yun, she says, has plenty of time to make the world take notice.

“Austin is the most talented skater I’ve ever seen in my life,” Boomstra said. “When he figures out this is what he wants, he’s going to be the best ever. He’s amazing.”

Yun makes his way to the front of a diverse group of skaters. They charge around the ice under her watchful eye, chasing dreams of Turin and other Olympics further beyond the horizon. The group blends into a singular style. It’s not Chinese. Or Hispanic. Or Korean. Or white. Just Boomstra.


… can you name all the recent Olympic skaters that have trained at this club?

2 Responses to …and speaking of Wilma…

  1. […] …and speaking of Wilma… « The Ice & Times of Short Track SpeedskatingIn 1938 four Dutch skaters living in the Long Beach area established a speed-skating club at a Paramount rink. Ice Club De Morra was named after the Netherlands lake the four grew up skating on as children. … […]


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