U.S. Short Track Skaters Take a Stand

September 15, 2012

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Quote of the Day:
“Whatever hits the fan will not be distributed evenly…”

I’m sure this situation will prove to be no different.
Good. And it’s about time.

Today, both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Chicago Tribune have posted news items about allegations made by the skaters who are part of the U.S. Short Track Team.

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/sports/54898027-77/athletes-chun-federation-skaters.html.csp
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http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/breaking/chi-us-short-track-skaters-charge-head-coach-with-abuse-20120914,0,2764376.story
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I won’t lie and say I’m surprised. In fact, I’ve often wondered why it took the athletes so long to fight back. I understand though. I’m sure it’s like a bunch of little Davids going up against that Goliath guy. A LOT of those Goliath guys.
U.S.S. has always had all the power, and the athletes had very little choice but to suck it up and deal with it if they wanted any chance of being on an Olympic Team. Unfair, surely. Fans have always known there were issues – the athletes are severely underfunded. But I doubt we knew it extended to this level of abuse.

Quote of the Day #2:
“The definition of Stress: When your mind overrules your body’s intense desire to beat the crap out of someone who desperately deserves it”

I’ve worked for abusive bosses. I know how it feels. I also know that it is completely counter-productive. Any extra blood you may squeeze out of that turnip by doing so is extremely short lived. It quickly turns to resentment, and you will NOT be getting anyone’s best work. Their mind isn’t on doing their job, (in this case, skating their best) it’s on their all consuming anger and trying to keep every muscle in their body from taking the abuser out back and giving them a much needed case of ‘whoop-ass’. That’s if you’ve got any degree of chutzpah. For others with less, it just beats them down so low that they have a hard time even getting back up again. Either way, it’s pointless and unnecessary and doesn’t get anything positive out of anyone. To quote one of my own fathers ‘dad-isms’:
“You can choose to be a good manager. Or you can choose just to be an asshole with a title”.

To USS. Choose better coaches. Resorting to this sort of behavior is for those who aren’t good enough to get results by any other means.

On a more positive note, many of our skaters are now training with the program coached by former Rocker Fund skater Anthony Barthell (we’re SO proud of you Anthony!) and Olympic Bronze medalist Alex ‘Izy’ Izykowski. Good on ya boys! May you and the skaters have a GREAT season. We’re cheering you all the way!
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“Obviously, we take this very seriously,” said Tamara Castellano, a spokeswoman for U.S. Speedskating. “Our product is our athletes. If we don’t have them, we don’t have anything.”

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…umm, excuse me a moment…*sputter *choke* cough*…
…BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!!
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…not to put too fine a point on it, but even we fans know this is complete and utter B.S.- but hey, thanks for trying to insult our intelligence. The entities involved believe skaters merely exist to support USS, the USOC, the IOC…you name it – not the other way around. It has always been thus. There’s a lot of people with their fingers in that Olympic Sports Pie making a HUGE amount of money off of these athletes, while the athletes themselves struggle.

Our impression of USS is of a giant, voracious sawmill, and the skaters are just logs they pass through the blade to build their house of cards, turning them into sawdust in the process.

That impression was reinforced by reading Eva Rodansky’s book ‘Winter of Discontent’…and reading it again. There were so many revelations in it, that the thoughts were literally ricocheting around my brain like overactive, runaway pachinko balls. Point after point of things we suspected all along, but didn’t have any proof of – until now.

I wanted to write about this ages ago, but was asked to keep it on the down low. I obliged. Now that the cat IS out of the bag, I feel no need to keep quiet about the many issues the skaters had – and continue to have with the powers that be.
If you’re a fan of short track, please read her book. It’s a real eye opener. (sadly, it is no longer available as an e book on either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Ya snooze, ya lose…maybe you should all call en-mass and request it back on the e book list)

The skaters, and our impression of USS, was a big reason why we started The Rocker Fund…and all the other periphery items like this blog that grew out of that.
Let me take a moment to give you a little TRF short track fan history.

Many of us started our Short Track obsession on the GotApolo forum. Lori Robinson managed to get many of us to commit to meeting for our first short track competition (US Championships) live and in the flesh in Salt Lake City- even though none of us had ever met before. (By the way, my parents thought I was absolutely INSANE to roomie with someone I didn’t know and were thoroughly convinced that Lori was a possible axe murderer…but I digress…)

Anyway, No small feat pulling that off. As Lori will tell you, it’s like herding cats. She did a lot of planning and networking to get us all to that first get together, and it was a smashing success. We had an absolute blast. (I’m happy to report I came home in one piece, no axes in sight. Lori DID however, try to kill me doing the Grouse Grind on a different ST trip, but that’s another story…)

Certainly the parents of the skaters were very warm and welcoming. No doubt excited that somebody other than themselves actually gave a sh*t about watching their kids skate. More often than not the skaters themselves were absolutely stunned that anyone even knew who they were let alone were actual fans of them -which is probably why we adore them so. We may have started as Apolo fans…but we didn’t stay there long. We became fans of ALL the skaters, which certainly made for some interesting cheering. “Come On Ya’all” became a common yell when the lineup was full of favorites. Who do you cheer for? Well – All Ya’all.

At the World Cup in Salt Lake a month or two later, we decided to do it again. Gone were the options of VIP tickets, which we were more than willing to pay for. We mere fans didn’t qualify. So we decided to pool all that money we would have spent anyway and give it to a struggling skater. But how to go about it?

USS was approached and we were told “just give the money to us and we’ll take care of it…”

ppfffft! Yeah, right. I’m sorry, we only look stupid. Feeling fairly certain that said starving skater would never see a dime, we decided to give the money directly…but then that whole ‘herding cats’ thing came into play, and no one could agree on which skater to give it to. More importantly, we weren’t even sure if the skaters wanted our help. Which got us thinking…and well, long story short, The Rocker Fund was born.

Looking back on it now, I don’t regret being involved with it even though it had its headaches and ultimately ran its course. I would say on my part I was certainly naive on what I was getting myself into. I still think it’s a good cause, now more than ever. Our Short Track athletes need our support – financially and emotionally.

I’ll hazard a bit of hubris here in making a blanket statement on behalf of all the fans.

Suck it, USS. We stand with the skaters.

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Of Clothing and Controversies…

July 16, 2012

OLYMPIC CLOTHING VS OLYMPIC FUNDING

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I’ve been neglectful of writing on the blog for the last year. Too busy trying to get my own house in order, and as Lori at Boots and Blades (see link to the right) does an excellent job of keeping up with all the short track news there, the blog was often redundant anyway.

And then there are times like these. Sometimes the planets align and events transpire that get the wheels of contemplation going, and I find I really have a lot to say…even if it does more often than not just fly off into the ether. Blogs are the perfect medium for such mental gymnastics, where there is more space to spill out what’s on ones mind than in a ‘tweet’.
So be prepared, this post may get a bit long winded…with a couple more undoubtedly equally long winded posts to follow soon thereafter. I’ve got some ground to cover and a few bones to pick. Starting with:
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U. S. Olympic uniforms made in China has Congress steamed
http://www.nj.com/olympics/index.ssf/2012/07/olympic_uniforms_made_in_china.html

This product image released by Ralph Lauren shows U.S. Olympic athletes (from left) swimmer Ryan Lochte, decathlete Bryan Clay, rower Giuseppe Lanzone and soccer player Heather Mitts modeling the the official Team USA Opening Ceremony Parade Uniform. Republicans and Democrats railed Thursday about the U.S. Olympic Committee’s decision to dress the U.S. team in Chinese manufactured berets, blazers and pants while the American textile industry struggles economically with many U.S. workers desperate for jobs. / Associated Press photo/Ralph Lauren/file

This week, our members of Congress are all up in arms and aghast over the realization that our Olympic Athletes will be trotting around London in uniforms manufactured not in the good Ol’ U.S. of A, but in our own personal little sweat shop known as the People’s Republic of China.

Now is this really new information that hasn’t been completely obvious to anyone over the age of three for a few decades now? Seriously???

Oh, wait. We’re talking about our government here. You know, those guys (and gals) so sequestered in their own little world of super PACs, insider trading and payoffs, that apparently what is going on in this country to 99% of their constituents comes as a complete and utter shock.

Excuse me while I quote your average teenager when I say: “Well, Duh.”

Where the hell have they been for the last few decades? Almost all of our manufacturing is overseas. Has been for awhile now. Our corporations sent them there. Our government paved the way for them to do it. And they say now that they didn’t know??? With our economy in the toilet and double digit unemployment for a good portion of the new millennium, now they’re surprised? Meh.

Not surprisingly, the general public has been equally outraged about the uniform flap, although I will say they have all missed the point- and the bigger issue entirely.

From the posts I’ve been reading on Facebook and the Boots & Blades Forum, this story has really hit a nerve with the Olympic sport of Short Track Speed Skating community and fans, with ensuing outrage of a totally different order. All of the posts have echoed my own sentiments, which evened out to:

THE TOP TEN REASONS OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE CLUELESS…

1) Congress- Our gov’t/congress/taxes don’t support this country’s Olympic athletes financially (for the Olympic Games or their years of training to get there) so you abdicate all rights to snivel about their uniforms, foreign made or otherwise…
Cough up some coin to support them and then we’ll talk.

2) Congress! – You’re the ones who not only gave their blessing, but in many instances orchestrated all those ‘Made in the USA’ clothing labels AND jobs going overseas.

3) Congress!!! – It’s called ‘Capitalism’! But now that it’s our athletes clothed in its results at the Olympic Games, you cry foul on poor Ralph? (Berets Ralph? Really??? The clothes are still butt ass ugly, but that’s a separate issue…) Hey, it’s a business. Ralph does it for PROFIT. You know, that stuff you elected officials feel is the end all, be all…

4) At least Ol’ Ralphy bothered to support our Olympic Team, which is a lot more than can be said for a lot of American Companies. Congress complains about Ralph Lauren for doing what EVERY OTHER CLOTHING MANUFACTURER in the U.S. has been doing for decades. Get over it…or change it.

5) Congress equally balks at the USOC for wooing sponsorships from companies outside of the U.S.
Well, if American companies stepped up and opened their fat wallets after making all those profits from some overseas 5 year old working for a buck fifty a day, the USOC wouldn’t need to look outside of the States for sponsorship. The moola has got to come from somewhere and we can obviously rule out our government, American companies, members of Congress or CEO’s donating a portion of their mega million dollar bonus to the athletes cause.
In fact, when our government does get involved, athletes end up being little more than political pawns to make a completely gutless political statement. (Yeah, I’m looking at YOU Jimmy Carter…and No, I’ve never forgiven you for it. Nor do I feel you had the right to do it in the first place.)

6) Congress! – Before you do any more whining about the Olympic uniforms, I’ve got two words for you. Stupak Scholarship.
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/02/obama-budget-cuts-stupak-schol.html

Yeah, that’s the one tiny little thing this country was willing to do for its Olympic athletes and future Olympians and hopefuls. A measly little million dollar scholarship program so they could get an education while competing and representing our country against athletes from other countries that had the full support and backing from their homeland.

Obama killed it. To be fair, Bush had tried to croak the program every year he was in office, Obama is just the one who succeeded. I didn’t hear Congress putting up too much of a fight over its demise. I guess it was much more important to cut that little million dollar program so there would be more towards the billions to bail out the rich banksters. I’ve met both Olympic hopefuls and Bankers. The former are much more honest and deserving.

7) Which leads me to ask this question. Who is the completely clueless government wonk who said this?:

“Olympic athletes [and hopefuls] receive generous support from a variety of sources.”

http://mediamatters.org/research/2010/02/03/fox-nations-claim-that-obama-cut-program-to-get/159987
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Congress – Are you high? Most elite athletes, especially in the less mainstream sports are living below the poverty line, many on food stamps. And how would you know anyway? OUR GOVERNMENT DOESN’T FUND THEM! This completely out of touch with reality mentality by both our elected officials AND the general public not only leads to a lot of financial hardship but also the oft heard phrase proffered to elite level athletes when they’re seeking desperately needed sponsorship- “So, you’re all set, then?” (See link below on this subject)

No, they’re not. Not by a long shot.

8) Congress!!!!! Why is it a person or company that busts its behind is deserving of the fruits of their labors- touted as ‘the American Way’, but when it comes to the athletes themselves, the fruits of their labors are entitled to everyone else BUT them? As one athlete put it:

“The ‘Olympic Dream’ frankly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You aren’t an individual, you are a “medal color” and the money people can make from that. It’s really sad to come to that realization.”

There are a LOT of people making money off the Olympics – or more accurately, the athletes. Sadly, for the most part, the athletes themselves aren’t one of them.

9) I have to thank Lori at Boots and Blades for this little gem she posted today.

30 Stupid Things The Government Is Spending Money On

http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/30-stupid-things-the-governemnt-is-spending-money-on

I’m dumbfounded over this one. Truly. Our lawmakers are willing to pay for foreigners outside our country to get masters degrees? But they cut scholarship funding to our own Olympic Athletes???
Are they freaking kidding me???

10) Congress! -Gee, Hypocrisy much? Me thinks thou dost protest too much…
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Which leads me right back to:

…”So, You’re All Set, Right?”…

What transpired last week was completely in sync with some points I wanted to comment on after reading Eva Rodansky’s book, ‘Winter of Discontent – An athlete’s experience of speed skating in America’.
This is EXACTLY the sort of thing she’s talking about. The difficulty of trying to train as an elite athlete while representing a country that does little to support its own Olympic athletes and hopefuls, and then adding insult to injury, works diligently to promote the general impression that if you ARE an elite athlete, then financially “So, You’re all set, right?”…

From what I’ve seen as a mere fan, nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, mention this book, and the room becomes suddenly hushed, and all concerned immediately exhibit the sort of extreme angst, silence, nervousness and discomfort one would normally expect from a drug runner being patted down by a DEA agent that is a mere inches away from discovering the illegal stash in their underwear. Apparently many would just like to make the book ‘go away’ and pretend it doesn’t exit.

But hey,
A) This is America, not 1960’s Russia. So I can read – and talk about – what I like Comrade, thank you very much. And:
B) It’s my blog, so my rules. If it makes any fan or the general public of speedskating or the Olympics stop and think even half as much as it did for me, then it’s a book well worth reading. I’ll quote my own saying. “I have no patience with ignorance, it’s a 100% curable disease.”

Eva’s anger is palpable, and she certainly pulls no punches – on anyone. I personally like that in a person. Give it to me straight up, no chaser.
Her take on the general public’s (and obviously here, congress persons) perceptions on how our Olympic athletes are funded- or complete lack thereof – is spot on in my opinion.

You can download an e-version at either of these sites. (approx. $5)
Barnes and Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/winter-of-discontent-eva-rodansky/1109654639?ean=294001427532

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Discontent-athletes-experience-ebook/dp/B007N6CGG0

I invite not only fans, but our elected officials to read up on this important subject. I encourage those who care about the Olympics in general, and short track speed skaters specifically to leave their own thoughts either here, on the Boots and Blades Forum and with your elected officials.
I fully intend to send the law makers in the links below this blog post…and any comments it generates.

So, are we all ready to rumble?
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To contact the specific outraged lawmakers in the article:
Senator Harry Reid:
http://www.reid.senate.gov/

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi
http://www.pelosi.house.gov/

Speaker of the House, John Boehner
http://www.speaker.gov/

Congressmen Steve Israel
http://israel.house.gov/

Sen. Sherrod Brown
http://www.brown.senate.gov/

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand,
http://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/

Sen. Bernie Sanders
http://www.sanders.senate.gov/


Let’s get ready to R-u-m-m-m-b-b-b-l-l-l-l-l-e

October 1, 2011

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OK, wrong sport…but you get the idea. The U.S. short track season gets under way tomorrow at the Hardees Iceplex in St Louis…(and I have to work – bummer)

But YOU can watch Tony Chung’s live stream. (Don’t forget to toss a few bucks his way to say Thanks! Otherwise, you’d be sitting at home with no way of knowing WHAT was going on unless you had some inside connections at the rink)

Here’s the link to the live feed:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/shorttrackhd

…and don’t forget the tweets…
http://twitter.com/#!/shorttrackHD

Check out here to see who is entered:
https://webpoint.usspeedskating.org/wp/Events/ViewMeet.asp?EventID=1917&isPopup=true&Template=Event+Entries

To the fans in St Louis, have fun!
To the skaters, SKATE GREAT!


Skater’s Care – A benefit for Japan tsunami relief efforts

April 2, 2011

For those in Southern California:

This Sunday is the Skaters Care event in Ontario, California from 3:30-6:30 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena. If you haven’t gotten tickets yet to this event, try to fit it into your weekend schedule. Not only will you be treated to some great skating by some formidable talents but your money will go to help the relief efforts in Japan.
Here’s the link for more information:

http://www.cbbankarena.com/default.asp?cbba=33&urlkeyword=event-detail&objId=760

Short track speedskaters who will be there:
Olympians J.R. Celski, China’s Meng Wang and Sun Linlin , US Team member Kyle Uyehara and US Junior Team member Kendal Pumphrey.

Figure skaters in attendance:
* Jeremy Abbott
* Lindsay Davis and Themi Leftheris
* Derrick Delmore
* Richard Dornbush
* Alexe Gilles
* Courtney Hicks
* Ice Club Demorra-Short Track Speed Skating Exhibition

…and much more!
See the following link for the skaterscare.com website:
http://www.skaterscare.com/skaters

To order tickets:
http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/2C004675DABE541D?artistid=1573687&majorcatid=10003&minorcatid=22

And of course, there’s always information on the BB forum:
http://therockerforum.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=st&action=display&thread=510&page=1


Merry Christmas!

December 26, 2010

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Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy & prosperous New Year!


Correction

December 19, 2010

According to Tony Chung at shorttrackhd, these are the start times for the U.S. Short Track Speedskating Championships:
Races start at 4:20pm CST (3:20pm PST, 6:20pm EST


U.S. Championships, Day 1

December 19, 2010

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And…they’re off! Make sure to see Jerry Search’s photos from Day 1 Time Trials.

My information is that skating resumes at the Utah Olympic Oval today (Saturday) at 3p.m. Mountain Time…but don’t quote me on that.

Photo by Jerry Search


Kyle Uyehara skates his time trial at U.S. Short Track Speedskating Championships at the Utah Olympic Oval this weekend. (Photo by Jerry Search)

Here’s the link to Jerry’s Facebook photo album. Enjoy!
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?fbid=1607112690281&id=1010090725&aid=2077154&ref=notif&notif_t=photo_album_comment#!/photo.php?fbid=482415731480&set=a.432141656480.200672.540721480&pid=6385298&id=540721480


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