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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J.R. Celski video from NBC Nightly News

February 23, 2010

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The expose on JR that aired last weekend is now posted on the msnbc website. Click the link below.

NBC Nightly News

ALSO:JR’s dad Robert just posted this youtube interview on Facebook. Also look for a profile on JR during Wednesday night’s Winter Olympics coverage.


US Speedskating on Facebook

January 29, 2010

Photos and bio’s are up for the 2010 Olympic Speedskating teams on US Speedskatings fanpage on facebook: To read up on all the skaters, go here:

US Speedskating- Facebook


2010 Winter Olympics Short Track Speedskating Preview – from Universal Sports

January 21, 2010


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Apolo Anton Ohno and J.R. Celski are featured in this very well done promo for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games.
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(As an aside, we were there at Olympic Trials when JR was injured, and seeing this anew still is cringe worthy. After JR was injured and taken off the ice, what happened next in my mind was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever witnessed. The arena, at least the people in it anyway, were stunned and silent, while the zamboni circled the ice, trying to erase the blood. Upbeat rock music came on as the competition got ready to resume, while cheerleaders chanted as if nothing had happened. Upbeat was the last thing we felt. Definitely a bizarre juxtaposition of what was going on at gut level vs what the arena speakers were blaring.)


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