The Vancouver-based Mountain View Speedskating Club gets a little bump in interest with each Winter Olympics. On Sunday afternoon, skaters old and new filled the track at the Mountain View Ice Arena.
The club has always been pretty small, president Linda Jellison said. But with roughly 15 people out on the track Sunday, traffic had visibly picked up.
“When we have a bunch of them at a time, it’s kind of crazy,” she said, adding much of the usual coaching staff wasn’t able to make it that day.
The core of the club, Jellison said, is essentially Lisa and Chris Sundstrom’s family.
After they moved to Vancouver in 2003, much of their family followed, including their three Olympic-caliber skater children and their world-class skater spouses, all of whom help to provide coaching.
Participation costs $20 per session, or $15 for first-timers. That money, with the bit the club makes through donations at volunteer events, pays for time on the ice. It also covers a pair of rental skates.
“We encourage all levels of people to come out and try the sport,” she said. “They see it on the Olympics, they want to try it, and eventually, if they like it enough, they’ll buy their own.”
Despite turning out multiple top-tier speed skaters — from Apolo Anton Ohno, to J.R. Celski and Aaron Tran — there aren’t many opportunities in the Northwest to skate competitively, Jellison said.
She characterized the club as geared more toward recreational skaters. Their season typically runs from October to March, in part because the active membership isn’t large enough to support renting ice rink time much past that, and because it’s hard to compete with everyone’s sunny weather hobbies.
The club gets all kinds of skaters, she said, and the ones who seem to pick it up quickest tend to have some background on the ice, or are already some sort of athlete.
Mariah Malonis, 11, came to the rink with her grandmother, Susan Winfield.
Malonis has been at it for about two years, and Winfield said her granddaughter’s interest was first piqued watching the Olympics.
“I just like going fast,” Mariah said.
It was the speed skating that got her granddaughter most excited, Winfield said.
“So when we found out there was a club, I looked into it, got here, and it’s a great group of people,” she said.
Many speed skaters do it to cross train, Jellison said. The club gets participants who are usually active with the Oaks Park Skating Club, or who do long-distance bike races.
Mark Shimahara spends most of the year road biking. He had been looking for a way to cross train, and the Olympics reminded him of the skating club. He’s now been skating for the past two weeks.
The two sports seem to share a lot of core muscles, he said, and the mentality required feels similar to riding.
“It’s kind of like an endurance sport,” he said.
One of America’s most decorated long-track speed skaters, Eric Heiden, is also an accomplished cyclist, he noted, and there’s also Clara Hughes, a Canadian rider and skater who won Olympic medals in both sports.
“It’s really hard, especially because I’m a little bit older. It requires so much form and technique, and that’s been the challenge,” he said. “Once I can figure that out, I can start using my cycling muscles to go fast. But I can’t go fast without having the form.
“That’s kind of the frustrating thing, but it’s also what makes it so interesting.”