By Cheri Jensen
Speedskating. It looks like track, but the surface is ice. Instead of running shoes, competitors are on skates.
Exposure in the Olympic Games has given speedskating a boost in popularity the last 25 years or so. Speedskaters are easy to spot at ice rinks as well. These athletes use funny-looking skate blades and are often in the ice rink donning helmets, gloves and skin-tight uniforms.
The Santa Clarita Speed Skating Club has had great success with its member athletes, with several skaters winning numerous championships. Two current club standouts are making the most from their sport: Saryn Kwon and Joel Isidro.
Saryn Kwon: Her eye is on the prize
Don’t be fooled by her age. Saryn Kwon is tough and talented at 13. The eighth grader is a champion athlete from the Santa Clarita Speed Skating Club. She is currently a Junior C competitor for 13-and-14-year-olds.
Her hard work is paying off. The Rio Norte eighth grader is a three-time state champion (2016 to 2018). Earlier this year, she competed in the National Championships in New York and got fifth place. “With more efforts, I hope to join the Junior World team, youth Olympics and hopefully the Olympics.”
Kwon became interested in skating after watching the Winter Olympics. But she got involved in speedskating through another sport on ice, figure skating. In order to build her muscles, a friend recommended she try speedskating. She did both for about six months before becoming hooked on the speed involved in this fast-moving sport.
Her favorite speedskaters are Katherine Reutter and Choi Min-jeong. “These athletes are mentally and physically strong with on-point racing strategies and techniques.” She says Olympian Choi Min-jeung’s technique is “flawless and she has incredible racing strategies.”
As a speedskater, Kwon likes “feeling the speed and racing against one another. When I skate short laps, my goal is to go faster and faster with each lap. I can feel the ice as I push off and dive into the corner. While racing, everyone competes to cross the finish line first. Sometimes the race can be so close that someone loses by 1/100 of a second. I love the competitive feeling when racing against other people.”
Kwon not only excels on the ice but in the classroom as well. She is currently a member of the California Junior Scholarship Federation (CJSF). She was a newspaper editor in sixth grade and will be a yearbook editor as an eighth grader in the fall.
A lot of skills and techniques she has learned in speedskating transfer over to her life off the ice, including multitasking.
“One of the most important (skills) to me is time management. Because we don’t have enough ice time, you still need to do training on your own such as off ice. With all the school work and other activities, this is when time management is very crucial. Additionally, being a better athlete provides me a lot of confidence and faith in myself.”
Her training schedule is year-round. She skates twice a week and does off-ice training every day. During the off season, she does long laps on the ice and works on strength and technique. During competition season, she focuses more time on short laps and works on speed. Off-the-ice conditioning includes cushion (squats), corner belt, straight-away, and abs. The local club also has local races monthly to check times during competition season.
Kwon receives a lot of support from her family. Her future goals include continuing to train with the goal of making the US Olympic team and attend college. She wants to eventually become a volunteer coach and graduate with a degree in sports medicine. “I want to be successful, so I can return what I received back to our community.”
Although summer is coming to an end and most local students are back in school, the temperature is still hot outside. Kwon invites the public to check out her sport and the Santa Clarita Speed Skating Club. “Although an ice cream sounds like your summer friend, how about coming to the ice station on Thursday from 6 to 7:30 and try speedskating? It is much cooler than ice cream.”
Joel Isidro: The comeback kid
The Olympic Games also had a big impact on 16-year-old Joel Isidro.
He was first introduced to speedskating watching the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
“Out of all the sports, speedskating was the one that really stood out to me. Shortly after the Olympics, I wanted to learn how to ice skate so I can potentially learn how to speedskate. We started with the basic lessons of skating and by the time that was over, we began to look for speedskating clubs. Luckily, there was a local speedskating team here in Santa Clarita.”
The Valencia High student has won or placed in the top three places in a lot of meets, but his best achievement was being a state champion. Isidro then took a break from the sport for about two years. “Since I’ve just got back into the sport, I’m not focused on skating in competitions. I’ll figure that out later.”
He is happy he has come back to the sport after his hiatus. “It feels really good coming back, especially the ice and speed. I really miss going fast because it always gives me adrenaline. It’s just really fun.”
Before high school, he played basketball and did martial arts. He is continuing martial arts as well as running track for Valencia.
Isidro’s favorite part of speedskating is “Being fast; the high speed, the intensity, the adrenaline. It’s all so fun.” His favorite skaters are Apolo Ohno and J.R. Celski because they present such incredible skill to the sport. His least favorite part of speedskating, probably common to most athletes, is the conditioning involved in the sport. “I’m not that great at endurance and conditioning always gives me a hard time.” His favorite Olympian is Ohno because “he was so smart and skilled on the ice and I always looked up to him.”
The high school senior has utilized skills in speedskating in real life. “Being diligent and having patience really helped me in all of my sports. It has showed me that I have to put a lot of effort for me to succeed. It also showed that I have to take things a step at a time in order to become successful.”
Isidro has a lot of family support as well. “My family 100 percent supports me. My mom and my older sister were actually the ones to motivate me to skate.”
He added, “Competition schedule is more intense because it’s more about speed. It’s busier and tiring because there is so much to do, and we have little to no breaks. Training season is more relaxed and focuses more on endurance and technique. However, it involves more laps.”
He really enjoys being a part of the Santa Clarita Speed Skating Club. “All the people are so fun to talk to and it just feels comfortable. The atmosphere is really nice.”
Members of The Santa Clarita Speed Skating Club train at Ice Station Valencia, a year-round organization with competition season from September through April. They feature short-track speedskating.
It is a “great sport and we welcome people to try it,” said club president Ron Halcrow. They welcome all levels and ages of skaters. They practice on Thursday evenings at 6 pm.
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