America’s speed skating sanctioning body is looking to grow the sport and it’s expanding to all parts of the country.
So US Speedskating is launching the second Tour of Olympians to promote speed skating and bring 2022 Olympians to USS clubs across the country. The Columbus Full Throttle Speed Skating Team will host a pair of this year’s Olympians on Wednesday for a special “Skate with the Olympians” event at the Hamilton Community Center and Rink.
“It’s a bit of a special thing that American speed skating started after the last Olympics,” said Full Throttle coach Taylor Burdekin. “After the end of the season they go on tour with some clubs to help develop the sport and give back to the clubs. So we had applied to be part of the tour and were selected as one of the clubs on the tour. We are quite excited because we are a new club. We look forward to our skaters meeting accomplished people in the sport. Hopefully they will be inspired.
On Wednesday will be 2022 Olympians Austin Kleba (long track) and Andrew Heo (short track). Athletes will interact with fans, promote the sport of speed skating and participate in off-ice and on-ice activities.
Heo finished seventh in the 1,000 meters at this year’s Winter Games in Beijing. He won bronze as part of the 5,000m relay team and was fourth in the 1,500m at last year’s world championships.
Burdekin trained with Heo in Salt Lake City, Utah before returning to her hometown of Columbus a few years ago. Heo, 21, from the Philadelphia suburb of Warrington, Pennsylvania, still trains in Salt Lake City.
Kleba won gold in the 500m at this year’s Four Continents Speed Skating Championships. The 22-year-old Campton Hills, Illinois native finished 27th in the 500m at this year’s Olympics.
Heo and Kleba plan to stay Thursday morning to work with the approximately 15 members of Full Throttle.
The public is invited to attend Wednesday’s event to meet the athletes and have the chance to learn from the pros. No skating experience is necessary and loaner skates will be available free of charge.
There will be a meet and greet with the athletes at 6:30 p.m., a speed skating demonstration by Olympians and local athletes at 7 p.m., and Skate with the Olympians from 7:15 p.m. to 9 p.m. Those wishing to attend the event can find more information on fullthrottlesst.com or on the club’s Facebook page.
“Of course, it’s a great way to introduce people to the sport of speed skating, because there’s not a lot of speed skating in Indiana,” Burdekin said. “We will play games and do speed skating activities, as well as let people speed skate with the Olympians. Even if they are not interested in becoming speed skaters, it is an opportunity to meet people who have a high level of achievement.