However, speed skating is not just a winter sport. Here in Hagerstown, there is a local competitor searching for summer gold.
North Hagerstown junior Kelsey Helman is in Italy to compete for Team USA in the Mondiali In-Line 2012 world championships, beginning Friday in San Benedetto Del Tronto and Ascioli Piceno.
Helman got her start in in-line speed skating thanks to her coach, Patty Leazier, a biology teacher at North and owner of Turner’s Skating Palace. She discovered Kelsey through her father.
“Kelsey’s father and I are good friends and he’s a skater as well,” said Leazier, who owns five individual USA speed records and one relay record. “I got Kelsey and her twin sister (Kirsten) in a pair of skates at a young age and they’ve been skating ever since.”
“Patty helped us with the hard stuff in skating and had us keep practicing. There were hard drills that we had to go through, but we just kept skating,” said Helman.
Helman’s chase for Team USA started in July at the Indoor National Championships in Lincoln, Neb., where she won the Sophomore Ladies title. She placed 1st in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters and the 2 Lady Relay with Kirsten.
Helman started training for the Outdoor Nationals in Colorado Springs, Colo., immediately after the Indoor Championships, but an unexpected illness delayed her progress.
“I had a kidney infection,” said Helman. “I started getting bad pains in my side and then I was running a fever. My dad took me to the hospital, where they gave me medicine, but I passed out and they had to keep me overnight.”
Despite the setback, Helman competed in the Outdoor Nationals in August, earning four individual medals, but more importantly, a spot on Team USA.
“I just got used to being back on the skates again and I kept training harder and harder each day,” Helman said.
After a two-week residency at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs with Team USA, she and her teammates are ready to take Italy by storm. What events she will be competing in, however, remains to be seen.
“The world team coaches will pick what events she competes in,” Leazier said. “Each team is allowed two competitors in each event. We think she’ll be looking at the 500 and 1,000 and possibly a long race and one, if not both, relays.”
As for Helman’s expectations in Italy, she’s staying humble.
“I’m hoping to just stay in the pack and not drop out,” Helman said. “I think I have a fair shot of medaling.”