LAKE PLACID - Jack Shea is one of the most well known Olympic speedskaters of all time. In 1932, he was the first American to win two gold medals in the Winter Olympic Games, and he went on to become of the skaters who created Lake Placid's strong speed skating heritage.
In 1980, Shea was an integral part of the Olympic Organizing Committee that helped bring the Games back to Lake Placid. His son and grandson went on to become Olympians as well.
Naturally, the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club hosts a race called the Jack Shea Sprints every year in honor of the local Olympic legend. This year, nearly 40 skaters traveled to Lake Placid to skate in the race on Saturday, Jan. 21 and Sunday, Jan. 22.
Photo by Christie Sausa
Jack Shea Sprints overall winners Sarah Leslie, left, and Patrick Kelly, right, pose with Jim Shea following the competition at the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid on Sunday, Jan. 22.
Speedskating, despite the unique skill sets required, is an inclusive sport. Skaters from age 11 to 80 skated on the historic Olympic oval, including several from as far away as Canada and the Midwest.
Despite a slight delay on Saturday morning, the race was well executed. US Speedskating referee Hence Bollinger kept the event running smoothly, and a team of dedicated volunteers worked behind the scenes to coordinate the event.
Perhaps the most exciting surprise at the event was a visit from Jack Shea's son, Jim Shea, who awarded medals to the winners on Sunday.
"We were so honored that Mr. Shea presented the awards at the Jack Shea Sprints," said meet director and Lake Placid Speedskating Club President Linda Sausa.
Shea awarded each medalist with the unique Lake Placid medal used at each race and offered congratulations and encouragement to each competitor. At the end of the ceremony, he reminisced about his late father Jack Shea and moved the crowd with his message.
"My dad loved speed skaters and Lake Placid ... remember, you are the people that keep this sport going," said Shea at the awards ceremony.
All the skaters seemed very honored and impressed to be awarded their medals by Shea, including the overall winner, Patrick Kelly.
"I think it was great that Jim Shea was here; his father was instrumental in establishing the speed skating legacy in Lake Placid," Kelly said. "Jim brought a little emotion to the event and reminded everyone how important speed skating is to the Lake Placid community, because the Shea family is important to the Lake Placid community."
The next speed skating event in Lake Placid is the Empire State Games, which will incorporate both long and short-track speedskating. For more information, visit the Empire State Games website at www.empirestatewintergames.com. For more information about the Olympic Oval, including ice conditions and schedules, visit www.lakeplacidoval.com.