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Oval racing season prepares for liftoff

December 12, 2018
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - On Monday, Dec. 3, the ORDA water truck cruised slowly around the James B. Sheffield Olympic Skating Oval, laying down even layers of water to be frozen for a busy season of ice skating. This procedure was done over three days to prepare for the first day of skating on Friday, Dec. 7, which coincided with Lake Placid Holiday Village Stroll weekend.

The public was given the opportunity to skate on the famous oval where Lake Placid native Jack Shea won two gold medals in the 1932 Olympic Games and Eric Heiden won five gold medals in the 1980 Olympic Games.

For many East Coast speedskaters, the opening of the oval heralded the start of another long track season, since the Lake Placid oval is the closest option for training for many. Considering where other 400-meter ovals are located - Roseville, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Salt Lake City, Utah; Butte, Montana; and Anchorage, Alaska - Lake Placid tends to be the most convenient training venue on this side of the country.

Article Photos

The James B. Sheffield Olympic Skating Oval will host a variety of speedskating races this winter.
Provided photo — Christie Sausa

Canadian skaters value the Lake Placid track as well, especially considering their outdoor Gaetan Boucher Oval in Quebec City is closed, to be replaced by an indoor oval by 2020. Even in previous years, difficulty in making natural ice and the need for qualifying times before Canadian events led many Canadian speedskaters to commute to Lake Placid, use it as a training base and race in their events.

With five regional meets scheduled - the International Children's Games, Empire State Winter Games and the US Long Track Junior Championships & AmCup 3 - it seems that this important landmark in speedskating history is undergoing a renaissance toward more competition and enhanced relevance in the global speed skating community.

Lake Placid has always had a strong speedskating heritage. Even before the Oval was built in 1932 for the Olympic Games, speedskaters from the US and elsewhere trained on Mirror Lake in the early 1900s. At one point, the top five speedskaters in the world trained here, and the first major speed skating event - the 1919 Eastern Outdoor Championships - was hosted on the lake and was won by Lake Placid native and future Olympic champion Charles "Charlie" Jewtraw.

This season marks the centennial of competitive speed skating in Lake Placid, and the legacy of speedskating events continues and becomes stronger every year with the work of the Adirondack Speedskating Club and Lake Placid Speed Skating Club, both of which continue to host time trials and meets on the historic Olympic Oval.


Irving Jaffee Distance Championships

The Lake Placid Speed Skating Club racing series starts with the Irving Jaffee Single Distance Championships Jan. 5-6. Named after 1932 Olympic double gold medalist Irving Jaffee, skaters have an opportunity to skate their choice of distances with 500-, 1,000-, 1,500-, 3,000- and 5,000-meter events.


International Children's Games

Following that event is the 2019 International Children's Games, which is being held in Lake Placid and the United States for the first time and is hosted by the Adirondack Speedskating Club. More than 500 young athletes will are expected to participate in the games, competing in traditional winter sports such as skiing, figure skating and long track speedskating. Competing for the US in long track Jan. 8-9 are ASSC members Gabe Hasselback, Ellie Ripchik, Sammy Hart Gorman and Cassandra Clarke.


Jack Shea Sprint Championships

The next LPSSC meet is the Jack Shea Sprint Championships Jan. 12 and 13 when skaters will race the 500- and 1000-meter distances twice over two days of competition. The winners usually receive their medals from Jack Shea's son, Jim Shea, a 1964 Olympian and part of the Shea sports dynasty.


US Long Track Junior Championships and AmCup 3

The US Long Track Junior Championships and AmCup 3 - perhaps Lake's Placid's biggest speedskating event over the years - will bring some of the best speedskaters in the country to Lake Placid January 18-20. The Junior Championships will crown the best junior skaters in the country, while the AmCup 3 is part of a larger series of "America's Cup" meets that require a time standard to qualify. The event is hosted by the Adirondack Speedskating Club.

The next LPSSC meet, the Charles Jewtraw All Around Championships Jan. 26 and 27, is named after a Lake Placid native who won the 500-meter distance in the inaugural 1924 Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France, providing the United States with their first gold medal of those Games. The meet includes a range of distances, and the best "all around" skaters in all events will win.


Empire State Winter Games

Hosted by the ASSC, the Empire State Winter Games speed skating events will be held Feb. 1-3. The long track events will take place during the evening of Feb. 1 and on the morning on Feb. 2, while short track events are the afternoon of Feb. 2 and morning of Feb. 3 in the Olympic Center. The best skaters in the region are expected to compete in both disciplines.


North American Challenge

The one and only marathon of the season is the North American Challenge Feb. 9 and 10, hosted by the LPSSC. Postponed and canceled several times last season due to poor conditions, the marathon is in memory of cyclist and skater Bill Bauer, who enjoyed his skating trips to Lake Placid and competed in several marathons on the Oval. Three distances 10k, 21k, and 42k will be offered, and skaters from throughout the US and Canada will participate.


Eric Heiden Challenge

The last event of the season is the LPSSC Eric Heiden Challenge Feb. 16-17, an all-around event in which competitors will skate the same distances in which Heiden triumphed during the 1980 Olympic Games. The male and female skaters that place the best overall in all distances will win the Heiden Challenge Trophy.


Other opportunities

In addition to the meets, the two clubs continue to offer numerous opportunities to learn to speed skate under qualified coaches: the ASSC hosts "Henry's Kids," a free youth learn to skate program, every Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m. The LPSSC also offers coaching for members every Sunday, mostly catering to masters but open to all.

With an earlier than usual start to the season and a full schedule of speedskating events, it promises to be a busy and successful speed skating season on the Lake Placid Oval.


For more information about the Adirondack Speedskating Club, visit their Facebook page. For more information on the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club, including meet registration, and membership, visit their website at



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