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ESWGs carry on speed skating tradition

February 5, 2019
By CHRISTIE SAUSA - Correspondent , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Although not highlighted as often as hockey or figure skating, speed skating's history in Lake Placid runs deep, with major speed skating events like the 1920 International Outdoor Speed Skating Championships being run on Mirror Lake and the top speedskaters in the world training here in the early 1900s.

This tradition of speed skating events continues today, perhaps most prominently in the Empire State Winter Games. Approximately 60 long track competitors and 90 short track competitors competed in the 39th Annual Empire State Winter Games Feb. 1-3 at the Olympic speed skating oval and 1932 Jack Shea arena in the Olympic Center.

The long track competition, skated on the 400-meter Olympic speed skating oval, took place in the late afternoon/evening of Friday, Feb. 1 and morning of Saturday, Feb. 2, while the short track competition took place Saturday evening and the morning of Sunday, Feb. 3. This schedule enabled skaters to race both long and short track during the same weekend if they chose, a unique opportunity in the sport.

Article Photos

Arron Kopp competes on the Olympic speedskating oval during the Empire State Winter Games in Lake Placid. Kopp won all four distances in his age category over the weekend.
Photo provided

Some of the skaters competing in long track, like Arron Kopp of the Saratoga Winter Club, train in Lake Placid on weekends and compete in meets hosted by the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club. Kopp won all four distances in his age category.

"My experience at ESWG 2019 went better than expected. After four distances, I ended the weekend with three personal record times and four gold medals, so nothing to complain about there," Kopp said. "Competing in Lake Placid was great, and with the much-improved ice conditions this season has been one of the best that I can remember."

Local skaters also had a chance to practice competing on their home track. Representing the Adirondack Speed skating Club, Claire Liew won gold in all four distances, while her brother Justin won silver in the 1,800 meter race.

"I was pretty happy with all my races, especially my 1,500- and 3,000-meter races," she said. "I earned an outdoor personal best time in the 3,000-meter race".

Meet director Tom Miller, who organized both long and short track events while also managing scoring, felt both facets of the speed skating competition were successful.

"There were lots of personal best times in the long track event, while the short track event gave kids qualifying times for Short Track Nationals (Championships)," Miller said.

While the Empire State Winter Games was the only short track meet this season in Lake Placid, there have been several long track meets, and more are scheduled for the Oval over the next two weekends. The inaugural Lake Placid North American Challenge marathon Feb. 9-10 will allow skaters to race a 5k, 21k, or 42k distance (or all three) in memory of cyclist and speed skater Billy Bauer.

The following weekend, Feb. 16-17, there will be a unique event, the inaugural Heiden Challenge allround event. Skaters can try to step into Eric Heiden's shoes to skate the same five distances he skated and won at the 1980 Winter Olympics on the same oval.

For more information on Empire State Winter Games, visit their website at; for more information on the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club racing series, including the marathon and the Heiden Challenge, visit



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