Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tiger Fires Steve Williams!?!?




            Ok, so in case you didn’t know, I’m a pretty avid golf fan; I like to play a little bit when I can also (when I say play, I really mean, chase my ball into woods, creeks, and sand traps).  And I just read on ESPN that Tiger Woods has just fired his caddie that he has had for the last 12 years of his professional golf career.  In this 12-year stretch Tiger, with the help of Williams, won 72 PGA events, including 13 Major Championships (espn.com)!  Now almost everyone in the country has heard about Tiger’s struggles on and off the golf course over the past year, and from what Tiger said, he felt he needed a change.  In my mind, having Steve Williams as your caddy is the last thing you need to change in your life Tiger.  Williams has caddied for 33 years for the likes of Greg Norman and Tiger.  You should probably start with learning to be faithful to your wife, and not acting like some 80s rock star.  Have some respect for yourself and the ones who used to and still love you.  And when you get all that in check, I feel like your golf game might turn around a bit.  It seems to me like the firing of Steve Williams was the result of Tiger Woods displacing his anger in the wrong direction. 
            Tiger is currently nursing a left leg injury back to health after taking years and years of punishment from pounding Nike Ones down the center of the fairway.  He has stated that he will only return to the game when he is back to 100% (who knows if that will ever happen).  Tiger currently has 14 career majors and has been in a drought since the 2008 US Open.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finals Night!

    Last night was the first night of finals for this year’s National Championships, and it proved to live up to the hype.  For those of you who watched, we were able to witness some phenomenal races all across the board.  From the little ones to the seasoned vets, everyone seemed to step up to the plate last night.  There were a few people/races that really stood out in my mind from last night though.
    First I’d like to talk about a few of the younger ones.  Quentin Ferrera (sp?) and Cooper Mcleod were both flying last night!  If these two stick with it, they will surely be national champions and possibly even world champions in years to come. 
    The next person I’d like to talk about is Kirstyn Scales.  I think last night Kirstyn passed more than she has ever had to in a single race.  In her middle distance race last night, the 500 meter, Kirstyn slipped and slid all over the track and ended up falling all the way back to third place.  And despite a valiant effort from Allison Pfander, Kirstyn was able to take the gold with a pass to the lead on the last lap.  It was good to see Kirstyn actually have to race for once, instead of winning the start and beating everyone by a vast amount. 
    Next I’d like to move all the way up to the Senior Men’s division.  I believe I have talked about Corey Bethel on my blog before, but I feel like what he did last night trumps anything I could have said about him before.  Let the record show that Corey has probably been to 10-15 practices all year!  But yet, he still went out and won the 500 and the 1500 meter races last night.  This was also one of the first times I’ve seen Corey race and not get himself in any trouble by making a bad pass, or slipping and falling in the corner (he has a particularly bad habit of falling down).  Corey has the 30 lap long race tonight, let’s see if he can go for the sweep!
    And of course I couldn’t go without mentioning both World Class Men’s races last night.  The 1500 showed tactics, fast racing, and even Justin Stelly going across the line hawking backwards!  The 500 meter was definitely up to par as well.  There were disqualifications, falls, and really fast skating.  Two people really stand out in my mind from this division this year though.  First is Ben Carey.  Ben has always been an extremely fast skater, with a sprint that can compete against anyone.  But this year, it really seems like he has his skating zeroed in.  Ben has now won the 100 meter time trial and the 500 meter.  Second I’d like to mention Jake Powers.  For those of you that watched Jake last night, I’m sure you could agree with me, that Jake has now, officially, stepped out of the shadows of the other great indoor skaters and marked himself as a threat in any distance.  Jake will hope to win the 50 lap elimination race tonight, after training hard all summer long in Salt Lake City.  I think that he feels like he may be the most conditioned athlete in the running for the win tonight.  We’ll see if that holds true.
    Tonight, as you may have already known or guessed, there are the distance race finals.  We will see who has really been training for this years national championships and who has been slacking off.  I believe the doors open up for finals at 5:30 pm eastern.  Make sure that everyone tunes in at skatersplace.com to watch the free live web cast with Ross Crevling!
  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crash and Burn at the 2011 Indoor National Championships

So, I know I haven’t updated this in a quite a long time, and I apologize for that.  But after my long absence from the blogging community, I feel that the 2011 Indoor National Championships are important enough to make me want to share my thoughts again.  The first two days so far have proved to be kind of exciting.  There have been plenty of falls, disqualifications, protests, and great passing, but there has not been that much really fast skating that we all love to see at Indoor Nationals. 
    The primary reason that we are not seeing the speeds that we are accustomed to is that the floor is just not up to par this year.  Granted we are on the traveling floor (the floor that is used whenever we are not in Lincoln, NE), but there is one corner that is just flat out bad.  I have actually been the victim of this terrible corner twice now.  Once when another skater in front of me fell due to the conditions of the floor, and another time when I slipped and flew into the wall.  It just seems that the skating gods were not with the people who layed this roll on down last week, because they sure messed half of the floor up pretty good. 
    I’m sure that most of the skaters will learn how to adapt to the slippery floor by the end of the week, but I’m also sure that there will continue to be lots of people crashing and burning as well.  We’re in for an exciting nationals, so everybody gear up for the first finals night of the 2011 Indoor National Championships.

This afternoon will start off with middle distance finals, then we will break for awards for those races, and finish off the night with the sprint finals.  Anybody can watch the live web cast of the championships at skatersplace.com.  Be on the look out for both finals of the World Class men tonight, where there has already been a fair amount of controversy.  Other divisions to watch will be Junior men (these guys are always exciting to watch), World Class Women (Brittany Bowe has made her comeback to the inline world), and the older guys division, Classic and Grand Classic men (these guys always go hard, and there will surely be some stellar crashes; hopefully no one gets seriously injured). 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interview with Short Tracker Jeff Simon




Hank: Jeff, I’m sure that many people who are reading this know who you are, but for the ones who do not, could you give a summary of who you are and what you do?

Jeff:   I’m an elite athlete in the sport of short track speed skating.  I am the 2011 US National Champion and hold multiple US records.  I like to hang out with my friends, because that is the most important aspect of life.  Establishing those relationships is one of the most valuable things in one’s life.   You can’t beat having a friend for life. 

Hank:  I completely agree with you.  This year has been a very good year for you on the ice.  Explain why you think you have performed so well.

Jeff:  I think that I have had a lot of success due to the people that surround me; from my coaches in LA and Salt Lake City, and my friends all around the world.  But most important, what I really believe drives me to be successful is my family.  I think that there is still a lot of room for growth, and I look forward to the struggles that lie ahead. 

Hank:  Tell me about everything you have accomplished this year, as far as results go.

Jeff:  This year I got 5 World Cup medals; 1 gold, 2 silvers, 2 bronze.  I was the US National Champion.  And I set the 1500 and 1000 meter national records.  I have the World Championships coming up and I look forward to having a break out meet.

Hank:  Well congratulations on all your success this year.  Now, on to a day in your life.  Walk us through your average training day.

Jeff:  Well, I wake up at 7:00 AM, and the first thing on my list of things to do is to drink my muscle milk (basically liquid gold).  Then I drive my spacious whip (Lincoln LS) to the rink to start my training.  We train from about 8 AM to noon.  Next I grab lunch and go hang out at a friend’s house, since there is not much time before my next practice.  I go back to the rink at about 2 o’clock, and I pound my body into the ground until about 6 o’clock.  Then I drive home, cook some dinner, and chill out until its time for bed.  Pretty boring I’d say.

Hank:  It may be boring, but training hours like that is what it takes to be great.  Now Jeff, I know you used to skate inlines out of Las Vegas back in the day.  How much different is the training on ice and what can our inline community do to better themselves as far as training goes. 

Jeff:  Well, for all of us, skating is just a hobby.  It’s those who decide that they want to take it from just a hobby to the next level that need to make the commitment to training.  Being an elite level athlete is so much more than training hard, it’s a dedication.  It’s changing your life so that one can be the best and “shoot the rest.”  I’ve trained with the best coaches in the world, and we go above and beyond what every other country in the world is doing, so that we can be the best.  A lot of individuals think that this is just another “game.”  This sport is absolutely cutthroat.  What sport is harder than this?

Hank:  I don’t know if I can think of one.  What do you think makes speed skating so much harder than all other sports?
Jeff:  It’s a combination of everything.  Physically you have to be an animal.  To be able to go out and work out for 4 hours straight and then come back and do that again a couple hours later.  This is basically a year round sport.  Mentally, the stress of racing and training and the toll it takes on you is madness.  Everything in our sport is measured in fractions, and if you miss one fraction, the end result can be drastically off.  I’ve seen workouts where the best athletes in the world do not finish.  This is speed skating.  For another sport to be compared to ours is foolish. 

Hank:  And to think, our national team makes hardly any money.  So, tell me about your Olympic hopes for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.

Jeff:  I plan to go to the games and do the best that I can.  There is nothing else that I can do.  To be able to represent everybody that has supported me in front of the world would be the highlight of my career. 

Hank:  I’m sure you will get the chance.  Well, that wraps up the questions.  Good luck to you leading up to 2014.

Jeff:  Thanks pal, lets go get some sushi!


Jeff has been one of the most dominant short track athletes in the history of US and should be in the running for Olympic gold in 2014. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Blue Ridge Challenge

    Like I said in my previous post, I’m going to talk about the actual meet in this post.  And here it goes.  Mary Allmond always puts on a great meet and tries to do as much for the skaters as possible.  This meet was no different.  There were cash prizes, open races, pick a partner relays, and LOTS of racing.  The only problem with trying to do so much for the skaters is that sometimes she goes a little bit over board.  And that is what happens every now and then when you love something so much.  The general consensus that I got from a few officials and some other skaters is that there might have been too much racing for one invitational.  For instance, my dad runs the photo finish camera at the meets in our area, indoor nationals, and outdoor nationals.  He had to be up at 4 something Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, to make sure that the camera and the lights and everything else he needed to work properly did.  Then not only did he do the photo finish for the regular meet, but he did it for NSC as well.  For just the regular portion of the meet he was there for 36 hours over three days.  That just seems a little overboard.  I’ve never ran a meet before, but it seems like there would be some way that we could avoid putting the officials, coaches, skaters, and parents through these hellish hours.  Quality over quantity, right?
    But enough of me being a negative Nancy, throughout the meet there was a lot of good racing, and there were a few skaters that really stood out in my mind.  First I’d like to give huge props to Corey Bethel.  This kid skated more at this meet than he has in months!  Not only did Corey race NSC, but he also skated senior men at the meet, the open at the meet, and then I believe 3 out of the 4 relays that were offered on Sunday.  And he skated very well and very fast in everything.  If this guy could make it to practice more often, then he would not only be competing with top guys (he’s already doing that), he could be beating a lot of them. 
    Next, I’d like to talk about Zach Fereira (sp?).  I’ve been a fan of this kid for the past couple years.  And the main reason is because he gets better and better every time I see him skate.  I talked to one of his coaches, Shannon Shuskey, about him this weekend at the meet and he said that some time last year, something just clicked for Zach.  He said he finally realized that he had loads of potential and that if he worked hard he could be great some day.  Shannon said Zach is always texting and calling him asking him for more workouts and things he can do that will make him better.  I really admire younger kids that do things like this.  Because everything Zach is doing right now, is what you have to do to be great.  Keep it up Zach; I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed the hard work. 
    Another skater who I think had a really good meet and has a lot of good things coming his way is Kevin Carroll.  First off, Kevin Carroll shocked everybody the first night of NSC when he got 2nd in the flying 100-meter time trial with a time of 8.73.  Kevin has hit a major growth spurt over the past year or so, and I think he is finally learning how to skate in that big body of his.  Most of us know that his brother is a really good skater, and I think that Kevin will be following right along in his footsteps.  Look for Kevin to vie for a spot on the Junior World Team this year at Outdoor Nationals. 
    Finally, I’d like to talk about Kirstyn Scales.  For those of you that do not know Kirstyn Scales, she is an Elementary girl, and she is fast!  I think she could be something like the next Jessica Smith a few years down the road.  Kirstyn is pretty short for her age and skinny as a rail, but the girl can flat out fly, and she has really solid endurance for a girl her age as well.  This main reason I’m highlighting Kirstyn in this post is because she lost a race.  You can probably count on one hand how many times Kirstyn has not won a race racing girls her own age.  There have been many kids through the years that show phenomenal talent, never losing races, but what separates Kirstyn from the others is the way she reacted to losing.  Sure, Kirstyn was mad, but nobody likes to lose, especially when it never happens to you.  You see a lot of these kids, who never lose, throw temper tantrums, and start crying before the race is over when they lose, make excuses about the race, or blame others for their mistakes.  Kirstyn did no such thing.  The races following that, Kirstyn looked like a completely different skater.  She went on to skate very well for the rest of the meet, clearly separating herself as the fastest young girl there.  Watch out for Kirstyn a few years down the road, we may have a World Champion in the making!
    Overall the meet was a great success, and it is really good for the sport to see crowds like that at meets these days.  Hopefully we can see similar numbers at meets around the country in the future. 
   
   

East Coast Carnage

    So, it’s been a little bit since my last post; I apologize for that!  I’ve been pretty busy out here in salt lake and have been traveling a lot as well.  One of the places that I traveled to was Roanoke, Virginia.  For those of you who do not skate who are reading this, there was an inline competition there (trust me, I would pick somewhere different for vacation).  This meet, for about the past 8 years (dating back to when it was originally the Philly invitational), has been the second largest competition of the year behind Indoor Nationals.  And this year was no different.  This also marked the first time a NSC (National Speed skating Circuit) event was held in a city other than Seattle, Washington.  So needless to say, there was a lot of fast exciting skating in the dreary town in southern Virginia. 
    Since there is so much to write about from this past weekend, I’m going to separate this post and make the first one about NSC and the second about the actual meet.  This was not only the first time NSC was held in a city other than the owner’s (Miguel Jose) hometown, but also the first time NSC was held over two nights.  The first night lived up to the hype and boasted some great racing and great crowds.  At the beginning of the night, the house was packed and the skaters were ready to give the east coast crowd a show they would remember.  After two days of waking up at 5 AM, it seemed that some people just simply could not stay up late for the second night in a row.  The second night was not as crowded as the first, but it was still a good turn out and there were still a lot of great races.  The format for the two-day event was a little different than past NSC events.  There were three distances for each discipline (sprint and endurance), two one hundred meter time trials, and one Grand Champions race.  Friday night the races were the 300-meter sprint race, the 1000 and 1600-meter endurance races, and one 100-meter time trial.  Saturday night the races include the 400 and 500-meter sprint races, the 1300-meter endurance race, the 100-meter time trial, and the 800-meter Grand Champions race.  One thing I will say, I’m definitely not making excuses for the way I, or others, skated, but the floor in Roanoke is always a little hard to get used to.  This, combined with the new IQ Atom wheels made it a little squirrelly going around the corners.  This benefited some skaters and hurt others.  It benefited the skaters who are used to skating on smaller tighter floors and hurt the ones who are used to skating on big wide floors.  I’ll say this for Keith Carroll, Jake Powers, and I; spending such little time on inlines because of ice, and then trying to skate on a floor that feels uncomfortable for people who are on their inlines all the time, is not a good thing.  But anyways, on to the racing and the athletes. 
    William Bowen, once again, made us all look like amateurs.  He is skating out of his mind right now.  And its not just that he is skating technically better, or that he is training harder than he has in the past.  I believe that one of the main reasons Will is skating so well right now is that he has a new confidence in himself that he has not experienced in quite some time.  Will has always been one of the best in the country since he was 16, but after the way he skated at the World Championships in Colombia this past year, his confidence is at an all time high.  And by no means am I saying that he is cocky.  Will doesn’t boast his excellence to anyone and is always very humble with his victories.  Will stayed undefeated through the second NSC event this season winning both 100-meter time trials. The 300-meter, 400 meter, 500 meter, and the 800 meter Grand Champion race.  Needless to say, he is on fire right now. 
    Justin Stelly showed again why he is one of the best indoor racers in the country.  Stelly is one of those guys that likes to put on a show, but he is still able to win races.  Stelly came home with two wins in the 1600 and 1300 meter and second place finishes in the 1000-meter and the Grand Champion race.  Stelly will try to take the title from Will in a few weeks at the third, and final NSC event of the season. 
    There were a few things that we saw in Roanoke that we had not seen at previous NSC events.  World Champions Yann Guyader from France, and Wei Lin Lo (Willy G) of the Chinese Taipei were in attendance.  The international athletes added a lot of excitement to the racing.  Second, NSC recruited some athletes who could not make it to the NSC try-outs, and these guys stepped up to the plate, big time.  Corey Bethel, Brandon Andrews, Drew Valinsky, Harry Vogel, Mikey Ratliff, Kevin Carroll, and Ben Carey (hopefully I’m not missing anyone) made an already deep field deeper.  With the addition of these guys and the international athletes, this was probably the deepest field of athletes that I had ever raced with at an indoor competition, including pro men at indoor nationals.  Any of the heats could have been finals, and the finals were just flat out ridiculous. 
    Overall, I would have to say the NSC’s east coast debut was a success.  Most of the people in the crowd had never seen an event in person, and I’m sure that the majority of the crowd was pleased with the event and even happier with the racing.  There are still many things that the NSC is working on and still much room to grow. 
   
If you guys have anything that you think would make NSC better, please feel free to leave the advice in comments. 
   
   

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

UNC vs. DUKE

I will start off by saying that I’ll try to make this as unbiased as possible (which will probably not be much).  I have been a Carolina fan since I can remember.  And I’m not just your typical bandwagon Carolina fan either.  I’m that guy screaming at the TV when things are going good or bad.  So I feel that it’s very important that I write something about this storied rivalry. 

This rivalry is one of the best rivalries in sports, dating all the way back to the 1950s.  Through the years there have been many phenomenal games between these two teams (most of which were won by the Tar Heels).  I’m sure tonight will not fail to live up to the hype.  Duke is coming in at number 5 in the AP polls and UNC is coming in at 21.  Duke has won 35 straight games at home, and Carolina has gone 10-1 over the past 11 games and is on a 5 games winning streak.  One of those streaks is going to have to end, and I have a feeling that the 35 game home streak is going to be put to bed tonight. 

Next I’d like to highlight some of the key people in tonight’s game.  For Carolina it is going to be very important that Tyler Zeller steps up and holds his own in the paint.  This season UNC is 2nd in the nation in rebounding and if they can keep that up tonight, Duke will have a hard time.  The next player that really needs to step up is going to be Kendall Marshall.  He is taking the spot of Larry Drew at starting point guard, who recently left the team for reasons unbeknownst to me (he’s a douche bag).  He is a true freshman and has shown a lot of promise throughout the season as he is getting more experienced.  Finally on the Carolina side, will be Roy Williams.  Roy needs to come up with a good game plan to contain the Duke shooters and make sure that the players execute it. 

On the Duke side, Kyle Singler will most likely have a big time game tonight.  But if he cannot get it going then the Dookies will suffer.  As much as I hate the guy, he is probably one of the best players in college basketball.  Granted, he will most likely follow in the footsteps of other Duke stars and ride the pines in the NBA.  Nolan Smith is also going to be a big time threat against the Heels tonight.  It’s funny; Smith is pretty much the stereotypical Carolina player, really athletic and quick.  He can handle and distribute the ball well and is a senior with a lot of game experience.  Finally on the Duke side, just like on the UNC side, Coach K will have to figure out a way to stop the young UNC team. 

For my prediction, I am of course going to pick UNC for the win, and I'm calling a score of 75-72.  

Now for some images that make me chuckle.



Is it just me or does Coach K resemble a rat?












Kyle Singler this morning

Coach K consoling JJ Reddick after a tough defeat (How sweet!)