first question I always get," says speed skater Mitchell
Whitmore, "is ‘Were you in the Olympics?’" In fact,
Sochi will be his second trip to the Olympic Games.
Whitmore is on
his way to becoming a lot more well-known after dominating the 500
meters at the Olympic Trials in December. He just missed qualifying in
In World Cups
last fall, his lowest finish vs. international competition was 12th.
In one race, he was .03 of a second away from a bronze medal — less
than the blink of an eye.
Whitmore, a graduate of Waukesha North High School, one to watch in
matured a lot in the last two years," says Ryan Shimabukuro, who
has coached Whitmore since 2012. "We’ve worked on being
process-oriented in his skating. He used to think all he had to do to
skate faster was to work harder, but that’s not necessarily the case
in sprinting, where technique is so important. I’ve had to pull him
back a little bit."
Vancouver Games provided Whitmore the memories of a lifetime, starting
with the opening ceremony before 90,000 spectators.
"I have a
video of it, and I still watch it to see how many people were
there," he says, the excitement still apparent.
Later in the
ceremony, Whitmore was on the phone with a friend when an NBC
cameraman focused in. "My friend says, ‘I can see you on TV!’
He was watching me live, talking to him on the phone, in a room full
of friends from the Milwaukee area. They were loving it."
Whitmore grew up
playing all kinds of sports before specializing in speedskating. He
won the 500 at the junior world championships in 2009 and the
following year became the U.S. senior champion. It’s no exaggeration
to say he knows the sport from the ice up — after all, he once
worked as a Zamboni driver at the Pettit National Ice Center.
He admits the
2010 Games didn’t go as well as he’d planned — he was 37th in
the 500 meters — but that has fueled his desire to improve.
forget about the three years in between," laments Whitmore, 24.
"If you don’t have that summer training every year, you’re
not going to be prepared for the Olympics. I’m trying to be one of
the guys, for sure."