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Full skate ahead

Photos by Dan Bishop

February 2014

"The 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 the 1,000.

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.

That makes Whitmore, a graduate of Waukesha North High School, one to watch in Sochi.

"Hes matured a lot in the last two years," says Ryan Shimabukuro, who has coached Whitmore since 2012. "Weve 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 thats not necessarily the case in sprinting, where technique is so important. Ive had to pull him back a little bit."

The 2010 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. Its 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 didnt go as well as hed planned he was 37th in the 500 meters but that has fueled his desire to improve.

"People forget about the three years in between," laments Whitmore, 24. "If you dont have that summer training every year, youre not going to be prepared for the Olympics. Im trying to be one of the guys, for sure."


This story ran in the February 2014  issue of: