USOEC keeps Weightlifting but suspends Speedskating

Courtesy of the USOEC

MARQUETTE—The revamping of the United States Olympic Education Center on Northern Michigan University’s campus continues to evolve.  USA Weightlifting has announced continuation of a residential program and U.S. Speedskating is suspending its program for the upcoming year.

“We’re very excited to have weightlifting join Greco-Roman wrestling in remaining at the USOEC.  Weightlifting is one of the USOEC’s newer programs. We believe it’s a program with an amazing amount of potential for even greater success at the national and international level,” said Brian Gaudreau, USOEC director.

Weightlifting has been a sport at the USOEC since 2003. New coach Vance Newgard has 14 men and seven women training at NMU.

“USA Weightlifting is delighted to be continuing its relationship with Northern Michigan University. Many of our top athletes have come out of the NMU program and we expect that with this renewed commitment the wonderful record of this program will grow stronger still,” said Arthur Drechsler, chair of the USA Weightlifting Board of Directors.

One striking example is former USOEC weightlifter Sarah Robles, who placed seventh at the London Olympic Games in the 75+ weight class.

Long and short-track speedskating training programs were both on the NMU campus prior to the USOEC becoming an official Olympic Training Center in 1985. Last year’s USOEC short-track team had 13 members. Long-track at NMU was discontinued in 1987. Since the USOEC opened, 38 Olympians have trained with the programs at NMU.

“Obviously we’re disappointed about the speedskating decision, but remain hopeful that a new type of program will be developed in the future,” said Gaudreau.

Gaudreau said suspension of the residential speedskating program was the result of changes in facility equipment requirements for the elite skaters, as well as significant funding model changes for national governing bodies, U.S. Olympic training centers and state and federal support for Olympic development training.

“The facility piece hinges on the introduction of the breakaway pad system that is becoming the gold standard in speedskating internationally,” Gaudreau said. “Going forward, this system will be required for World Cup competition, Olympic Trials and other high-level speedskating competitions. Greater speeds and athlete safety are the main reasons behind the pad system movement. Renovations to the Berry Events Center to accommodate the new pad system are cost prohibitive and impractical, as is building a speedskating-only facility on campus or in Marquette.”

Gaudreau said that if a new speedskating program is brought to NMU, it would mostly likely be designed to be a training program for coaches, rather than a competitive team due to the new facility requirements.

“It has been decided at this time, through discussions between NMU and USS that we will suspend the operations of the NMU program, until greater interest or a more suitable model can be instituted,” announced U.S. Speedskating to its members in its recently published online newsletter, stating:  “We are grateful for all that NMU and the USOEC have done for many of our athletes over the years and we will update USS membership regarding progress of the future programs at this center when we have new information to share.”

With the USOEC serving as host, Northern Michigan University’s Berry Events Center was the site of two World Cup competitions, one in 2003 and the other in 2009, as well as the U.S. Short-Track Olympic Team Trials for the 2006 Turin, Italy and 2010 Vancouver, Canada, Olympic Games.