Olympian, Wheaton Native Earns Spot on World Cup Speedskating Team
Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr. made the World Cup speedskating team at the American Cup I yesterday, Friday, Oct. 22. In the first of a two-part series, Swider-Peltz, Jr. tells Patch about how she balances skating and school.
Wheaton native and Olympic long track speedskater, Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr., took second place and qualified for the World Cup team yesterday, Friday, Oct. 22 at the American Cup I long track competition at The Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, WI.
The event decides the fall long track World Cup team. Swider-Peltz, Jr. finished with a time of 4:21.19 behind Jilleane Rookard, who took first with a time of 4:08.86.
Swider-Peltz, Jr. injured her hamstring five weeks ago. After yesterday's race, her mother—and coach—former Olympian, Nancy Swider-Peltz, said her daughter may need to bypass the World Cup circuit to rehabilitate her injury. "It's not a 'for sure' at this point," she said. However, she said now is a time in a four-year cycle before the next Olympics that is best to rebuild and do what's necessary.
When the event concludes Sunday, Oct. 24, Swider-Peltz, Jr. may have to drive home to Wheaton and go straight to bed—because Sunday night is a school night.
Swider-Peltz, Jr. went to Hawthorne Elementary, Franklin Middle School and Wheaton North High School, and is now a student at Wheaton College and splits her time between Wheaton for school and home life, and Milwaukee for training.
"I'm confident I'll be able to make it," Swider-Peltz, Jr. said of the American Cup I in an interview in Wheaton. She said that Jilleane Rookard, who was on the team for the 2010 Olympics Ladies team pursuit, will most likely be her main competitor.
Swider-Peltz, Jr. skated with Rookard in the Ladies' team pursuit quarterfinal race against the Canadians in Vancouver. The Americans beat the Canadians, who were favored to win, and advanced to the semifinal.
What was it like racing against—and beating—the favored host country in the team pursuit?
"We were told we were paired with the Canadians (the day before the race) and so we panicked," she said. "We were definitely the underdogs."
Nonetheless, they went into the race pumped and ready. "Going into that day we said 'ok we have to be somewhat positive' ... We had no idea or even thought that we would beat them ... We executed everything well. We mentally went through…a process of switching leaders and just our strategy—before the race—we went through it.
"We finished and the crowd just went silent," she said. "We looked up and we had won by 400ths of a second. It was the weirdest, craziest feeling ever.
"There was no expectation of us to win and we still did it," she added. "Their (Canadians') look of disappointment and disbelief was—memorable."
The Americans took fourth place in the semifinal with a 3:05.30, 1.57 behind Poland, who won bronze. Germany took gold with 3:02.82, edging Japan by .02 seconds. Swider-Peltz, Jr., however, did not race in the semifinals.
In a press conference following the race, teammate, Jennifer Rodriguez said, "We thought that Catherine (Rainey-Norman) would have strong legs, she's fresh." Rainey-Norman fell behind in the race, putting the Americans in last place by more than a second.
"It's harder watching the race because you have no control over it," Swider-Peltz, Jr. said in the press conference after the race. "I think I was just as strong as all the other girls, it just looked like I wasn't.
"It was a bummer," she said in Wheaton this fall. "But that first race…you have to remember that. You can't be overwhelmed by what you didn't do. You have to focus on what the positives were. We beat the Canadians, and that was fun."
Swider-Peltz, Jr. said despite being switched out of the last race, she achieved her 2010 Olympic goals. "I got ninth in my first race (3000m) and in the team pursuit we got fourth. I had to leave knowing we were successful otherwise you get obsessed with win, win, win."
"Don't get me wrong, I'd love to win," but to be obsessed with winning doesn't work, she said.
In her route to Sochi in 2014, Swider-Peltz, Jr. started the tournament circuit and in weeks before the American Cup I, said she plans to compete in two of the five competitions to keep her status and funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). Why two out of five? Mostly because of school, she said.
"I forgot how hard it is to balance school and skating"
Swider-Peltz, Jr. is taking two communication classes and a Christian thought class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and will take the spring semester off to train, she said. This semester, she splits time between Wheaton and Milwaukee, where she trains three times a week—the same days she has class.
"Usually, right after classes, I have a 20-minute window to go home, make food, prepare to stay overnight in Milwaukee, and then my mom will drive me up to Milwaukee," she said. "It's two hours (to drive) up there. I'll skate those afternoons, evenings, stay overnight, skate the next morning and come home."
On Tuesdays, she does homework and a second workout. On Thursdays, she goes to a small group at Harvest Bible Church with friends. Swider-Peltz, Jr. said she has held onto the same friends since her playground days at Hawthorne, and still sees them in Wheaton during her free time. "I have to incorporate some social time, otherwise I will go crazy," she said.
Swider-Peltz said that when she can see her daughter getting overwhelmed, "I try to pick up the things (I can, that) I know are going to put her over the edge," she said. "Because I'm with her I can adjust the things that impact her life." She added, however, that there is a balance that she keeps in mind as the parent-coach roles switch.
Though Swider-Peltz, Jr. enjoys school, she said it takes a toll on her energy and recovery after workouts. "That recovery is very crucial in being able to have that next workout and with school I find that being limited."
That's why you take a year off to train—fully committed—before the Games
"I realized that's why you take—and fully commit—a year, without distraction, to training before the Olympics because that's what it takes to get there. For the next two years I'll probably juggle school and skating. After that I'll fully focus on skating again. I will be off this spring semester because most of the competitions will be then. To then keep up status and funding, I need to compete and do well at those.
Swider-Peltz, Jr. said skaters must compete in enough competitions to earn the points required to qualify for the final, which is in March 2011.
Swider-Peltz, Jr. trains under her mother and coach, Nancy Swider-Peltz, the first U.S. Olympian to compete in four Winter Olympics and held the world record in the 3,000 meters in 1976. Swider-Peltz took 7th place at the 1976 Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria.
Though many of the U.S. speedskaters train with coaches provided by the U.S. Olympic Committee in Salt Lake City, Swider-Peltz, Jr. said that option wasn't right for her. "Skating has become such a specific sport where technique and the attention from the coach is so crucial," she said. "We're (skaters) very picky about who is watching us and who's coaching us. It'd be ideal to have a team, but in this sport you can't." So, mom's the word.
Swider-Peltz, 54, said that after achieving her own personal successes, her goal is to facilitate her kids with their goals. "I achieved successes in my life. I don't know if that defines me, (but) I did what I needed—or should do personally, and my need (now) is to use what I learned," to help others achieve their goals. "There's a certain point at which you live life and achieve things personally, and then at some point you give," she added, "and that's satisfying, and the fun you get from facilitating that is success."
This is the first of a two-part series. Come back Monday, Oct. 25, for final results from this weekend's competition and more from Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr. and Nancy Swider-Peltz about Wheaton, family and faith.