Speedskaters Sugar Todd and Mitch Whitmore both represented the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Those Olympics, you might recall, did not work out well for the USA. But Todd and Whitmore say things are already looking a lot different for US Speedskating at the upcoming Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
"We're really prepared, we're really focused, and our team is jiving well together," says Todd. "We've really grown into a great relationship with our coach. Everything's going pretty phenomenal at this point."
Whitmore agrees. "Everything has been dialed in," he says, "to make sure we perform in 2018."
Team USA failed to medal in long-track events at the 2014 Games, after a largely successful World Cup season leading up to that Olympics. Over the next five months, Todd and Whitmore say an intricate plan is in place to make sure they're ready. In fact, that work has been underway for quite some time.
"Last year, for example, we followed - pretty much to a 'T' - what our plan will be for this Olympic season, with training camps and travel and preparations," Todd explains.
That also means planning everything - the kinds of food they'll eat on the road, and knowing which staff members are taking care of the skaters' blades.
"Even little things," says Whitmore, "like having blackout shades and being prepared for sleep that way." He also pointed to eating - the team nutritionist has been practicing Olympic meals so they'll be perfected by Olympic season.
The team has been holding an early season training camp at Milwaukee's Pettit National Ice Center over the past couple of weeks. It's a return to an important place for both Todd and Whitmore, who grew up skating at the Pettit. Todd graduated from Wauwatosa East, Whitmore from Waukesha North. Both now train full-time in Utah.
And while they say the ice at the Utah Olympic Oval is faster than it is in Milwaukee, they think the both the ice and the elevation of the Pettit better simulates what they'll experience in South Korea.
Todd, Whitmore, and the other U.S. medal hopefuls will be back in Wisconsin shortly before the Winter Games - the U.S. Long Track Olympic Team Trials will take place at the Pettit January 2-7, 2018.