Ice Network

U.S. Single Distance Champs notebook: Day 2

Dudek tackles mental challenges; Skaters unify again; Smith sweats details
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Jessica Smith leads a pack with Emily Scott on the inside, Alyson Dudek on the outside and Lana Gehring just behind in a 1,500-meter final. -Thomas Di Nardo/Bella Faccie Sports Media

Olympic bronze medalist Alyson Dudek is trying to figure out how to live one of the most famous sports clichés.

"I've been working with a sports psychologist, and really working on one race at a time type thing," Dudek said. "If one race goes well, great. If it doesn't, I've got to block it out and move on."

So how good is she at taking one race at a time?

"I've been a lot better at it," she said, laughing. "It means that (Saturday) we start over. It's a completely different race, and I've got to get into a completely different mindset."

FRIENDS AGAIN?

The turmoil that plagued U.S. speed skating on and off the ice appears to have subsided for the most part. It was at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in which most of the top U.S. women won a bronze medal as a relay team. Last year, however, the strife left the team so divided, the women failed to qualify a team for world championships.

While the energy is much more positive in the locker room and on the ice, there is some question about if that will translate to the relay, as half of the top U.S. skaters train with former U.S. head coach Jae Su Chun and half train with the National Racing Program.

Emily Scott, who won her first U.S. championship event in the first 1500-meter final Friday, is confident the women will not only qualify a team for the Olympics, they will contend for medal.

"I think we've got it together this year," Scott said. "I think we're going to come together this year and put Team USA back on the map."

NOT JUST ANOTHER SEASON

Some skaters swear they're looking at this year as just another World Cup season. But others admit the months of competition before an Olympic Games is anything but ordinary.

"Definitely," said 1500-meter overall champion J.R. Celski when asked if this year feels different. "I think it's in the back of everybody's head that there is another big competition, Olympic trials in January."

Which is why a number of skaters called this first World Cup qualifying event something of a testing ground.

"This is one to get the bugs out," Celski said.

Added 1500-meter women's champion, Jessica Smith: "I'm feeling excited about getting some of the cobwebs out for the season. It's early, so this is a good stepping stone in the right direction. But it's a long season, and I'm excited for what will come at the end of the season."

EVERY DETAIL MATTERS

When an athlete is trying to compete with the world's best, everything becomes important.

No one understands that better than Jessica Smith, who was an accomplished inline skater when she was recruited to speedskating a little more than five years ago.

"This whole season, I've tried to be more strict and tried to figure out what I need to do nutritionally and what's going to help me perform through each race, " said Smith, who has her own Rallyme page to raise money for her training. "I'm still figuring that out this weekend, and now is the perfect time to test."

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