Ice Network

U.S. Single Distance Champs notebook: Day 3

Skaters discuss superstitions, alternate career paths
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Thanks to some intrepid reporting, we now know what color underwear Alyson Dudek wears when she's competing. -Thomas Di Nardo

Athletes are known for their superstitious nature.

But just how much of that stereotype is fact and how much is fiction? With the U.S. short track skaters competing this week in Kearns, Utah, it was a mixed bag, with some adhering to strict rituals and others going out of their way to avoid repetitive behavoir.

Jessica Smith, who owns two U.S. championships (500 and 1,500) said she isn't superstitious. Then again, she likes some continuity in her pre-race routine.

"I try to stick to the same routine," she said, "And if it's working, I don't break it. Every warm-up I do is the same. Every song I listen to is the same."

So what are those songs this weekend?

"Katy Perry's 'Roar,' Alicia Keys' 'Girl on Fire' and Gym Class Heroes' 'Fighter'," she said with a smile.

It appears she'll be listening to those three songs a few more times Sunday, as she has won two of four races and claimed both the 500- and the 1,500-meter overall U.S. championships.

Kimberly Derrick said she has to put her right skate on first -- every time.

"I think I've always done that," she said. "At least as long as I can remember."

Allison Dudek laughed and slightly blushed as she admitted she must wear white underwear when she races.

"I am a little superstitious," she said, and then told the story of a baseball-playing friend who does the same thing. "I'm not the only one!"

Some athletes are recovering ritual lovers.

"I try not to be," J.R. Celski said. "I used to be, but I'm trying to get out of the habit. I was just tired of it."

He said he used to worry about wearing certain items, but last year he decided to abandon the practice in hopes that he'd be more relaxed.

Alyson Dudek smiled when asked about her superstions.

"I try not to be," she said with a pause. "So, not really. I do pretty much the same warm-up every time, but I'm not one of those athletes who puts on my left skate first."

Then she glanced at her mom, Mary, who was standing nearby.

"Oh, I do look at my parents in the stands before every race," she said. 

That included, she said, during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, when she helped the U.S. women's relay team win bronze.

If they didn't skate

If Smith didn't pursue speed skating, she believes she would have chosen another Olympic sport.

"I would like to try gymnastics," she said. "Everyone thinks I'm a gymnast out walking around, because I'm so short and stocky."

Her fellow Salt Lake International teammate, Lana Gehring, wasn't quite as ambitious in choosing an alternate career.

"Maybe something easier," she said, smiling while she pondered her options. "Horseshoes. I have good aim and upper-body strength."

Celski said he'd play soccer, while his buddy, Eddy Alvarez, had no trouble picking an alternate sport.

"Baseball," he said, noting that he'd played college baseball last year and planned to try and resume his career after (hopefully) a trip to the Olympics this winter.

When asked whether he's superstitious, Alvarez said, "Of course! I'm a baseball player."

Derrick said she'd be a softball player and, in fact, still fields requests to play on a team of friends.

Chris Creveling said he'd be an NBA player because they make the big money. When asked which team was his favorite, Creveling, a native of Kintnersville, Pa., a town practically on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, hesitated. His favorite team, the Nets, moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn before last season.

"I'll have to get back to you on that," he said.

Allison Baver smiled while admitting her choice would be an unorthodox one.

"I'd be a cheerleader," she said, adding that she was a cheerleader in high school.