Young athletes come from across the US to devote nearly all of their time to train at the Kearns Olympic Oval. This facility was built for the 2002 Olympics, and is home to the US Speed Skating Team. Corinne “Corie” Stoddard and Ryan Pivirotto are two young Olympic hopefuls who are currently on the team. Arriving at the oval at 7:30 am Monday through Saturday, these athletes show their incredible devotion to their sport in everything they do.
Corie is only eighteen, and moved to Utah last year while her parents still live in her hometown of Seattle. “I came to train with the best in the world because I want to be the best in the world,” she says. Ryan is twenty-four and moved here from Michigan in 2013. He says he has never met someone who didn’t like the sport. “People come for the wrecks and the crashes, then stay for the unexpected.”
Due to the unpredictable nature of collisions, winning at this dicey sport is a feat that takes more than just skating. Every day, the two skaters practice warm-ups, countless techniques, and the ability to prepare for every move that they and those around them might make. The mental and physical preparation to have the entire world watch you with the possibility of falling on your last lap can be almost too much to bear. However, both of these trainees smile as they talk about their sport.
Corie has grown up over the past year. The weather, the food, and the people here have helped make Utah feel like a home.
Ryan loves the outdoors as well as the city life. For him, Utah is the perfect combination of the two. He participated in the last Winter Olympics, and trained alongside many well-known Olympians, including Apolo Ohno. The team is together for more than 50 hours per week, and they all get along.
When looking into their futures and goals, Ryan’s sights are set on the 2022 Winter Olympics. Corie plans to participate in those same winter games, and by the age of twenty-two, she hopes to be medaling. They both have college in mind later on in their lives and careers. Both are considering staying in Utah and going to the U of U.
Ryan describes the Olympics as the entire world focused around one location. The support that every athlete feels from each other as a team, as well as from their friends and families at home, is overwhelming. Olympic Speed Skating is an intriguing, rigorous, and rewarding sport for the athletes involved, as well as for the audience.
“It is such a high. We take risks that other sports don’t. You never know what to expect, and almost always, you are pleasantly surprised,” Ryan says.