Skaters love the speed in their sport: Duluth club produces national competitors and has fun working on the ice

The Duluth Area Speed Skating Club may be small in numbers compared to other local sports, but it's big on talent. Several team members compete nationally. Hannah Curwin, 14, is a national competitor at the junior level. She's been national champ...

The Duluth Area Speed Skating Club may be small in numbers compared to other local sports, but it's big on talent.

Several team members compete nationally.

Hannah Curwin, 14, is a national competitor at the junior level. She's been national champion in her age group twice.

Curwin began skating in the third grade.

"When I was younger I started out figure skating," Curwin said. "I never did any of the tricks. I just liked to go fast, so it's the sport for me."


Other national competitors from the Duluth club include former club member Anna Ringsred, who made the U.S. World Cup Team just last month. As a World Team member she will compete in races throughout the world.

Ringsred, 22, and her brother Miles, 20, attend college in Calgary and practice at the Olympic oval, which is attached to the school.

Both skaters got started after injuries in other sports. Anna was a ski jumper, but switched to speed skating at 10. When Miles broke his shoulder playing hockey as a teenager, Anna convinced him to get on the ice.

Joe Perrella, another former club member and national champion, also attends school with the Ringsreds in Calgary. All three are learning to coach speed skating while in college.

But the sport of speed skating isn't just about competing. It's also about fun, said coach Andrey Zhuikov.

In 2004, Zhuikov proved that fact to the club members. That year the club sent members to the Netherlands to compete. Skaters from about 10 countries competed in the Holland-region races.

In Holland everyone skates, and they do it for fun, Zhuikov said.

They go speed skating everyday, like people in the United States go jogging, said Curwin, who went on the trip.


"The rink is just packed with people on a Sunday afternoon," she said.

People as old as 60, 70 or even 100 skate there, Zhuikov said.

"For our kids, it was extra motivation to continue to skate," he said.

People of all ages participate in the Duluth Area Speed Skating Club too.

The club is made up of 60-year-old men down to 5-year-old boys, Curwin said.

"It's just really fun to skate with all of them," she said.

The club is made up of 30 members. Many of the team members are young. Former hockey players and inline skaters are also in the club.

Anyone can speed skate and, what's more, they should, Zhuikov said.


Zhuikov grew up in Russia and has been skating since the age of 6. He went to the Russian speed skating school and competed for Russia internationally.

The Duluth Speed Skating Club convinced him to come to Duluth in 1997. He's been coaching the team ever since.

While speed skating is a winter sport, the club practices three to four times a week -- year round.

When on dry land for three-fourths of the year, the team practices at Chester Bowl on inline skates and does jumps and weight lifting to keep in shape. In the off months, club members work on technique, balance, coordination, weight lifting and jumps.

The movement is 75 percent the same for speed skating and inline skating, so 75 percent of the time the team is on inline skates when not on speed skates, Zhiukov said.

As the speed skating season approaches, the club rents ice at the University of Minnesota Duluth's arena once a week to get ready. Once the outdoor ice is firm, the team works at the Chester Bowl oval and heads down to Roseville every Saturday to compete.

Duluth has a 200-meter outdoor speed skating oval. An Olympic-size long track oval is 400 meters. There are three Olympic-size speed skating ovals in the United States, located in Roseville, Milwaukee and Salt Lake City.

Club members have competed at all three ovals. The Duluth club is a long-track club. Short-track speed skating competitions can be done in a hockey rink.


Eric Ringsred, father of Anna and Miles, is thinking about starting a short track program in Duluth in the future to complement the long track program.

Curwin enjoys traveling to the races. She has friends from clubs all across the country, she said.

Since competitors enter a new competition age bracket every two years, last year Curwin faced older girls and ended up in the top three.

"It was really fun for me last year," she said.

Speed skating is harder than it looks, but it's fun, Curwin said.

"It's challenging," she said. "It's definitely a good workout."

News to Use:

The Duluth Area Speed Skating Club will have an open house from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12, at the UMD Ice Arena.


Participants can bring their own hockey or figure skates or borrow speed skates from the club. Helmets are required on the ice. The club has some available.

For more information about the club call 728-6123 or visit .

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