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Olympics Are About Personal Challenge, Says Athlete - 2002-02-19

Casey FitzRandolph is the first American to win a gold medal in the men's 500-meter speedskating since Eric Heiden in 1980. FitzRandolph says the older skater inspired him on a path that led to Salt Lake City.

Casey FitzRandolph says he was only five when fellow Wisconsin resident Eric Heiden earned five gold medals at the Lake Placid, New York, Olympics in 1980. Soon he was winning his own titles. "Yeah," he said, "I think I became the midget men's Wisconsin state champion at five."

Saturday, Casey FitzRandolph stumbled and came in seventh in the 1,000-meter event. Holland's Gerard van Velde set a world record and earned the gold.

But earlier in the week, the U.S. skater was in top form as he earned a gold medal in the men's 500-meters. "I had a great opener the first day," he said, "but I honestly felt that I could go faster. And I think the world record coming in was 34.3 [seconds], and I went 34.4 that first day. I know that 34.2 was attainable, but when you're dealing the pressures that you deal with in the games, it's often difficult to have the perfect race."

FitzRandolph says he skated two solid races, earning a gold medal. He achieved an Olympic record for the men's 500 meters, edging out world-record holder Hiroyasu Shimizu by .03 seconds in the two-day total.

FitzRandolph says these games are not about glory, but personal challenge, achievement, "and reaching, fulfilling your potential as an individual. We've all got goals in life, regardless of what it is we do, and it's all about achieving them. So it's not about the fame, it's into about the fortune, it's about conquering yourself."

What does the future hold for the speedskater? Maybe, he says, a career in professional football with Wisconsin's Green Bay Packers. "My whole life has been a pipe-dream so far, so why stop now? I would like to get a tryout with the Packers and see what happens. But I'll tell you one thing. I do have to brush up a little bit this spring before I get out there and try," he continued.

Gold medalist Casey FitzRandolph says speedskaters are seldom in the spotlight, as they are at the Olympics. And it takes some getting used to. He says the key to winning in Salt Lake City was keeping focused on his performance.