U.S. speedskater Casey FitzRandolph will be seeking another gold medal when he competes in his third Winter Olympics in February. FitzRandolph loves the thrill of speed, and as VOA's Jim Stevenson reports, he found it at an early age.
Casey FitzRandolph loves to use his feet. He played soccer and was a place-kicker in American-style football. He first took to the ice playing hockey as a young boy. But to FitzRandolph, finding out how fast he could skate across the ice was more important than the game. Speedskating became a natural fit.
FitzRandolph skated faster and faster over the years, earning a string of second and third place finishes. But it was at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics where he rose above the competition to win a gold medal in the shortest competitive distance, the 500 meters. FitzRandolph says he thinks he can turn in even better performances in Turin.
"Just thinking back on my career, and even the races that were the fastest times I ever skated, I felt there was room for improvement," he said. " So in a nutshell, I felt like I could be better than I have ever been."
FitzRandolph says he has tried to take full advantage of the variety of training programs available to U.S. speedskaters.
"There seems to be so much room for improvement. If you could take the best that this guy (coach) has to offer, and mix it with the best that this (other) guy has to offer, and so on, the times that we could skate would be unfathomable," he said. "And I looked back in the mirror and said, 'yes, it was an Olympic record at the games in 2002, for example. But this part of your race could have been better. And that part of your race could have been better.' So I wanted to see if I could do what I have never done before."
With all of the specialized training, Casey FitzRandolph says the right attitude toward speedskating is at the core of being successful.
"We have very good programs, both in and out of the U.S. speedskating programs. And I think that it shows you how paramount peace of mind is and being content and happy with what you are doing," he said. "If you do not enjoy what you are doing, if you do not enjoy the process of trying to get to where you are going, then chances are not very good that you will succeed. I have been around a long, long time. And I have had years I have enjoyed. And I have had years I have not enjoyed so much. And there is definitely a correlation between that and success."
Casey FitzRandolph will be 31 when he skates in Turin and has already had a very successful speedskating career by any standard. But he feels he still has not achieved his full potential.
"It is not every day that you get to try to be the best in the world at what you do," he said. "And I did not want to retire and look back years from now and say 'well, what if I could have been this much better if I had stuck with it for four more years.'"
Casey FitzRandolph and the rest of the world are about to find out if his latest four years of preparation turns out to be golden.