Category Archives: More About Us
(Aired February 16, 2014, on TODAY’S TMJ4 – WTMJ-TV Milwaukee).
I started ice speedskating in 1990 after one season as an inline skater. PHAST Skate Technician Olu Sijuwade and I inlined together almost every day. We were part of a group of about ten inliners who started speedskating on the very same day. Olu and I are the only ones who remain. We skated outdoors in bitter cold, rain, and howling winds. I dreaded those harsh days but loved the sunny ones.
My first day speedskating went very poorly. I could not go forward, and crossovers were impossible. I thought after being a hot shot inliner that I would be awesome from the first day. To get better, I took (US Speedskating Referee) Ernie Kretschmann’s Learn to Speedskate Class and then joined the West Allis Speed Skating Club.
By my second season, I started pack-style racing and came in last place every race. Mad at my performance, Olu and I started to do dryland workouts. The third season I was much better and, finally with good equipment, I could begin to hang with (Olympic Gold Medalist) Dan Jansen during practices. I also started skating time trials. I skated in fixed blades, and my first 500 meters outdoors was 48.5 seconds. That day Dan Jansen did 36-something, and Bonnie Blair was in the 39s, so I knew I was awful. To make things worse, in order to skate more distances than just the 500 meters, you had to skate the 500 in under 45 seconds. So, the first season all I did was 500 meters, as I never managed to skate it under 45.
Milwaukee’s outdoor track closed in 1992, and we skaters moved indoors to the Pettit National Ice Center in late 1992. I began to break 45s and started skating 1000s, 1500s, and 3000s. My personal bests were set in 1998 in Calgary, in which I went 41.6 in the 500, 1:21.96 in the 1000, 2:05 in the 1500, and 4:21 in the 3000, all with fixed blade skates. In my last time trial, and my only one with clap skates, I was paired with (Olympic Silver Medalist) Jonathan Kuck, where we both skated the identical time of 1:33.00 in the 1000; he was only 11 at the time.
I stopped skating due to tearing a muscle in my leg. It never healed and to this day it still hurts. I cannot do starts or hard sprints, and this is why I only skate marathons.
I started coaching because I knew I could not skate anymore. I took years of classes. I have been a better coach than skater, but I think, had I not torn the leg muscle, I could have made the trials in the 1000 and 1500.
One problem with the holidays, though, is all the junk food. Athletes can’t help but notice it all around us. It is hard to resist it, but I need to in order to make sure I stay strong.
Looking ahead, next year I’m getting a new rubberized skinsuit for all-around distances. My last suit was almost fully rubberized for sprint distances, but now I’ll be getting one with mesh in the chest area, so it will be easier for me to breath in during mid to long distances.
I am very excited for 2014, and I hope that the start of a new year will be the start of better times for me.
With all the hardware the US team brought home that year (3 gold, 3 silver, and 5 bronze), lots of kids must have had dreams; having the Pettit right here in Milwaukee made it possible for William to try it out. The West Allis Speed Skating Club gave William a great start, and the coaching here at PHAST continues to inspire and drive him toward success.
I’m still on the outside of speedskating, looking in. I contribute in a small way by clerking at most of the short and long track pack meets held in Milwaukee and an occasional trip down to help out in Chicagoland. That lets me nerd out with numbers and help the sport at the same time. And I truly love working with the great people in the speedskating community.
While all of these can be performed with others, I like the solitary aspect of these sports. I do some of my best thinking while swimming or running. I am not a skater, but I like the solitary component that skating has.
There is a beauty in watching a skater glide around the oval. I appreciate the poetry in motion. A skater gliding along, alone with their thoughts.
I was blessed to spend time with PHAST skaters this summer and do some training with these athletes. The level of physical capacity and mental toughness at a young age is outstanding. At first you look at an elite level skater, and they make it look so easy. The glide, arm swing, and crossovers all silky smooth. Poetry in motion, really.
Then I tried the slide board and was amazed. Just the basic position alone gets your heartbeat up. Now hold it just for one minute…ouch!
Fast forward 20 years. With all the life experience I have learned from being a husband, father, and sometime role model (tongue-n-cheek), I have realized how demanding physically and emotionally this sport exerts on these athletes. Here’s one for you guys (see pic)!
Oh, by the way, when you watch them race, don’t be afraid to cheer them on. If they’re doing it correctly, they can’t hear you anyways!
We come from various socio-economic backgrounds, cities, career choices, and faiths. Yet we all juggle the same pins to make sure our schedules mesh with their training and competition schedules, stress that their nutrition and hydration intake is adequate. Did they stretch and roll-out? Do they have all the necessary equipment? Register for the upcoming meet and pay the dues. Schedule time off at work and school, reserve the hotel, airfare, and car rental. Stress when they stress because the mood for the day will be determined whether or not they get that sometimes elusive PB (personal best).
We all laugh, cheer and cry together. We’re there for each other when a skater goes down or reaches a personal best or even a milestone. They’re there to lift spirits and at the same time keep us grounded. Hmm, sounds like family to me!
One thing is certain: I will and do treasure each and every family we meet because we all have the same goal: that our most precious treasure doesn’t get hurt, stays healthy, has a successful future, and that they are truly happy with themselves because we love them no matter what, PB or no PB.
Speedskating for our family started back in 1928 with Frank and John Susitti. And it didn’t stop there. Between the two of them, they had 6 children that skated: Edward Raimann, Richard Raimann, Grace Raimann, Gloria Raimann, Rosie Raimann, and Kathy Sussiti.
Between the six of them, they had 20 children that skated: Louie James Mane, Tony Mane, Mary Mane, Becky Sanfallipo (who skated in the 1988 Winter Olympics), Tom Raimann, Susie Raimann, EJ Raimann, Fred Raimann, Heidi Raimann, John Wardecke, Jamie Wardecke, Debbie Raimann, Cindy Raimann, Vickie Raimann, Valarie Raimann (Vicki and Valarie are twins who were both on the first short track World Team), Pat Bartz, Liesel Bartz, Kelly Collins, Michael Collins, and Jenny Jungkuntz.
Between the twenty of them, 15 of their children skated: Jacob Boulware, Matt Maierle, Tony Mane, Andrea Sanfelippo, Gina Sanfelippo, Tom Brownlow, Bill Brownlow, Michael Oechsner, Joey Oechsner, Alex Oechsner, Josh Oechsner, Haley Bartz, Sydney Bartz, and Ryan Bartz.
If anyone was keeping track, Sydney is a fourth generation skater with 42 family members skating before her. Those are a lot of years and a lot of skaters! Whenever I tell someone that Sydney is a speedskater, the first question they ask usually is, “Oh, my goodness, how did she get into that?” It’s pretty cool to say, “Well, it all started back in 1928.”
When Haley was in fourth grade, she broke her foot (check out her boot in the picture). She never came back to speedskating but continues to play volleyball, basketball, and runs track in high school. Three years later, we lost Michael and Ryan. Michael continues to play basketball, football, and will try lacrosse this year in high school. Ryan just wanted to focus a little more on schoolwork and his basketball, baseball and football. This year we lost the person I have been skating with since I was four years old, Joey. Also Alex and Josh have decided to focus on playing football, basketball, and volleyball.
They will all say that it was a great experience and they really liked it. But for me, even though I play volleyball and run track, I love to skate. That’s why I’m “the last woman standing” in my family.