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At the Speed of Speed

  • Two-time Winter Olympian Dan Weinstein, of Norwich, Vt., leads young skaters in practice as part of the Skating Club at Dartmouth's Speed Skating Program at Campion Rink in West Lebanon, N.H., on March 31, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Two-time Winter Olympian Dan Weinstein, of Norwich, Vt., speaks with his students during the Skating Club at Dartmouth's Speed Skating Program at Campion Rink in West Lebanon, N.H., on March 31, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/2/2016 12:30:04 AM
Modified: 4/2/2016 12:31:46 AM

Dan Weinstein began short-track speedskating at age 8 and went on to become the youngest U.S. Olympian at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Today, he’s determined to introduce other youngsters to the sport.

Weinstein, of Etna, is the founder and lead instructor for the Skating Club at Dartmouth’s speedskating program, now in its third year demonstrating the techniques involved with one of the world’s fastest non-motor-assisted sports.

The pilot season had two participants, while last year drew six. This year is up to eight, and Weinstein hopes a “critical mass” of a dozen can be recruited in time for next winter.

“At that point, it would be worthwhile and affordable to rent our own ice time,” said Weinstein, whose club today shares surfaces with figure skaters and other SCaD programs at West Lebanon’s Campion Rink. “Adults are certainly welcome. It’s a great sport to learn when you’re a little older. I learned the sport with (Boston-area-based) Bay State Speedskating, and the age range was probably 5 to 85.”

While professional speedskaters approach 40 MPH or faster, Weinstein’s pupils have so far been led primarily to focus on technique.

Thursday’s class at Campion sent participants in a “U” shape around part of the rink’s perimeter, where they practiced skating in low, aerodynamic positions as well as various balance drills involving the limbs and center of gravity. At one point, they were taught to thrust only one arm forward with each stride.

“Before you can build up speed, you have to get your muscles accustomed to the movements,” said Weinstein in an earlier interview at Resource Systems Group in White River Junction, where he is a director of strategic marketing research. “Speedskaters are so well-trained with where their arms and legs are at all times, so we work on things like weight transfer drives, single leg balancing and crossover moves.”

The program’s most experienced pupil is Dan McCann, a 15-year-old who travels an hour each way from Marlow, N.H., near Keene, in order to participate. Dan’s mom, Paula, recently helped the program acquire padding for a corner of the rink to protect skaters. That will become especially useful if and when the program expands and speed-focused drills become more commonplace.

“I didn’t want to be a hockey mom; it’s too much of a commitment,” said Paula McCann prior to Thursday’s practice. “(Dan) found out about speedskating, and I said, ‘If there’s anything within an hour of home, we’ll sign you up.’ This ended up being almost exactly an hour away, so here we are. It’s been worth it, because he loves it.”

Dan McCann, a Keene High freshman, said he’s learned a lot during his three seasons on the ice with Weinstein. The program also has included tutelage the last two years from Sarah Chen, a Dartmouth College student and member of the U.S. Short Track National Racing Program.

“It’s been really good for concentration,” said McCann, 15. “A lot of the techniques and movements help you be more aware of your body.”

Weinstein, 35, grew up in Brookline, Mass., and quickly emerged from the Bay State Speedskating Club, becoming the youngest person ever to participate in the U.S. short-track speedskating Olympic trials as a 13-year-old in 1994. He went on to win the U.S. junior championship in ’97, a year before competing at Nagano, then captured the U.S. Short Track Speedskating men’s championship in 2000. Weinstein was fourth at the World Championships that year, earning silver medals in the 500- and 3,000-meter races and bronze in the 1,000.

Weinstein’s 5,000 relay team was the 2001 world champion and was in strong position to rally for gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In a tight race with eventual winner Canada, Weinstein’s team suffered a fall late in the race and finished fourth.

“Falls happen, but that result was tough for us, especially being in the U.S.,” Weinstein said. “We placed fourth, but it kind of felt like we were last.”

Despite the disappointment, Weinstein remembers fondly the experience in Salt Lake City, staged some five months after the 2001 terrorist attacks. “It was a historic time, a very emotional time, and as a team we were laser-focused,” said Weinstein, who is married with three children. “I still take a family trip back to Salt Lake once or twice a year just to revisit the area and skate on the ice again. The sport brought me all over the world, but that’s probably the most special place.”

Weinstein was only 21 at the conclusion of those games, but chose to retire to focus on schooling and relationships. He graduated from Harvard University in 2004 and from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth in ‘09. The Weinsteins — Dan first met his wife, Amelia, when both were children training with Bay State Speedskating — only recently had a house built in Etna; prior to that, they lived in Grantham’s Eastman village, where Dan’s parents maintain a second home.

“I’ve known about the Upper Valley since I was a kid going to Eastman, and always loved it here,” Weinstein said. “It’s a place where you can feel like you’re in vacationland whether you’re working or playing.”

Or, for that matter, speedskating.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.




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