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Saturday, February 9, 2002
Updated: February 23, 9:53 PM ET
Smith prepares for the Games

By Cynthia J. Faulkner
ESPN.com


Speedskater Rusty Smith chronicled his training efforts in a weekly diary. ESPN.com caught up with him at the start of the Games.

Q: How is practice going? A: Normally, I replace my blades every five months but I had these for more than a year. I just put on new blades and skated yesterday for seven minutes and I was already going faster than with my other ones. I wish I didn't have to make the change at this point but you have to do what will work.

RUSTY SMITH
Rusty Smith
Smith
Age: 22
Hometown: Sunset Beach, Calif.
Sport: Short track speed skating
Accomplishments: In the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, he was 13th in the 1,000 and a member of the sixth-place relay team. At the 2000 Worlds, he placed fourth in the 1,000 meters, seventh in the 500 meters and eighth overall.
Rusty's guide to his sport: "We're an all-around sport. We don't specify individual differences. We skate around a 111-meter track inside of a hockey rink. We skate with four to six people at a time, and the first one to cross the line wins. Individual distances: 500 meters is the sprint distance with 4½ laps; 1,000 meters, which is nine laps; 1,500 meters is 13½ laps; 3,000 meters is 27 laps. (The top eight scorers skate the 3,000, so you have to be a finalist in one of the other races.) In our sport, you are an individual except on the four-person relay team where you skate 5,000 meters, which is 45 laps.

"The reason our sport is interesting to me is that is a sport where you race. You have heats, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals
-- so you have to actually race against people instead of a clock. Unlike long-track speed-skating where it's a 400-meter oval, they are skating against a clock rather than other people. The top two advance out of each race. There are a lot of falls involved and little bit of bumping, shoving and pushing.

"We get up to speeds of 35 mph, and we pull almost 6 G-forces going around the corner. For comparison, race cars pull just over 1 G and bobsleds pull around 2 or 3 G's. You're only doing it for a split second right at the apex of the corner.

"There is a lot of contact and a lot of bumping that doesn't get called. In a lot of ways it is like auto racing: we bump, we push. To a point it's legal, but if you make someone fall, you're disqualified. A passing skater has to make a clean pass on the person in front of you and the other skater can get disqualified if they impede you by cutting you off."

Q: Has it been hectic preparing for the Games? A: Yes it has been really hectic in the Village with everything trying to fit in practices with interviews. But our team has bonded really well and is ready to go out and win a medal.

Q: You've mentioned before that after winning the World Championship in the relay it's important to you to uphold that at the Olympics. With the distraction of the lawsuit earlier, is the team where you'd like it to be? A: We've all come together. We had a little talk and everyone is focused on the goal. Skating is what's important.

Q: What are the differences so far between Nagano and Salt Lake City? A: At Nagano it was really tight quarters. The athlete village was five buildings that were really close together. It's the exact opposite here. It's really spread out and the International Center is farther away -- great dining accommodations.

Q: Will your family get to watch you? A: My whole family gets here between Tuesday and Wednesday morning and will be here throughout.

Q: Are you excited for the Games to start? A: As our team captain, I was honored to nominate Amy Peterson to carry the flag (in the Opening Ceremonies). I persuaded the other team captains to vote for her. I've known her for seven years now. She's been on 14 national teams and won three Olympic medals. She's an incredible person, a role model and it's an honor to our sport and our country for her to carry the U.S. flag.

Q: The question on many people's minds this year is safety -- do you have any security concerns in the athlete's village? A: The USOC, IOC, SLOC have taken care of security. It takes longer but it is the right thing to do.