Speed skaters excited after first and second-placed finishes
GRAZ, Austria — Special Olympics Jamaica’s two speed skaters, Romaine Austin and Dave Oddman, finished first and second, respectively, in a preliminary 333-metre race yesterday at the World Winter Games.
The 19-year-old Austin clocked 59.028 seconds to cross the line way ahead of the other two competitors here at the ice rink stadium.
Oddman, 35, finished in 1:27.853 minutes, while Brian Proost of the Netherlands was timed in 2:14.603 minutes.
At the Special Olympics World Winter Games, the preliminary face-offs allow organisers to place competitors into divisions against opponents of similar strength, to minimise the likelihood of vast victory margins.
Coaches were set to meet with organisers late yesterday to be informed what divisions athletes will be placed in.
Austin told the Jamaica Observer that he is fired up and focused for the final stage of the competition, set to run between tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday.
“I’m very excited... I’m keeping faith in my abilities and looking to the races coming up,” he said.
Austin admitted that while darting along the ice to cop first place, he was silently urging along his compatriot Oddman.
“I wasn’t thinking about anything, but to concentrate on my race and what my coach told me about bending my back more. And I was thinking about how Dave was doing and wanting him to go along faster,” Austin said.
Smiling during the short interview, Oddman said the race “was fine” and added that “gold” is on his mind as he looks towards competitive action in the coming days.
Outside of the 333m race, Austin is down to compete in the 500m event here. Oddman’s other engagement sees him contesting the 222m event. Divisioning for those events has been completed and organisers have scheduled the final stage for both, also to be held tomorrow and Thursday.
Jacqueline Bennett, Jamaica’s speed skating head coach, was satisfied with the display from the two.
“Overall, they looked good and they understand the concept of the ice, and I’m looking forward to some medals. Romaine, in particular, looks pretty good. But I just have to see the listing and see who we are up against and then we can plan how to approach the races,” she told the Observer.
She was also pleased that neither of the athletes slipped on the slick ice surface. During the 500m divisioning race days ago, Austin fell twice, but recovered to win comfortably.
The Special Olympics movement empowers people with intellectual disabilities by promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect across the world.
The aim is to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with intellectual disabilities.