Around the rink with speed
Freshman places fourth at U.S. Short Track Age Group Nationals
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At 6 p.m. every school night, freshman Ava Fradlin-Ryan sets aside her homework, laces up her skates and puts on her skinsuit, and is out on the ice with the rest of the Potomac Speedskating Club until 9:30 p.m. With much encouragement, and shouting, from coach Simon Cho, Fradlin-Ryan trains five days a week for up to four hours at a time.
Fradlin-Ryan’s commitment paid off at the March 17-19 U.S. Short Track Age Group Nationals in Midland, Mich. where she placed fourth in her age group.
“Speed skating is definitely one of the hardest sports out there physically and mentally,” Ava said, “and you have to give it your all and put everything into it, or else you will go nowhere.”
Fradlin-Ryan started figure skating when she was only three years old, but eventually switched to speed skating. She started competing in races out of state when she was nine years old, but only qualified for Nationals this year. She competes in five different events and her favorite is the 777, which consists of seven laps around the rink.
In addition to regular practices, Ava gets a one-hour private lesson with Cho, a former Olympic speed skater who grew up in the Cabin John area. During his time in international competition, Cho won a bronze medal in the Olympics and multiple World Cup championships. Prior to competing in the Olympics, Cho trained with the U.S. national speedskating team.
Cho now runs speed skating practices six days a week, including early Sunday mornings. Not only does he oversee and coach each practice, he also keeps a training diary to keep track of each individual skater’s progress on the team.
“He knows what is the best type of training based on his own trial and error,” Fradlin-Ryan said. “He is very nice and interactive with all of us and he has special personal bonds with all of us.”
As much as Ava finds Cho to be encouraging, the coach is not afraid to be tough when it’s required.
“It helps if I’m, you know, yelling at them to try to push themselves just past that barrier,” Cho said.
Marina Fradlin, Fradlin-Ryan’s mother, also said that she pushes Fradlin-Ryan “by encouraging her to work hard, and take care of her body, and get enough rest, and eat healthy.” Fradlin helps her daughter by driving her to each of her practices and attending each competition with her.
“She motivates me to work hard,” Fradlin-Ryan said. “She makes sure that I’m doing the best that I can do for my body.”
On March 17, Fradlin-Ryan and the rest of her teammates went to the national competition. The competition lasted through March 19 and Fradlin-Ryan competed in several different events over the course of the three days.
Fradlin-Ryan placed fourth overall in her age group and earned several pins, which are like medals in other sports, in her 1000 and 1500 meter events.
Since her season has ended, Fradlin-Ryan is already looking forward to next year’s national competition. She plans on training even harder in order to end the competition with a podium finish, placing in the top three out of her age group.
“At the end of the day, I love it so much that I could never let the physical or mental demand of it stop me from doing it,” Fradlin-Ryan said.