Former USOEC short track speedskater Allison Baver giving long track a try
MARQUETTE – The lemons that have pelted Allison Baver for the past few years could make some mighty fine-tasting Olympic lemonade for the former U.S. Olympic Education Center speedskater the next time the Winter Games are held in 2014 in Sochi .
Baver isn’t one to be deterred when she’s told no, and it’s served her well throughout her short track speedskating career, where she made the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in 2006 and in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010. She won a bronze medal skating for the U.S. in the 3,000-meter relay in Vancouver.
That medal came after a horrific accident during a 2009 race in Bulgaria which fractured her lower leg and ankle. Her leg was so badly mangled that she had been told she might not ever walk normally again, let alone be able to skate competitively.
She didn’t accept that prognosis, however, coming back for the Vancouver Olympics a year later while still rehabbing. After that, she was thwarted from rejoining the U.S. national team by its now-disgraced head coach, so she trained on her own.
Jae Su Chun was accused by a number of athletes of using verbal and physical intimidation in his coaching, and he subsequently resigned as national coach.
But Baver’s complaint was only that he felt she was not ready to rejoin the U.S. National Team after the 2010 Olympics because of her 2009 injury despite her being part of the medal-winning relay team.
That was all on the short track. That determination spilled over to a nearly lifelong interest in speedskating’s other side, long-track speedskating, which she also began to train for.
In 2012, she became so good at each discipline – which are about as different as playing quarterback and kicker in football – that she’s now qualified to compete for berths on the U.S. Olympic teams in both short track and long-track when tryouts are held in December and January.
Baver is not sure whether she’ll try to become an Olympian in one or the other – or both – because the tryouts are held barely a week apart.
She says she dreams of doing both, but the practical reality – which also includes focused training in just one discipline – may rule that out.
“I’ve had people ask me which one I want to do and tell me you’ve got to give up one so you concentrate on the other,” she said recently by telephone.
“But I don’t see why I have to decide so soon.”
She outlined a training regimen that sounds exhausting just listening to it, let alone participating in it. But remember, this is a woman whose long suit is determination.
“I work with a sports psychologist now so I can train in both short track and long-track at the same time,” Baver said.
Part of the difficulty with simultaneous training in the two disciplines is that the skating techniques often contradict each other – what works in long-track, such as the way you position yourself at the start line, is a big no-no in short track, and vice versa.
So she is constantly having to reset her mind moving from one to the other.
A typical day is short track training from 7-9 a.m., long-track from 9-11 a.m., with time set aside for continued rehab of her leg and ankle.
“There are exercises I have to do every single day, then twice a week, I have a specific regimen for about an hour and a half or two hours,” she said.
On top of that, she is the driving force behind the Off The Ice Foundation that raises money to purchase skating gear and provide education in the sport for children.
And when she can find the time, she works on her own clothing line of what she calls “bodywear” – a new type of sportswear and activewear with a style that is fashionable outside the workout and sports arenas.
Baver, 32, started training at the USOEC in September 2000, when she transferred to Northern Michigan University from Penn State University while training in short track.
“I was in school and at the USOEC until March or April of 2002,” she said, adding she has spent time off and on since then, too, leading up to U.S. Olympic Trials and World Cup short track events held at NMU during the past six or seven years.
“Because of the time I spent in Marquette, I feel like it’s home every time I come there,” she said about visits to this area. “I feel I was very blessed and I’m thankful the program was there.
“It’s really where I got my start in short track speedskating.
“The USOEC created a discipline and atmosphere I needed. I was still able to go to college and at the same time have Olympic-caliber coaching.”
You can see all the facets of Baver’s life on her website,
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.