Fredricks excelling on World Cup stage
Fredricks, 27, a two-time Olympian and World Cup long track speedskating champion, won the 500-meter sprint title to notch the overall sprint championship for men at the US Speedskating Championships in West Allis two weeks ago.
Fredricks won two 500-meter races to claim the title. He won his first in 34.92 seconds, missing the Pettit National Ice Center record by one-hundredth of a second. Fredricks skated the opening 100 meters in 9.60, breaking his own Pettit record of 9.66.
Fredricks won the second race in 34.95, and his combined time of 69.87 seconds easily placed him atop the podium.
The US Championships are a qualifier for the US winter World Cup roster. Only Fredricks and Olympic gold medalist Shani Davis were pre-qualified because of high World Cup rankings. Fredricks is ranked No. 3 in the 500 for World Cup.
Fredricks arrived in West Allis after winning a gold medal in Heerenveen, Netherlands, in the 500 (34.98) at World Cup 3 on Dec. 2-4, and earning medals in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Nov. 25-27 in World Cup 2, which are the final races of the World Cup fall competition.
A change in training has benefited Fredericks, who holds the national record in the 500.
“This summer, we started a new training program with a lot of exercise,” Fredericks said in a phone interview from Milwaukee. “I knew I’d be in pretty good shape.”
Fredricks was in better shape than he thought.
“I was kind of surprised how the World Cup (results) went and the US championships,” said Fredricks, a 2002 Janesville Craig High School graduate.
Not only did Fredricks’ training change, but the philosophy on training during the World Cup season changed, too.
Sprint coach Ryan Shimabukuro said it’s a gamble that is paying dividends.
“We definitely took a different approach,” Shimabukuro said. “We decided to train through World Cups and not be so rested.’’
World Cup 1 in Chelyabinsk, Russia, Nov. 18-20 was a disappointment for Fredricks.
“Russia started slow,” Shimabukuro said. “But since we were able to build into each competition, Tucker had a very solid US Championship being very fatigued from travel and three hard weeks of competition in Europe. He is skating just as good if not better.’’
Fredricks paid a one-week visit to former Olympic speedskating gold medalist Dan Jansen in Mooresville, N.C.
“He mentored me, and we had a good week of training,” Fredricks said. “I feel like I learned a lot.’’
Jansen thinks Fredricks has found his stride.
“Tucker has always had talent,” Jansen said in a phone interview. “It’s just that he hasn’t been consistent, but he seems to have found it.’’
Fredricks has been a US speedskater team member for seven years, and he was a surprise qualifier for the Turin Olympics in 2006 at 22 years old.
“The sport is still fun,” said Fredricks, who is engaged to Eriko Seo, a former speedskater from Japan. “It’s still exciting, and I’m still learning.’’
Fredricks is eager for the 2014 Olympics and thinks he can possibly make a bid for the 2018 games.
“I’d like to go maybe until I’m 33,” he said.
For now, Fredricks’ focus is on a strong 2011-12 World Cup season.
“This year, my focus is on how I’m skating,” Fredricks said. “Instead of the outcome, I pay attention to how I get the time, instead of the time itself.’’
Jansen said Fredricks’ best is still to come.
“I honestly think he has the talent to separate himself from the field this year,” Jansen said. “Who knows how far he can take it from there.’’