Visitors from around the world will glide into Verona next weekend for the National Short Track Championships.
From March 22-24, speedskaters from ages 7 to older than 70 will compete at the Verona Ice Arena, 451 W. Verona Ave., during the three-day event. Any competitor looking to qualify for the next Olympic team must receive a qualifying score within their age class at the event, as well as another prior qualifying time after July 1, 2017, but prior to this year’s championships.
The event is free to spectators.
The National Short Track Championships were held at the Verona Ice Arena in 2015 and 2016, and in 2006 a decade earlier.
Verona Area Chamber of Commerce director Le Jordan said banners will be placed throughout the city to create a welcoming atmosphere for visiting skaters – including 25 from China, who will be staying in Verona for two weeks prior to the championship to practice.
Jordan said the speedskating championships will allow visitors to see the “hidden gem” that is Verona.
“Every time we have a large event here, more people learn about Verona and see what we have to offer,” she said. “It’s good all the way around … when we have other events, it just sort of puts us on the map for them.”
Jordan said events such as the speedskating championships, little league tournaments and other athletic competitions like the annual Ironman competition in September where competitors bike through the city help showcase the city to visitors.
“Those are our opportunities for Verona to shine,” she added.
Bob Neville, president of the Madison Speed Skating Club, told the Press having the championships so close to home allows community members to experience the atmosphere of a speedskating competition in ways they couldn’t by watching it via a broadcast.
The championships are like any other sporting event, Neville added, mentioning that audiences don’t get to feel the excitement of hearing “oohs” and “aahs” when a skater makes a great move on the ice when they’re only seeing a picture outside the ice arena.
“It gives all our skaters in our communities an understanding of the sport of speedskating, and what the top-level skaters can do,” he said. “I think too many people just see it on TV, and don’t get a feel for what this event is all about.”