If 10 year old Leah Atterbury’s grandfather could see her speed skating around the ice now, he would be smiling.
Atterbury, of Fitchburg, is a fifth-grader at the Verona Area International School who has been hooked on speed skating since taking a one-month lesson offered by the Madison Speedskating Club last year, where she learned the basics.
“It’s a lot of different motions than hockey,” Atterbury said. “In speedskating, you have to go as fast as you can and skate a lot lower.”
Atterbury’s late grandfather, David Medaris, who grew up in Madison with U.S. Olympian speedskater Eric Heiden, who won five gold medals, set four Olympic records and one world record at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. Wisconsin has a long tradition of speed skating in the Olympics that includes Heiden, Verona native Casey FitzRandolph, the 2002 gold medalist who owns the Olympic record in the 500 meters, Dan Jansen (West Allis), Dan Immerfall (Madison) and Chris Witty (West Allis).
Shortly after that, Atterbury joined the club and has been competing in intrasquad speed skating races the final Monday every month at the Oregon Ice Arena. Each race has about three to five skaters and races are held at two, four and seven laps.
“It’s fun to do speed skating because they make it like a real meet with the club,” she said.
Atterbury had to learn to use her lower body while skating in a lower crouched position, she said, and also had to rely on her back, ankle strength, flexibility and balance. Atterbury said the most difficult part of speed skating is learning to go around the corners, as she had to learn the way to push and turn.
“The corners are where you pick up a lot of speed,” she said. “I have to do crossovers as fast as I can. I can’t slow down because that is where I gain speed.”
Atterbury hasn’t competed in a speed skating race against another club, but she’s hoping to get the opportunity if COVID-19 restrictions allow.
“I know I’m not guaranteed to get first place, but I’m excited to go if it’s safe enough,” she said.