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09 Mar 2015
IOC News

David Cruikshank on how to unlock the key to performance

In the latest instalment in our Words of Olympians video series, four-time Olympian speed skater Dave Cruikshank explains the secrets of his enduring ability to thrive in elite-level sport.

A 500m world junior champion in 1987, Dave Cruikshank was a mainstay of the US speed skating team throughout his impressive career. A sprint specialist, he took part in four Olympic Winter Games between 1988 and 1998, before missing out on a place at Salt Lake City 2002 at the age of 33.

During the course of his career at the top, he met his wife Bonnie Blair, the USA’s greatest female speed skater of all time and herself a five-time Olympic champion.

Married in 1996 and the proud parents of two children, Blair and Cruikshank were team-mates at three Winter Games, the most memorable of which was Lillehammer 1994, as Cruikshank explains: “For my wife and I, the 1994 Games were really special. It was the last Games we skated together in. In Lillehammer it was cold, it was wintry, it was a great housing situation, it was great ice conditions, it was a great environment in the Viking ship. It just epitomised what the Olympic Winter Games was all about.

“It was just a great friendly environment where they cheer for every skater whether he’s dead last or a winner, and to me that’s what the Olympic spirit is all about. It’s the support of the athletes to do the best that they can.”

After hanging up his skates, Cruikshank founded a successful speed skating training and performance centre and has drawn on his extensive Olympic experience in providing his services as a skating coach to a number of ice hockey teams in the NHL.

Describing the Olympic experience, he says: “It’s an incredible feeling to represent your country and to see the four years of hard work it takes to get there, and to then actually get in and walk into the stadium. It’s an incredible rush, once in a lifetime, for sure.”

Commenting on the secret to becoming a successful speed skater, he adds: “I didn’t go into the Olympics thinking that I was a medal favourite… I just tried to do the best that I could. For me, it was about getting off to a great start. That was what made or broke my event. Again, just the adrenalin, the energy, the excitement. Trying to channel that and bringing that into your performance on the ice is a skill, and people, I think, under-appreciate how important it is to draw that laser focus on all your energy at one time, one event, be in the moment and to get it done.”

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