A little rough and tumble is an expected feature of short track speed skating as athletes vie for position on the ice. Arms and elbows can land in some pretty painful places.
Luckily for Thibault Metraux (SUI), the 18-year-old racer who competes in the men’s 500m and 1000m events, and skates for the Lausanne Short Track club, an education in ice hockey has schooled him for any nasty bumps and bruises.
“Short track is about speed and it is also like fighting with the other racers,” he said of the competition at the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, which kicks off on 18 January at the Lausanne Skating Arena. “With all the fighting it is like ice hockey.
“The problem in hockey is that you fight with each other. Do I take inspiration from the fighting [in ice hockey]? Not too much because I will have some penalties.”
The competition also includes women’s 500m and 1000m races in a format featuring heat, quarterfinal, semifinal and final phases, and Metraux believes that “a good mental attitude” is vital to succeed.
“Because training is pretty hard you need determination because if you want to be good directly you cannot, it’s not possible,” he said. “You will have to take your time step-by-step and go to the top.”
Metraux’s schooling in speed skating began in his early teens when his parents received an invitation for him to try out at a short track club.
“It was an introduction,” he said. “They were trying to build a team for the Youth Olympics. I tried it and I really liked it so I continued from four years ago.”
In a three-day schedule that also includes a mixed NOC relay event, Metraux has tipped the Republic of Korea, China and Japan for success. “In Korea the kids are training from two years old,” he said.
Metraux has talents of his own, however. A self-confessed fan of high speeds, he races on both the ice and the roads where he rides a bike. His desire to get from A to B as quickly as possible has earned him a reputation.
“I’m normally doing a bit of road biking in the summer for training the heart,” he said. “I like speed but people tell me I’m too crazy on the bike.
“But I like the feeling of going fast. For me, [if I can get] a top-16 finish in the overall classification, I’ll be really happy.”