Skating for Gold - Wisconsin Speed Skating Olympians
Click here to visit "Skating for Gold" an exhibit from the Wisconsin Historical Society about Wisconsin speed skaters and their success in the Winter Olympics.
The National Speedskating Museum and Hall of Fame is now under construction at the Pettit Center.
The Pettit National Ice Center, a U.S. Olympic Training Site opened December 31, 1992. Since that time, we have helped many U.S. skaters prepare to compete on international stage. Speed skating is the winningest sport in U.S. Winter Olympic history and the Pettit Center is proud to have helped so many athletes achieve success.
The very same land that the Pettit now occupies was the site of the outdoor Wisconsin Olympic Ice Rink. From 1967 until 1991, this outdoor spectacle was home ground for many skaters who strived to make a name for themselves in the world of speed skating. Eric Heiden, Beth Heiden, Peter Mueller and Leah Poulos were some of the skaters who trained at the Olympic Ice Rink. The most decorated was Madison's Eric Heiden, who dominated the 1980 Winter Olympics in a display we may never, see again.
The Pettit opened just in time for speed skaters to prepare for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillihammer, Norway. With the Pettit open, speed skaters now had the chance to train indoors at a state-of-the art facility. The 1994 Winter Olympics proved to be a great Games for the U.S. and two very special skaters who claimed the Pettit as their training home.
Bonnie Blair, who was making her fourth and final Olympic appearance, dominated the ice in Lillihammer. She won two gold medals, making Blair the most decorated U.S. female Winter Olympic athlete ever. Joining Blair was her close friend and Milwaukee's own Dan Jansen. Jansen raced to a world record and an Olympic gold medal.
With Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen closing out their competitive careers, the door was open for a new crop of U.S. Speedskaters. Next in line was West Allis, Wisconsin's Chris Witty. Witty, who skated with her brother Mike for years at the Wisconsin Olympic Ice Rink, could be seen at the Pettit training in advance of the 1998 Winter Olympics. At the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, Witty made a huge splash by winning a silver and bronze medal. This wouldn't be the last time the world would hear from Ms. Witty.
The 2002 Winter Olympics turned stateside with Salt Lake City, Utah serving as host. These Games proved to be monumental for U.S. Speedskating athletes, with a record medal haul. U.S. speed skaters took home 11 medals, making the sport the winningest of the 2002 Games. Chris Witty won a gold medal and was joined by Verona, Wisconsin's Casey FitzRandolph, Derek Parra and Apolo Anton Ohno as gold medal winners. Joey Cheek; Brookfield, Wisconsin's, Kip Carpenter; Jennifer Rodriquez and Rusty Smith also won medals for the U.S., much to the delight of the home crowd.
The 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy saw the state of Wisconsin well-represented once again. 2006 marked the last Olympics for Casey FitzRandolph and Chris Witty and saw return trips for Eli Ochowicz (from Waukesha, Wisconsin) and Kip Carpenter (from Brookfield, Wisconsin.). Tucker Fredricks of Janesville, Wisconsin made his first Olympic team along with Ryan Leveille, a skater from Georgia who now calls the Pettit Center and Milwaukee home.
The skater making the biggest splash in Italy might have been Shani Davis. Davis became the first African-American ever to win an individual Olympic medal and was Olympic champion in the 1000 meters. Davis, who also took home a silver medal in the 1500 meters, would later spend his summer months close to his home of Chicago, Illinois, training at the Pettit Center on both short track and long track skating.
The 2010 Winter Olympic Games saw a record number of medals won by the U.S. delegation with help from a few speed skaters who added to that total. Starting off the medal frenzy was Hales Corners, Wisconsin native Alyson Dudek. Dudek, a first-time Olympian, won a bronze medal as part of the ladies short track relay team. Also on the short track side, J.R Celski won an individual bronze medal along with Katherine Reutter who set an Olympic record in the 1000 meters along her way to a silver medal in the 1000. Apolo Anton became the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian ever after totaling eight (8) medals for his career after the mens short track relay team team took home bronze.
On the long track side, Chad Hedrick, Trevor Marsicano, Jonathan Kuck and Brian Hansen won a silver medal in the mens team pursuit after upsetting the Netherlands in the semifinal round. Hedrick tied Eric Heiden with five (5) career Winter Olympic long track medals by also taking home bronze in the 1000 meters.
Shani Davis became the 1st skater ever to win consecutive gold medals in the 1000 meters and also added a second silver medal in the 1500 meters. Of the 18 skaters on the U.S.Winter Olympic long track team, seven (7) of those skaters train at the Pettit Center and call Milwaukee home, including Davis, Hansen, Kuck, Marsicano, Mitch Whitmore, Jilleane Rookarrd and Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr.
Every Long Track speed skater who competed in the 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010Winter Olympics at one time in their careers either trained or competed here the Pettit Center.