Brittany Schussler is an Olympian long track speed skater who has won six medals in the Individual World Cup, holds two World Championship titles and is the current record holder in the Team Pursuit.
So in what world does a 42-year-old mom of 2 who’s attempting to learn how to speed skate get to chat with an Olympian? The internety world, of course–with much thanks to Kevin Jagger for the e-introduction.
Brittany was kind enough to answer a few questions about her speed skating career.
How old were you when you started speed skating and how did you get started?
I was 7-years-old when I started speed skating. My dad had skated when he was young and the club was right behind my Grandma’s house, so I just kind of fell into it. I was a hyper-active kid and played soccer in the summer but during the winter I hadn’t picked up any sports. My parents put me into speed skating so I could learn to skate and I never looked back!
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days are boring! From May to March I am typically training six days per week. Typically I get up at 7:30, eat a healthy breakfast (eggs and toast), and am out of the house by 8:30. I come home from training around 12:30, eat lunch and take a break (which turns into getting things done around the house and taking my dog for a walk). Most days, I have a second training session around 3:00 and get home at 5:30. I make a big dinner and try to have all the dishes done and everything taken care of by 8:30. I’m always in bed by 10pm!
In summary: eat, train, eat, train, eat, and then sleep!
With regards to speed skating, who is your biggest influence and why?
It is hard to pinpoint a biggest influence, but growing up my hero was always Bonnie Blair. I learned from watching her that you don’t have to be the biggest or strongest skater if you have the best technique.
Just after the 1994 Olympics, I went to Calgary for the summer speed camp and all of the kids were gathered around Bonnie Blair to get her autograph. I didn’t even know who she was but I got her autograph because everyone else was doing it. She signed a long sleeved shirt, and that was it–I was infatuated! I became her No. 1 fan that day and still have the shirt.
What advice would you give to young speed skaters just starting out?
I always tell young skaters there are days when speed skating is the greatest thing ever, but there are also bad days. It’s just like anything–some days are just harder to get through. What’s important is pushing through the hard days and keeping hold of why you fell in love with skating in the first place.
What goes through your head at the start line?
At the start line I’m at peace. The days when I cannot collect myself are the days that I worry about. Everything before a race is usually stressful–emotions and adrenaline are high. But once I step onto the track for a race something changes and I just become comfortable. I try to focus on one cue that I will take with me for the race, and everything else just disappears. It’s a great feeling!
What are your greatest technical strengths and weaknesses in speed skating?
My greatest technical strength is my corners–over the years, my straights have improved (and there are always things to work on in the turns, too) but my corners are the strong point in my races.
My technical weakness is my start–it has always been my problem area. I have tried an tried and beat myself up over my slow starts, but now I am learning to accept that I can do a good start, but may never be great at them, so I need to make up for that in other areas of my race.
Tell us something about yourself or your life that nobody would ever suspect.
I’m shy around people that I don’t know.