Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  MARQUETTE - The United States Olympic Education Center (USOEC) has been chosen to host the 2006 U. S. Speedskating Short Track Championships in December.  The competition will determine which skaters will represent the U.S. at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, Feb. 10-24.

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  The championships will take place at the Berry Events Center on Northern Michigan UniversityÂ’s campus Dec. 12-16, according to NMU President Les Wong, who made the announcement of the site selection today (Jan. 17).

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  “In about 300 days, our nationÂ’s best short-track skaters will come here to compete for the right to represent the USA at the greatest athletic competition on Earth: the Olympic Games,” said Wong.  “I can guarantee you that the USOEC, Northern Michigan University, Marquette-Alger Counties, and the Upper Peninsula will be ready to put on an Olympic qualifying event like none the skaters have ever participated in before. To U.S. Speedskating and to the athletes who are training so hard to reach the Olympic dream, thank you for allowing us to be a part of your quest for gold.  We are honored." Â 

Press conference audio

The USOEC was awarded the bid after a lengthy selection process that began in April 2004.  Andy Gabel, president of U.S. Speedskating, said the USOEC was chosen based on the success it had in hosting the highly successful 2003 World Cup in Marquette.

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  “U.S. Speedskating is very pleased to award the 2006 U.S. Short Track Championships to the USOEC,” Gabel said.  “We have enjoyed an excellent partnership with NMU for the past 20 years, and this event is an extension of that mutually beneficial relationship.  The USOEC has a strong reputation for hosting quality events, including the 2003 World Cup, which was clearly the best-organized short track event in the world last season.  We are excited that the USOEC has agreed to host this very important event and we know that the competition is in good hands with the staff at the USOEC and the people of Marquette County.”

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  The Short Track Championship event is mandatory for all prospective Olympians.  About 50 skaters are expected to meet the qualifying standard necessary to compete.  Time trials will be held Monday.  Races Tuesday, Thursday and Friday will determine the Olympic team.  No events will be held Wednesday. Â Ã‚ 

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  “We are thrilled to be selected as the host of this event,” USOEC Director Jeff Kleinschmidt said. “This is a direct result of support for the USOEC and the Upper PeninsulaÂ’s willingness to support world-class events.  It is very exciting for our center, campus and community to have this opportunity to watch Olympians chosen on our home ice.” 

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  Kleinschmidt said ticket prices and packages will be announced in the spring, and that discussions will begin shortly on development of an operational plan for the event.  Campus and community groups interested in working as volunteers should contact the USOEC at 906-227-2888.

 Â Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚ Ã‚  The USOEC, located at NMU, is one of four U.S. Olympic Training Centers and the only one designated as an education and training site.  The Center will celebrate its 20th anniversary on Feb. 9.  It currently is home to Olympic residential training programs for boxing, speedskating, weightlifting, Greco-Roman wrestling, and womenÂ’s freestyle wrestling.  About 80 student-athletes train at the USOEC and attend classes at NMU or Marquette Senior High School.

Prepared By
Matt Hanson