MARQUETTE, Mich.–U.S. Olympic Education Center Staff, a U.S. Speedskating official, an Upper Peninsula fabric manufacturer and the Northern Michigan University physics department teamed up to test the safety of new speedskating rink board padding on Tuesday, May 5, in the NMU Superior Dome. The pads will be used during the Olympic Speedskating Trials and World Cup events that the United States Olympic Education Center will host in the fall.
NMU Professor Dave Lucas, head of the physics department, and Professor Dave Donovan conducted the testing with the help of NMU seniors Shun Yanai, Cory Perry, Nolan Jensen and Sarah Troyer. They carried out the method the International Skating Union requires for pad testing. A cylindrical drop mass, or weight, is dropped from one, two, three and four meters onto the padding. In theory, an accelerometer attached to the weight will measure the acceleration of the mass upon impact.
“The lower the acceleration, the better and safer,” explained Lucas. “We are testing for absorption upon impact. It’s like an airbag in a car.”
The pads must meet standards set by the ISU. The ISU recommends a 35 percent improvement from the old pads to the new pads.
Jacquart Fabric Products of Ironwood, Mich., created the new pads through its ties to the foam company American Excelsior. Jacquart is a versatile sewing manufacturer for many industries, including marine, trucking and commercial upholstery. The company is donating the new set to replace the original pads it produced for the USOEC more than 20 years ago.
Once the testing is complete and the results are analyzed, Jacquart and others will brainstorm on what needs to be done in order for the pads to be safe and ready for use.
“The goal here is for NMU and the USOEC to knock the socks off the ISU,” said Bob Jacquart, president of the company. “This is a proud event for everyone involved: NMU, the USOEC and the U.P.”
To further assist in the testing was Jack Mortell, vice president of U.S. Speedskating. He stressed the importance of the pad testing.
“Skaters reach a top speed of 30 miles per hour with approximately 7 meters between the race track and the outer wall at each end of the rink,” he said. “That is a very high speed in a very short distance to hit a stationary object, so the pads play a big role in protecting our skaters. Everyone falls eventually and without high quality pads we’d simply have a lot of injured skaters. We’re extra sensitive of this in the United States because our men’s team is one of the best in the world and our women’s team is on the rise, so we need to keep them safe,” said Mortell.”
Mortell provided statistics indicating that 42 percent of U.S. gold Olympic medals earned in the last five Olympic cycles were won by U.S. Speedskaters. The skaters will have a better chance of shining in Vancouver next year as well if they stay safe at the two events in Marquette.
Jeff Kleinschmidt, director of the USOEC,organized the testing. He has high hopes for how this could establish the USOEC in the Olympic community.
“I think this will be the new standard. This testing here will set the new standard for what needs to be done in the future,” said Kleinschmidt.
Mortell added, “This experience is very indicative of the USOEC and NMU. They will not settle for the minimum, they always give their best and reach the maximums.”