25 Laps with Mary Brophy Magnus
Mary Brophy Magnus began her speedskating career at the tender age of 3, and she was a natural. She was a sight to see, this tiny little thing with excellent technique, beating skaters twice her size. Her parents, Gail and James “Bud” Brophy, and her sister Kristen, were a staple at all the rinks and wonderful supporters. They traveled all over the US and Canada, with Mary winning many competitions, before she even hit her teenage years. Mary won the 1986 National Outdoor and Indoor Championships as well as the North American Outdoor Championship at the age of 11. She won the 1988 North American Outdoor and National Indoor Championships at age 13, as well as the 1993 National Indoor Championship at age 19. Mary won over 60 National and North American medals.
In addition to the age group championships, she went to four US Olympic Festivals, earning a silver medal in the 3000m relay in 1989 in Oklahoma City, and two silver medals in 1993 in San Antonio, Texas. She was a member of the US National Team for several years in both long track and short track. She was the only athlete to compete in both disciplines at the 1997 World University Games in South Korea. Mary placed 8th overall in the 500m at the 1992 and 1994 US Long Track Olympic Trials. In 1998, she placed 10th overall at the US Short Track Olympic Trials and 6th overall at the US Short Track Championships.
Mary retired from skating in the summer of 1998, attended and graduated from the University of Albany with a degree in Business Administration while helping with her family business. She married and had three children, Evan, Kayla, and Emily. In 2018, after returning to Saratoga, Mary renewed her love of the sport and began competing again, quickly returning to the podium. She won the overall title in the Northeast Short Track Racing Series that season and was runner up in 2019-2020. At the age of 49 she is still a sight to see, holding her own against the young hot shots she once used to be. Her current goals are to be competitive and to beat personal bests. We wish her the best of luck.
Let’s start off with some background info…
Mary Brophy Magnus, aka Mary Brophy
Where are you from? Where do you reside now?
Saratoga Springs, NY
When did you start skating? Retire/Finish? or do you feel you’ll always be skating/a skater?
I started skating when I was three. I retired in 1998, at age 24, and returned to racing in 2018, at age 44. Yeah, I love to skate, and I’m still training and competing at international events. I started coaching in 2018 as well and have recently attained USS Level 3. I love to help others and give what I can, so coaching and being involved in the sport has given me the opportunity to help people.
So did you begin your skating career with a club?
Yes, the Saratoga Winter Club
Let’s talk a bit about your skating experience…
Why did you start/keep skating?
My mom, champion speedskater and golfer Gail Purdy Brophy taught me how to skate when I was young. I remember always being on the ice and I loved to skate. I started winning a lot of competitions and I loved winning trophies. My mom and dad brought me all over Canada and the US to skate with the best skaters.
Did you have any nicknames when you skated?
What do you consider your greatest skating accomplishments?
Becoming one of the best speedskaters in the US when I was young, when I was a teenager and, in my twenties, and now again in my forties is what I consider my greatest skating accomplishment.
Who were your coaches/mentors in skating?
Pat Maxwell, Paul Marchese, Mike Crowe, Susan Sandvig-Shobe and Dianne Holum were all my coaches at different times in my early career, with Pat Maxwell being my primary coach.
Paul Marchese is still an important part of my career as he has always been there for me. I consider myself lucky to have such a good relationship with him.
Since March 2021, I have been training at Saratoga Peak Performance with strength and conditioning specialist Dr. Bryan Briddell. He is my biggest supporter by far, he is one of the greatest motivators I’ve ever met. Personal trainer Jake Robinson joined Peak in 2022 and I started working with him, too. They both inspire me to become the best athlete I can be, with their encouragement, support, and incredible knowledge of mental toughness.
I travel when I can, to skate and race, primarily working with long track coach Xiuli Wang in Calgary.
Do you have a particular place or favorite track/rink to skate?
The new oval in Quebec City, Centre de Glaces Intact Assurance is gorgeous, but really any covered oval is fine with me!
Did you have a favorite place or somewhere memorable where you trained?
Lake Placid, NY in the 1980s was the place to be. Lots of great memories there.
What was happening on the music scene when you were skating?
Michael Jackson and Madonna, Guns n Roses
What do you remember about your best race ever?
Calgary – Olympic Oval Finale – March 2023 – 500m! The 500m has always been my favorite race. It goes by quickly, so you must be really present for it to go well. I was the first pair on the inner lane with Emmanuelle Côté, a great skater from Quebec, on the outer. We were evenly matched, and she caught me at the wire, finishing .25 seconds ahead of me. I missed my all-time PR by .01, posting a time of 42.18. The day prior in the 1000m, I was paired with another girl from Quebec, Emilie Greenfield, a member of the Canadian Junior World team, and she caught me at the wire too, beating me by .01 seconds. After the 500m, I could sense that something special was happening, coaches on the backstretch were saying “nice race!”, and I was interviewed by announcer Greg Bieber, with my coach Xiuli Wang, by my side. It was a great moment to be recognized as a 49-year-old woman, mother of three, competing with girls half my age. I hope to inspire all women out there that there are no limits to what you can do.
What other sports did/do you do/participate in?
Cycling and Running
Did you pursue any education after skating? What field?
Yes, I graduated magna cum laude with a BS in Business Administration at the University at Albany in 2003 and summa cum laude at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy in 2007.
What do you do now for work?
I manage a trust and the family home that I inherited, as well as keeping an eye on the family business. I grew up working in my family’s wine and liquor store, which my mom inherited from her father in 1963. My sister and I were the sole heirs to her unwavering dedication and hard work.
What hobbies, volunteer work, or special affiliations do you have now?
I love music, working out, my dog, my kids, and my friends and family.
Coaching has been volunteer based and I’m also on the USS Alumni Committee as an athlete representative.
Final thoughts on the sport…
Do you have a special memory from skating you’d like to share?
I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1993 to train with Dianne Holum in preparation for the 1993 Olympic Festival and 1994 Olympic Trials. That summer, I became close friends with so many skaters, and to this day, I am still in touch with many of them. Dianne got me incredibly fit that summer and I placed 2nd in 500m & 1000m and 4th in 1500m & 3000m at the Olympic Festival in San Antonio. My picture was taken at that event in one of the races with Kim Strzykalski behind me and that picture was the first picture of a speedskater on the internet. It was used in Microsoft Clip Art for about 20 years, and was on many t-shirts and posters, including the 1998 World Short Track Championships in Vienna, Austria.
One thing you could change about your skating days if you could?
Nothing. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I am super happy where I am today.
Any special wishes/comments regarding the direction of the sport today?
From what I have observed and experienced first-hand, the athletes are happy, the coaches are happy, and the organizers are happy. Of course, there are a few that aren’t happy, but life isn’t perfect. The only thing that I would recommend for both long track and short track, is to offer opportunities for Neo-seniors. This is a crucial age where you can either gain a talented up-and-coming skater or lose them. Speedskating will benefit in the long term by keeping these athletes. If there aren’t enough racing or training opportunities for these athletes, it is a time in their lives when there are other things out there that are just as interesting as speedskating, and they will leave the sport. It’s important to keep these athletes on the ice and improving because they are still young and filled with drive and desire.
Good points and fantastic memories - thanks for your time. Keep up the great work out there!