Callister got into coaching during his break, including working with a Colombian skater..." /> Callister got into coaching during his break, including working with a Colombian skater..." />

After A Break From Racing Adam Callister Is Back On The Short Track Team With A New Perspective

by Karen Price

Sometimes a sport hooks an athlete from the word go. 

That was not the case for Adam Callister and speed skating. 

“When I was a kid I used to rollerblade a lot, but then after (the Olympic Winter Games 2002) my mom’s friend suggested I try out speed skating,” he said. “My mom dragged me against my will to come do this and I hated it. After the first day I was so glad to be done. I thought it was just a one-time thing. What I didn’t know was my mom had the whole month paid for.” 

Callister was 9 at the time, and he remembers his mom having to fight to get him in the car a few times after that. Then one day the coach told him he had a lot of talent, and then they started talking about Callister’s favorite football team, the Minnesota Vikings. They made a connection, then Callister made some friends, and that was enough for him to stick with it. 

Callister is now 28 and, after stepping away from the competitive side of the sport for a while, is back to try to earn a place on the 2022 Olympic Short Track Team. 

As Callister continued his rise through the sport, making his first Junior World Championships Team in 2011 and then winning a Bronze Medal there in 2012 as a part of the 3000m Relay, he realized he had a future in the sport. It went from just going to competitions, he said, to marking items off the goal list. 

But by the summer of 2019, Callister said, he didn’t have a competitive bone left in his body. 

“I just wasn’t enjoying the sport,” he said. 

Callister retired, but didn’t stray very far. 

Long track coach Mitch Whitmore asked if he’d like to be his assistant, and even though Callister felt like he needed space from speed skating, he also needed a job so he said yes. He thought back to how coach Anthony Barthell mentored him and challenged him to ask questions, and he liked the idea of giving back to other young skaters coming up in the sport. 

At first, he said, there was a big learning curve. 

“(Long track) is a very similar sport, but even though there are similarities in the two sports there are subtleties I had to learn,” he said. “Luckily Mitch was able to help me with that.” 

Then in January 2020, Callister got the opportunity to coach at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

Diego Amaya is a Colombian speed skater and Olympic hopeful who moved with his mother and brother to Salt Lake City to pursue his dreams. Callister and Amaya had skated and trained together before, and even though Amaya was younger, Callister considered him a friend. When Colombia needed a coach to go with Amaya to Lausanne, he said yes. 

“I was under the assumption that Mitch was going to go, but I ended up going,” Callister said. “Mitch was Diego’s primary coach. I would say a lot of Diego’s primary accomplishments go to him and Mitch that year. I was along for the ride.” 

After two fourth-place finishes, Amaya won a Silver Medal in the Mass Start. Being there throughout the competition gave Callister a whole new level of respect for what a coach has to do. 

“I just had one skater whereas another coach could have so many more than that,” he said. “Just being able to keep Diego, who was a medal contender and got fourth and then fourth, just being able to talk to him and bring him back up to the level of confidence he needed to be at was a challenge, and he was just one skater. I look at coaches now like, how do you handle a whole team of people who are freaking out?” 

After a year away, Callister decided to come back and race again himself. Last year was his time to get back into shape, which worked out fairly well given that there wasn’t much racing to be had with COVID-19 forcing the cancelation of events and restricting travel. 

He competed a month ago and was one of five men who made the World Cup Team, and last week left for China for the first competition of the series beginning on Oct. 21. The tour will then take them to Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands. 

Aside from forgetting how exhausting the travel part of competing can be, Callister said, he doesn’t regret his decision to come back and is excited to get things underway. 

“I’m eager to compete internationally again,” he said. “It’s been two years. I get to see some friends I haven’t seen in a while and compete at a high level, which is an experience that really pushes you and helps you find out your weaknesses and your strengths. It really gets the blood going when you go into one race then the next weekend you’re racing again.” 
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.