Speed Skaters prepare for 2026 Olympics
by Alex Cabrero
There is dedication and preparation in almost any career. Then there is Olympic dedication and preparation.
For Olympians who want to be the best, it takes years to shave off a second or two.
At the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, the 2022 Winter Olympics are already a memory.
It’s back to hours upon hours, twice a day, without a whole lot of time off.
“They can’t have many other things in their lives going on because this is their full-time job, basically,” said Gabriel Girard, who along with Ryan Shimabukuro, are busy coaching U.S. long track speed skaters again.
Girard feels the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy are already getting closer.
“It is a long way, but we also have to get back to business,” Girard said.
That attitude, and wanting the very best from his skaters, helped U.S. Speedskating win several medals during the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
A banner recently put up at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns shows those who won who colored dots next to their names representing the medal.
“Beijing 2022 was the first medal in 12 years for the men’s in any event,” Girard said. “So that’s a good relief.”
It’s a relief for Girard because he was hired only 2.5 years ago specifically to help the U.S. win medals.
His success with the skaters earned him another contract with U.S. Speedskating through the 2026 Games.
Girard was also recently awarded the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Order of Ikkos medal, which recognizes world-class coaching excellence.
“It is nice to get some rewards here or there as a recognition of the time you invest with these athletes to have them reach their full potential,” he said.
That’s why he keeps pushing athletes every day, even Olympic medalists like Brittany Bowe, Emery Lehman, Casey Dawson and Ethan Cepuran.
For Girard, when it comes to Olympic preparation, tomorrow only means the next Winter Games are closer.
“As I like to say, it’s not only about getting faster,” he said. “It’s about getting faster first.”
Alex Cabrero KSL TV