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U.S. Speedskating Championships Will Take Place At Utah Olympic Oval Without Fans

The stands will be empty next weekend for the U.S. Long Track Speedskating Championships at the Kearns Olympic Oval. (KSL TV)

KERANS, Utah – Organizers said because of COVID-19, fans will not be allowed to attend the U.S. Long Track Speedskating Championships next week in Kearns.

The event is part of the lead-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics, which are now less than a year away.

Athletes said with the few competitions they’ve had, they need this one.

It’s not quite quiet enough to hear a pin drop at the Utah Olympic Oval. The silence is something the athletes will surely notice, especially during a big competition when fans are not allowed and the stands are empty. 

(Winston Armani/KSL TV)

“Absolutely,” said Shane Domer. “When these athletes are coming around on the last turn and they got their legs burning and everything, that’s the motivation to really finish it through and get through that line, so it’s a big difference.” 

Domer is the high-performance director for U.S. Speedskating. He was relieved to hear that the U.S. Long Track Championships will happen as scheduled at the oval in Kearns next weekend. However, he was still sad for the fans and athletes. He understands why fans won’t be there. 

“It is a bummer … we’re not going to have the exact atmosphere we would hope to have for an event like this,” he said. 

Athletes competing from across the country will be screened before coming to Utah, then tested again 72 hours before the event. 

There will also be rapid COVID-19 tests available at the oval. 

Athletes, coaches and staff will also see mask requirements, social distancing mandates and hand sanitizing stations everywhere. 

A hand sanitizer dispenser at the Utah Olympic Oval. (Winston Armani/KSL TV)

The skaters who train at the oval regularly said they are used to the safety rules. 

“We’ve been training here since May 1, but it has not been normal conditions,” said Domer. “While it has bothered some of them, it hasn’t interrupted what they’re trying to do and what they’re trying to accomplish in heading to Beijing.” 

Making the U.S. team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is the goal. 

Many speedskating competitions have been canceled worldwide the past year due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Athletes need those events to know where they stand and what to work on to qualify for the Olympics. 

“This is a huge competition,” said Domer. “It builds that momentum going into next year.”

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