Energy Law Wisconsin Blog

ELW in the Community: Speedskater Luke Tweddale – A Different Kind of Energy

Photo credit: Mike Bernico

With the 2012 Summer Olympics in full swing, we’d like to depart from our usual practice of profiling recent developments in the world of energy resources and focus on a different type of energy: the energy of an aspiring Olympic athlete. No one typifies this type of energy better locally than 18 year old long track speedskater Luke Tweddale of Madison, Wisconsin. Luke last represented the U.S. at the Junior World Championships in Obhiro, Japan in March 2012. Energy Law Wisconsin has been a proud sponsor of Luke’s training and competitive efforts for several years now.

We thought it would be fascinating to gain some insight into the “personal energy” that an athlete like Luke brings to his pre-Olympic journey. So we posed Luke a few questions, which he was kind enough to answer.

What motivates and inspires you to put in the long hours of work necessary to become a competitive long track speedskater at the international level? What is your ultimate goal?

Well, as far as motivation, nothing gives me more fuel to keep going than skating a great race. My motivation comes from a desire to make every race a great one, or at least make the spaces between those good races significantly shorter.  My ultimate goal is to represent my country in the Olympics. I can imagine no greater honor than carrying the pride of this great nation into the Olympic Stadium alongside my teammates.

You’ve been training for a number of years now and have also had the opportunity to interact with many outstanding speedskaters, including Olympic medalists like Casey FitzRandolph and Shani Davis. Are there any particular characteristics that you have experienced or observed that are critical to becoming competitive and, equally important, to keeping balanced, through the process of training and competition?

Absolutely.  There are two modern speedskaters who come to mind as shining examples of attributes I wish to have for myself. The first is Jilleanne Rookard, 2010 member of our Olympic Long Track Team. In 2009, few people outside of Milwaukee knew the extent of her abilities, and she had faced some considerable challenges to pursuing her dream.  She excels because she has the courage of utter conviction.

The second skater is John Richard “JR” Celski, 2010 Short Track Olympian. JR was up against the most celebrated American short track speedskater, Apolo Anton Ohno, at the 2008 World Team Championships in Vienna, Austria. JR had just made his first senior World Team, and was very new to the arena. He not only swept Apolo, but became third overall in the world, behind two Korean skaters who are some of the most talented skaters in history. He was only 20 at the time. In addition, at the 2010 Olympic Trials, JR sustained a catastrophic injury during the quarterfinals of the 500-meter, in which he cut his entire upper leg open, right on the all-important quad muscle. However, he skated to bronze in the Olympics a mere five months later. That kind of recovery can only be attributed to an unbreakable spirit.

With the Summer Olympics in progress, are there any athletes or teams from the 2012 U.S. squad that you find particularly inspiring?

Missy Franklin, a swimmer and world record holder, is the personification of not only a great Olympic athlete, but a great human being.  From everything I’ve heard and seen, Missy seems grounded, modest, kind, and most impressively, surprisingly carefree for such a serious athlete. Add to that the fact that she’s only 17 and the only word for her is unique. The way her parents put it is that she’s a normal teenager who just happens to have a gift for swimming. That’s how I want to be, not just a skater, but someone worthy of note beyond the 17-day period of the Olympiad.

What are the lessons you’ve learned from your speedskating career to date that you think you will carry with you the rest of your life, regardless of whether you continue to skate for many years or turn your attention to something else?

One important lesson that I have learned is how to be committed to something and to see it through to the end. Every time I finish a race, even if it wasn’t a terribly good one, I can say, “I saw that race through, and I didn’t give up.” It’s a great approach to life.

Another hard lesson I’ve learned is that, since so much of life nowadays, both in professional and sporting careers, is results-oriented, if you don’t produce, you’re labeled as not very valuable or noteworthy, regardless of your other attributes. It’s easy to feel like you’re only as good as your list of achievements, but that has never been my philosophy, even when I’m pursuing a specific goal like skating a perfect 500-meter sprint. The thing is, in 15 years, no one will care that you won a medal in the National Championships or even in the Olympics. You’ll be judged on your personal attributes, which endure forever, not on your fastest times, which you can usually only skate once or twice in a relatively short period of your life.

What question would you like to be asked that you have never been asked? How would you answer it?

I’m rarely asked about the series of steps that have led up to where I am now, or the series of steps that will hopefully lead me to the Olympics in the future.  I also notice that most interviewers never ask Olympians this question, probably because the answer can’t be condensed into a sound bite.  The public only sees these athletes once every four years and focuses on their brief performances. However, what we see during the Olympics is not remotely representative of the full effort it takes to compete at that level.  I like to use the metaphor of the 10,000-hour rule, which is generally how long it takes to become a true expert at something. You do it and do it and do it until you have it down perfectly. There are numerous training sessions, some brutal, some boring, some fun. If you take all that training, mix in some mental preparation, a big dose of family support, and good old-fashioned hard-headedness, then you are ready to perform for a few blissful (or catastrophic) moments at the Olympics. The process is methodical, measured, and concerted.

Too often, I feel that athletes are only judged solely on the basis of a single performance, which you see in a vacuum during a time of extremely high stress which is not conducive to the highest performance that an athlete can achieve, and which is not indicative of that long and laborious process. Because the Olympics are so popular, it is an unavoidable fact that a lot of people, coaches, media, family, and the public put athletes under tremendous pressure to win when the whole world is watching. We devote our lives to our sports, sometimes for decades, and those long years of effort should be appreciated and recognized more.

If people are interested in learning more about and/or supporting the efforts of you and other hardworking U.S. speedskaters, where can they look to follow and/or support all of you?

There are several great ways to support us, but one thing we all appreciate is an enthusiastic crowd! Please come to the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee on November 2, 3, and 4, and cheer for the top U.S. long track speedskaters during the World Cup Qualifier and American Cup 1 competition, which is usually free of charge to spectators.  Better yet, put on some skates yourself!  Visit the Pettit website above, or the website of your local ice arena for public skating times and costs.  Finally, we send out a monthly email update on my progress during the skating season – feel free to send a message to Dad at jtweddale@tds.net and ask to be added to our mailing list.

Energy Law Wisconsin wishes Luke the best in his future endeavors. We’ll be watching his upcoming races with interest!

Written on August 6, 2012 at 10:46 am, by Energy Law Wisconsin