For Fredricks, Pearson, success driven by failure
A couple months after the 2006 Olympic Games, Tucker Fredricks and Nick Pearson were fishing one day at Jordanelle Reservoir near Park City, Utah.
Fredricks was coming off the disappointment of a 25th-place finish as a U.S. speedskater in his first Olympics. Pearson didn't even have that much—he'd missed a spot on the team after two sixth places in the 2002 Games.
"Neither of us was catching much, and Tucker just puts down his pole and starts walking around kicking the dirt," Pearson recalled. "I didn't know it at the time, but a couple weeks later he told me he was thinking about skating the whole time and how poorly he'd done."
It was then and there, Fredricks said, that he decided to devote himself to the work it would take to make himself a better skater.
The next season, the Janesville native became a bronze medalist in the World Single Distance Championships.
"Watching him do as well as he did helped push me a little bit," said Pearson.
Sunday, the fortunes of the two came together as Pearson skated the day's fastest 1,000 meters, and both he and Fredricks were officially named to the World Cup team.
Pearson, who grew up in Verona, skated 1 minute, 9.65 seconds, besting Trevor Marsicano of Ballston Spa, N.Y., who skated 1:09.74.
Fredricks, competing only as part of his training for the 500 meters, was ninth in 1:12.00.
"I went out there to make myself tired and get in better shape for the 500," said Fredricks.
Chad Hedrick, who did not skate the first 1,000 on Thursday, posted the day's third-fastest time, 1:10.38, to bump Brian Hansen from the World Cup team.
There was no change in the women's World Cup lineup in the 1,000, although fifth-placer Jilleane Rookard improved her time by .09.
Fredricks said it was only recently that he saw the video of an interview he gave just after the Turin 2006 Games, when he said, "I guess I have to work a lot harder."
"I don't know if I said it because it was what I thought," he said. "I don't know if I believed it or not."
Now that three-plus years have passed, Fredricks knows he was on the right track as far as recognizing the devotion it takes to get not only on the Olympic team but on the podium. He said he feels no pressure.
"I have not felt stressed at all this year," he said. "I don't know if that will come a little bit later, but I think as long as I'm skating well, I won't have any problems mentally."
With races in Milwaukee now complete, the Americans turn their attention to the World Cups, starting Nov. 6 in Berlin. There also will be racing in Heerenveen, The Netherlands.
"I've skated good, and I've skated bad in both places," said Fredricks. "I'm familiar with the tracks, and I know how the ice is, so I'm feeling pretty confident."
There also will be World Cups in Calgary and Salt Lake City, with each country's Olympic berths to be decided by a combination of World Cup rankings and fastest performances. Fredricks said he is hopeful of being ranked in the top 20, but he said, "Either way I make it will be fine with me."