University Ice Arena to host speed skating competition

The University Ice Arena will be the new location of the 2012 American Cup, an internationally acclaimed speed skating competition, which was originally scheduled to be held in Pittsburgh, Pa. Top speed skaters from around the world, including future Olympians, will compete.

The cup, which is the third of a four cup series during the speed skating season, will have an estimated 130 competitors. Hosting the event will be the Champaign Regional Speed Skating Club, which has had many success stories in the past with these events including seven speed skating Olympians.

“We’ve been pretty successful, but the sport seems to be pretty low key in this country,” said Marcus Merrill, vice-president and board member of the club. “This is the first time we’ve hosted the event since 2001 … it can be a lot of work, but it’s worth seeing several future Olympians.”

The American Cup this year will also coincide with the annual Land of Lincoln speed skating meet. Due to the magnitude of the American Cup, Land of Lincoln will now be cut back to only allowing skaters of 14 years and younger and a total of 61 competitors. Though this is very different from past events, usually hosting more than 100 competitors of various ages, Dave Bagger, the lead assistant director of the rink, said he sees it as a necessary compromise.

“It’s worth it … To see the top athletes zip around as fast as they go in this event really isn’t any different than watching the Olympics,” Bagger said. “I do encourage anyone who’s seen this sport on TV to come and see it live. Because, like hockey, it’s much cooler live.”

The event will be free of charge for public viewing and will take place on Saturday from 1:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.