February 12, 2010 / 8:10 PM / 9 years ago

Latvian ready for first double-double in speed skating

Haralds Silovs of Latvia holds his national flags as he celebrates winning the men's 1500 metres during the Turin European Short Track Championship in Turin January 16, 2009. REUTERS/Max Rossi

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - While his rivals put their feet up after a draining long track race, Latvia’s Haralds Silovs will dash across Vancouver to compete in the Olympic short track speed skating event.

The 23-year-old will be the first athlete to race in both disciplines at the same Olympics when he tackles the 5,000 meters long track on Saturday followed by up to three 1,500 meters short track races.

“I believe that by doing the long track I’m going to be able to scratch the ice and get some positive energy. I’m getting into the racing rhythm but I’m going to kill my legs,” he told reporters.

“This was a great opportunity. I’ve done training from morning to night in short track so I know what it’s like to go on the ice with heavy legs.”

Other than sharing the name ‘speedskating’ and featuring athletes in skin-tight suits, the two disciplines are very different.

Short track is held on an ice hockey-sized rink and is all about tight turns, crouching low and avoiding crashes as skaters jockey for position. Long track, on a 400-meter oval, features powerful long strides and is a race against the clock.

“For him to even qualify for both is an enormous accomplishment. After qualifying for short track, he only had eight days to train for his long track qualification,” Silovs’ Dutch coach Jeroen Otter told reporters.

“I think it’s awesome that a young athlete makes that decision even though everyone said it would be impossible.”

Silovs will start his Olympic journey south of Vancouver at the Richmond Olympic Oval on Saturday before heading east to the Pacific Coliseum, where the short track 1,500 meters heats, semi-finals and finals will take place on the same day.

Editing by Frank Pingue

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