Originally published in the Lake Placid News, Week of September 15-21 2016:
LAKE PLACID–The Lake Placid Olympic Oval, which in the past has served as a training venue for Olympic champions like Charles Jewtraw and Jack Shea, has also helped develop more recent speed skating champions like Apolo Anton Ohno, Shani Davis, Trevor Marsicano, and others before they moved on to the US Team. Now, after training at the Lake Placid Oval for several years, Lake Placid High School graduate Esther Munoz has made the next step in her training: a move to Salt Lake City, Utah, where she can train on the famous indoor Olympic Oval surrounded by elite skaters and coaches.
“I wanted to move to Salt Lake City because I wanted to be able to have access to an oval early on in the skating season, and also wanted to be surrounded by the National team.”
Lake Placid’s oval is a beautiful outdoor venue that continues to be used for races (including the US Long Track Age Group Nationals this season) and as a public speed skating and leisure skating facility. But, as the National and International competitive schedule has become more demanding, starts earlier in the season, and meets are held mainly on indoor tracks, it is considered the best course of action for aspiring elite skaters to train indoors. Not only is the ice available for training earlier than in outdoor rinks, but ice conditions can be controlled and skaters don’t have to battle rough ice, wind, or other elements as they would outdoors.
“I know that when I’m skating outside, my technique hurts a little bit because you’re trying to fight the wind and the weather. I don’t think about riding my skates, I think about just stepping and using everything I have to fight through that wind. But in indoor, you feel the glide, you can feel your edges better and concentrate more on your technique because you’re not trying to fight the wind and the weather. So you actually have to learn how to ride your skates longer, and think about pushing through your hips more.”
The choice was no doubt a difficult one for Munoz, who moved from Germany to Lake Placid in 2008. Her parents Arte and Loretta, both working for the U.S. Department of the Defense in Germany, made the move to the U.S. when Arte was transferred to Fort Drum, NY. The family chose to live in Lake Placid for the access to winter sports. Munoz could train in speed skating on the Oval, while her sister Briana, a Junior National German champion, could train in figure skating in the Olympic Center.
After working with a few different coaches, Munoz started training with Tom Miller of the Adirondack Speed Skating Club. Soon she began preparing for competition alongside teammates Fletcher Codd and Sydney Terpening, who have won several titles and medals locally and nationally. Over the years she has accumulated several achievements, including a Junior C National Long Track Championship title, and has been a two-time US Junior National Development team member. This past season alone, she won the 500 meter and 1000 meter races at the AMCUP Junior Ladies allround championships. Of course, she has also won many medals locally, competing on the Olympic Oval.
Even though she just arrived in Salt Lake on August 6th, Munoz has already started training hard, working with coach Sarah Nielson, along with teammates Joey Mantia and Tucker Fredericks. The training is challenging but rewarding.
“My favorite thing about speed skating is (the) training,” said Munoz. “Even though a lot of the workouts can be tough, after finishing them and overcoming them I feel myself getting stronger. Knowing that I’m getting stronger and faster is a thrill.”
A typical day for Munoz involves on and off ice training. Twice every week in the mornings she and her two teammates complete hill sprints for endurance and strength. Then from 3 pm – 4 pm she does dryland training, off-ice exercises speed skaters use to increase agility and strength. These can include the use of a slideboard, a slippery piece of plastic speed skaters “skate” on to replicate skating on ice and improve technique. Resistance cables are also used for working on corner crossover technique and strength. Usually a coach or trainer holds them while the skater practices the crossover motion. After dryland, Munoz gets on the ice for three hours to practice technique, skate quick acceleration repetitions, and skate with her teammates. After the sessions on ice, Munoz goes to the weight room to complete her workout program. On her days off, Munoz enjoys recovering from her training by relaxing and spending time with her two teammates, now good friends.
All of this training will help Munoz achieve her goals for this season, which are to qualify for the Junior World team and earn personal best times at her races.
Most of all, Munoz’s speed skating career has taught her the importance of a good attitude, which should serve her well in sports and life.
“One lesson that I have learned is to always be positive. No matter how hard life gets or how hard you think life is, whatever it may be, always be positive, because for every time I was negative or looked at the glass half empty, it was hard to move forward, and would affect everything. I learned that if I keep my head up, eventually everything will fall into place.”