Physics major trains to be "friction-free"

7/1/2009 6:08:00 PM

Many university students take the summer to relax after a long year of study. Some choose to go on vacation or just sit around the house. Others may try to find work or possibly an internship. One University of Illinois undergraduate, however, is looking to continue his training for a shot at the ultimate in sports competition.

Jonathan Kuck, a 19-year old physics major, is not the average student. He is not even the average student athlete. In his free time--normally one to two hours before class, or one to three hours in the afternoon or evening--Kuck diligently trains body and mind, hoping to earn a spot on the U.S. Speedskating team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
Kuck, a Champaign native, was not the first local skater to dream of Olympic glory. Bonnie Blair competed in four Olympics from 1988-1994, winning five gold medals and a bronze medal. A hometown hero, Blair graduated from Centennial High School in Champaign before moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for her pre-Olympic training. Along with her Olympic medals, Blair was the first woman to receive the Oscar Mathisen Award in 1992, and in 2004, she was elected to the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. 
Kuck, a University High School alumnus, is headed to Milwaukee to train at the long track in the Olympic Oval for the rest of the year. (There are two types of speedskating tracks: a short track, which is typically the size of a hockey rink, a 133m oval, and a long track, a 400m oval). In addition to his on-ice time, also will be doing "dry land" training--off-ice jumps and other skating exercises, cycling, weightlifting, inline skating, and running.
Kuck first tried speedskating when he was 10, but didn't quite hit his stride until the age of 13 where he started skating at the Ice Arena on the University Of Illinois campus. From there he took third place in the 2004 WSA Gold Cup, first place in the 2004 Peoria Kick-Off Classic and second place in the 2005 Evanston Northshore Open. More recently in his career, he placed second overall (times from the 500m, 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m are combined) at the International Skating Union's World Junior Speed Skating Championship in Zakopane, Poland in February.
Writer/photographer: Tim Schwaegler, Engineering Communications Office.
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