Speed skater's fall puts Olympic dream on ice

03:13, Feb 11 2014
Daniel Greig
DREAM ON ICE: Daniel Greig watches his competitors speed off after he fell just 20m from the start line in his 500m race.

"It's about the worse thing that you can possibly imagine to happen, after four years of training."

Those were the words of Australian speed skater Daniel Greig, a man whose Olympic dream keeps tripping at an early hurdle.

The 22 year-old, who missed qualifying for the Vancouver Olympics by just six-hundredths of a second, had vowed to make it to Sochi and be competitive.

Daniel Greig
NOT THIS TIME: Daniel Greig ponders his fortune after falling in the 500m men's speed skating at the Sochi Games.

And yet here he was, sprawled on the ice barely 20m from the start of his first 500m sprint, in an event where some picked him as a dark horse for a medal.

It was the first of two races, but as the times are added together it meant he was instantly out of contention.

He felt himself go down in slow motion, he said.


"I felt the blade [stick] in the ice and I thought I could save it," he said.

"So I decided to try and push through it and come out, but it just resulted in me going down faster."

When he was down he knew immediately what it meant.

He slowly got to his feet and skated the rest of the lap, to consolation applause.

"That lap was probably the longest lap of my skating career," he said afterwards, his voice shaking with the memory.

Coach Desly Hill said the crash was, strangely, a sign of how good this former inline skater from Melbourne's northern suburbs has become.

It happens to all the best skaters at some point, she said. They push so hard that they tip their blade into the ice.

Greig has made incredible strides in the sport, climbing fast up the ranks, especially in the last 12 months.

Only the day before he had recorded his fastest ever start over 1000m, Hill said.

He trains in the Netherlands with Michel Mulder, who eventually took the gold (by just one-hundredth of a second in front of countryman Jan Smeekens).

"In training sometimes I'm in front of him," Greig said.

"Where he is in the ranking and me sitting in last, that's a bit annoying."

After winning gold, Mulder skated over and embraced Greig.

Greig appreciated the support from his fellow competitors, he said.

"Words don't really help, it's more just the presence of people who are your true friends that really helps you get through it."

Greig can't explain the fall. He's never had problems before with the pressure of big competitions. Nothing felt strange. His preparation was just as focused as at the recent world championships.

"It was just an unforced error that resulted in me being on the ground."

He wasn't injured - "it was a fairly low speed crash, I'd say my pride took the biggest blow."

After falling, Greig went for a short walk, and talked to his sports psychologist.

And he decided that he would race the second race, so as not to let down the other competitors. His time was respectable, but not great - "I was just trying to put myself back together," he said.

"On the start I felt like I was going 90 per cent of my max just to make sure I didn't end up on the ice again, because that was a scary thought in my head."

He struggles to find a positive.

"I know if I can get through this and out the other side with my determination intact - and I can manage to put a good race down in the 1000m - that's going to make me a much better athlete overall," he says.

On Wednesday, he'll compete in the 1000m - not such a favoured event, but one he's determined to give his best.

"I'm so lucky that I qualified for two events rather than one," he said.

"This is only just the beginning of my speed skating career.

"Even though I wasn't directly competitive [today] I feel like I am one of the fastest guys on the track and it'll show eventually.

"Just not today."

Sydney Morning Herald