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Aussies on ice: Joshua Lose

Australian speed skating is on the rise. In our last feature story, we focused on sprinter Daniel Greig, a former successful inline skater who crossed over to speed skating on ice. In this second part of a three-part story on Australian speed skating, Joshua Lose will be featured. Lose, more of a long distances speed skater than Greig, also was successful as an inline skater before he made the transition to the ice. In 2007, however, he was involved in a car accident that almost ended his career. In this interview, Lose looks back on that dark time and on his past season, and looks forward to the next season and the years leading up to Sochi 2014.

By Jolanda Abbes

You successfully switched from inline to speed skating. What would you consider to be the highlight of your career before you made this switch? 
“My silver medal at the Junior World Inline Championships in 2003 was definitely the highlight of my inline career. It was the only Worlds I ever went to, as it costs a lot of money to represent Australia for inline. I was happy to get a medal at my first Worlds, and what was possibly my last.”

How does an Australian end up being a speed skater training in Heerenveen, and why did you switch from a successful inlining career to speed skating?
“I was living and training for inline skating in the north of Holland in a town called Hoorn. I was riding a lot with the West-Fries Marathon Iceskating Selectie in the summer and their trainer Ralph Slink suggested I should try ice skating as I had a good background in inline. He helped me a lot with initially learning to ice skate and helped me to get ice time, so I decided that I would try for one season and if I wasn’t good after that winter I would forget about ice all together. I spent the first month of the 2008/2009 season learning to skate, I was extremely bad, and was doing B-division marathons which saw me just hanging on to the back of the peloton for 100 laps every weekend. Desly Hill, whom I didn’t know so well but knew of her, told me at one of the marathons that she had started an ‘inline to ice’ crossover program in Enschede and that she thought it could be good for me. She offered accommodation and ice time and all I had to do was one World Cup qualifying time before the end of that season to keep going in the program. I was working early mornings in Amsterdam to pay my rent and ice time so when I was given the offer to only have to train and not worry about working, I couldn’t resist. I did the 5000m qualifying time two months later, which was also an Enschede track record. It was an extremely new rink back then, but I can still laugh about how proud I was at the time. After the first season we had all improved so much that we decided if we wanted to be serious ice skaters we needed to move to Heerenveen, and so in April of 2009 we all moved to Fryslân.”

Can you elaborate somewhat on Desly Hill’s importance for your speed skating career?
“There is almost no chance I’d be where I am now without Desly’s help. Not only because she was the one that invited me to try long track for the first time in Enschede, but also because of the unbelievable personal time she has put into helping me learn the sport. I don’t believe many other coaches could have gotten the results out of myself that she has and even fewer would’ve been as dedicated.”

Can you elaborate somewhat on the car accident you had in 2007 and how that may have affected your career?
“I was on a training break at the time as I had overtrained myself and I moved from Perth to Melbourne to have some time off. After a couple of months I began riding my bike as I started to recover and feel better. I was riding along the coast one day on an easy ride, the next thing I remember I was lying in the emergency room throwing up blood on myself. I had fractured my skull in three places and blood was dripping down into my stomach and also building up pressure against my brain, which I’m told, was the most dangerous part. I spent the next two weeks in hospital and then the next six weeks after lying in bed and taking heavy pain killers. I really struggled to walk for the first few months and I was cognitively a lot slower than normal, but over time things came back and I started to walk more naturally and be able to work again. I lost my sense of smell but luckily that is slowly coming back though nowhere near how it was before. After moving to Melbourne, I didn’t think I’d really return to inline skating as a full-time athlete. After the accident I started to think about how sport is something I can really only do when I’m young and that if I don’t go for it now, I may never have the chance again. I don’t believe I would have come to Europe if I hadn’t had that accident and of course if I had never come to Europe, I would have never tried ice skating.”

What would you consider to be your and Daniel’s strengths and weaknesses as speed skaters?
“I believe my greatest strengths as a skater are my ability to learn and change technical things when instructed, sprinting excluded, and my mental strength especially in time trial situations, which is why long track is a good sport for me. My greatest weakness I believe is that I tend to be too relaxed about the finer points of a sport like long track, such as equipment and sometimes technical aspects I don’t feel are important to me. Daniel is not only an extremely motivated and hard trainer, he is also a perfectionist when it comes to his technique and equipment. If anyone has a question about almost anything to do with skating I send them to Daniel. I would also argue that this is his biggest weakness at times though. That sometimes his need to have everything perfect in regards to his skating can cause him to over-analyse what he is doing and get in the way of him just skating and doing what he naturally does so well.”

Which speed skater(s) do you look up to and would you consider to be your role model(s)?
“Jonathan Kuck and Trevor Marsicano are two skaters I really look up to as they are both so young and so successful. They are amazing technical skaters and are extremely strong overall skaters. Alexis Contin and Shane Dobbin are the other two obviously because we have similar backgrounds. I try to mimic their successes and the amazing rate at which they’ve become such strong international skaters.”

How do you look back on the past season, and what would you consider to be the greatest highlight and biggest disappointment?
“I was very satisfied with this last season and achieved nearly every goal I set for myself. My highest rank before this season was a 25th overall in the Salt Lake 5000m last year and I told myself that if I could get a top 20, I’d be satisfied with this season. The highlight was definitely finishing 10th at the World Single Distances Championships in Inzell. Also making A-division for the World Cups was a huge goal of mine and I’m very happy to have moved up. My greatest disappointment was not going under 6:30 at sea level. It was a goal I set myself, as someone once told me if you can skate a 6:20 something at sea level you are a serious skater.”

How do you look back on the World Single Distances Championships?
“Inzell went really well for me and I was more than satisfied with the whole event. My biggest goal for the season was to just qualify for Inzell as I missed out on the Olympics the season before and I guess Inzell was this year’s Olympics. The highlight was definitely finishing 10th in the 5000m as I had similar results in World Cups, but to do it when all the good skaters are there really proved to myself that my progress is moving in the right direction. Also the general atmosphere in Inzell was amazing, the new rink and all the supporters made it by far my most memorable long track race I’ve done.”

Can you give a full analysis of your 5000m at this competition?
“I didn’t even know whether I would skate the 10000m so in my mind the 5000m was my only race and I would put everything I had into that. I had a cold since I got back from the Salt Lake World Cup so I really wasn’t feeling my best but the whole atmosphere around Inzell was definitely a big boost. I originally drew Marsicano and I’ve always been a big fan of his since I started skating so I was very excited to race with him. The morning of the race he pulled out though, which was a little disappointing but I was too nervous for it to really matter. I hadn’t been strong at training that week and I remember telling myself all the way up to the point where I was standing on the line waiting for the gun that all I had to do was eight good laps; if I did eight I could hang on for the last four and it wouldn’t be an embarrassment. I started on the inner and only saw my competitor once again, which is never a bad thing I guess. I was quite shocked when about four laps into the race I was still doing 30 second laps and I managed to do the first eight laps in the 30s, which I remember getting very excited about in the race as I was doing some quick calculations and realizing I might skate a 6:27 or so. I completely exploded after those first eight laps though and just hung on to those last four with all I had. I think I stayed under 32 but I remember Colin Coates said to me straight after the race: ‘Well done, but it looks like you gave up after eight laps.’ I think that was much truer than either of us realized but I was so relieved to have finished with a respectable time I didn’t care. I had never been in the lead before, so it was amazing to see cameras following me around as I took my skates off and to see myself on the big screen for the next fifteen minutes or so until Shane Dobbin came two pairs later and beat me. It was great to see New Zealand and Australia in first and second at the ice preparation.”

How do you look forward to the upcoming season, what will be important things for you to focus on?
“This next season I will be working a lot more on being technically better. I still feel like a lot of how I ice skate is just my inline fitness and I’m getting to the point on ice where I need to really be much better technically if I’m going to keep improving how I want to. I also plan to put a lot more work into my race prep and learn how to really take care of my skates. I’m using the Marchese Record blade and I’m really happy with my blade choice, I just need to learn how to maintain them myself so I can get the most out of them.”

How do you look forward to the next couple of years, towards Sochi 2014?
“I’m excited about the next few seasons. There is still so much I have to learn about this sport and so many technical improvements that can be made. I feel like I’m nowhere near my full potential and hopefully I’ll learn enough to be very competitive come Sochi.”


Photo credits: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen