News and background stories

WSDC-medalist Lucas Makowsky looking forward to start of season

After his gold-medal performance in the Team Pursuit at the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, Lucas Makowsky was looking for another season to once again improve his results, like he had been over the past couple of years. And even though his past season was off to a rocky start after a foot infection, he did manage to close it off with a bronze medal at the World Single Distances Championships, which was his first individual medal ever at this competition. With the start of the 2011-2012 season just around the corner, Makowsky reflects on his past year and looks forward to what is coming up.

Podium 1500m World Single Distances Championships 2011

By Jolanda Abbes

Finishing the season with his first individual 1500m medal at the World Single Distance Championships and then being named Male Long Track Athlete of the Year by Speed Skating Canada, made the past season a great success for Lucas Makowsky. But it had not been all roses for him this past year. In September, Makowsky contracted a serious foot infection, which made him decide to not skate at the Fall World Cup Trials in October. On top of that, trying to balance school and speed skating again after the Olympic season, proved to be tough from time to time as well: “It was a tough season with respect to balancing a full course load while training and travelling overseas. It’s not like I haven’t done it before, but since I pretty well took a full year off of university in order to focus on the Olympics, it took a bit of time to get back into the routine of balancing school and skating. That said, there were times throughout the season where I had to focus a little more on school to keep up with the material but when it came to World Championships I was still able to pull out my best performance.”

And what better way to prove just that than by skating to his first-time individual medal at the World Single Distances Championships? Despite the rocky start of the season, Makowsky looks back very content: “I’m very happy with how the past season has gone. I made a lot of progress in the 1500m, getting a little more consistent in the World Cup standings, and feel like I really learned a lot throughout the season. The highlight of the season was winning my first individual World Championships medal, while at the same time the biggest disappointment was probably my 5k at those same championships. I know I will be carrying a lot of what I learned this past year into the next season.” And when asked more specifically about the progress he has made over the course of the past season, Makowsky adds: “I’m most definitely very happy! Even though my 5k’s haven’t been as strong as they have been in the past, I really started to figure out how to race my best 1500m. It’s definitely my strongest distance on the circuit, so as long as I can keep building off those improvements, then I will be set.”

World Single Distances Championships 2011

After consistent performances at the Fall World Cups and some good results at the Canadian Single Distances Championships in January, Makowsky was looking forward to the World All-round Championships, which took place in Calgary in February, one week after a World Cup in Moscow to which he had travelled as well. After his silver medal in the 1500m at last year’s World All-rounds, expectations were high, but even though he gave a great start to the competition with a huge personal best in the 500m (he brought it down from 36.13 to 35.76), the rest of the weekend could have gone better for him. In the end he finished 12th overall. “It wasn’t the best competition I’ve ever skated. I carried quite a bit of fatigue from the short trip to Moscow so I definitely wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked to have been. I would have loved to skate my best all-round competition at home in Calgary, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. The good thing about having done the trip to Moscow is that now I know for sure that it’s not ideal for me to fly into a competition two days before with a 10 hr time change!”

For someone who started off as more of a long-distance kind of speed skater, it is quite impressive to see how Makowsky’s 1500m has improved over the past couple of years, and how he seems to be able to find his way to the international podium more and more. In the Olympic season he managed a World Cup podium finish in this distance for the first time, and also collected the before-mentioned 1500m medal at the World All-round Championships that same season, but he had never managed to step onto the podium for an individual distance at the World Single Distances Championships. Until last March in Inzell. Much to many people’s surprise, the time he had skated earlier that day proved to be too fast for most competitors, and in the end only Håvard Bøkko and Shani Davis were able to beat his time, in the very last pair. Where Bøkko and Davis needed respectively 1:45.04 and 1:45.09 to complete the distance, Makowsky finished in 1:45.22, only 0.18 slower than World Champion Bøkko. Makowsky: “I clearly remember having a set race plan going into that race. There were a few things that I was working on technically for those last two weeks leading up to it, so to look back on the race now I can attribute a lot of that success to the execution of those few things. I really wanted to start hard and carry my speed through the first two laps, then stay calm but powerful in the last lap. Everything went to plan during my race; the only thing that didn’t was the fact that Håvard and Shani narrowly beat my time in the last pair!”

On the final day of the World Single Distances Championships, Makowsky skated to another medal, this time in the Team Pursuit. Together with teammates Denny Morrison and Mathieu Giroux, the same team that brought home the Olympic gold medal last year, Makowsky raced to 3:41.85, good for a silver medal. Team USA beat the Canadians by only 0.13. “The Team Pursuit was a solid race for Mathieu, Denny and I. It was the first Team Pursuit that the three of us had skated together since the Olympics, so to come out in second place by less than 2 tenths of a second was very reassuring.”

After a well-deserved vacation and being named Male Long Track Athlete of the Year by Speed Skating Canada (“I was quite surprised but very excited when I was named this year's SSC Male Long Track Athlete of the Year. I've looked up to many of the skaters who have won this award in the past, both male and female, so it was a great honour to receive the award myself!”), Makowsky’s summer training was a bit different from previous summer trainings. The roof of the Olympic Oval in Calgary was under repair this spring and summer, and as a result the Calgary-based speed skaters stepped back onto the long track ice considerably later than usual. Nevertheless, Makowsky does not feel that this has been of much influence on his summer training: “The only thing that has been different is the fact that we haven’t been able to be on the long track ice as early as we normally would be. We’ve still been on the ice skating short track, out in the field doing imitations, and out on our inlines. Regardless of the fact that the training hasn’t been done on the long track oval, I’m still feeling stronger than I have in previous years which is a great sign. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it will all translate onto the ice!”

Team Pursuit World Single Distances Championships 2011

And now, with the summer closing to an end and the start of another season just around the corner, Makowsky has a clear vision of what needs to be done this upcoming season and the years after that leading up to the Olympic Games in Sochi: “Technically, the most important things I’ll need to focus on next season are the same things that put me on the podium in Inzell last March. Physically and mentally, however, I’ll need to make sure that the balance between school and skating is right in order to perform my best at the end of the season. My goal is to complete both of my degrees by April 2013, so the proper balance will be crucial. I’m really looking forward to the next few years because I’ve learned a lot in the past few years and I’ve got some big goals to be on the podium again in 2014. As long as I can keep improving like I have over the past few years, especially in the 1500m, I’ll be well on my way!”

Photo credits:
Photo 1 and 2: Erik Pasman
Photo 3 and 4: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen