Speedskating: FitzRandolph looks back with pride Ten years after earning his gold medal in the 500-meter long track speedskating race at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Casey FitzRandolph looks back on his career with some questions.
Ten years after earning his gold medal in the 500-meter long track speedskating race at the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Casey FitzRandolph looks back on his career with some questions.
In three Olympic Games, could he have won more Olympic medals than the one? Would his career have gone differently if athletes were slower to adopt the clap skate? Could things have been better?
“Yeah, they could have,” FitzRandolph says of his career. “But you’re also talking to a guy who’s humbled by the fact that he has a gold medal because he recognizes there are other athletes out there who on any given day were just as fast as I was or better than I was that have no Olympic medals to show for it, so I was very fortunate.”
Today – a decade after becoming the first American to win the 500 since the legendary Eric Heiden’s five gold medals in 1980 – FitzRandolph lives in Madison, Wis., with his wife Jen, a first grade teacher, and their two young children. Since retiring from the sport six years ago, FitzRandolph has made a living selling commercial insurance. It is a job he enjoys but he admits it has been a tough transition to work with his brain instead of his body.
For 26 years, FitzRandolph’s primary work instrument was his legs. His illustrious speedskating career began in December, 1979, when the four-year-old hockey player was convinced by a radio ad to try speedskating. The first time FitzRandolph tried the sport, a coach told his parents they had a young Eric Heiden on their hands. New life was brought to that compliment when FitzRandolph was able to meet Heiden a few weeks after the speedskating icon made history at the Lake Placid 1980 Winter Games. Heiden returned to his hometown to make an appearance at the Madison Speed Skating Club, where he signed a baseball cap for FitzRandolph. That hat still hangs in his parents’ house.
Fast-forward 18 years: FitzRandolph finished sixth in the 500 at the 1998 Winter Games, the same year the clap skate became universal and changed speedskating. In that race, the Canadians finished second, third, fourth and fifth. Thinking they might know something the Americans had not yet caught on to, in the summer of 1999 FitzRandolph moved to Calgary to train with the Canadian team for the next several years.
In Calgary, FitzRandolph befriended Canadian skaters Mike Ireland and Jeremy Wotherspoon.
“They were two of the three groomsmen in my wedding a few years later so we became very close and we were tough competitors,” FitzRandolph said. “That year we were one-two-three in the world almost every weekend at World Cups.”
Despite being fierce competitors, FitzRandolph and Wotherspoon’s friendship proved invaluable during the 2002 Games.
After the first of two races in the 500-meter competition in Salt Lake City, FitzRandolph was in the lead by an astounding two-tenths of a second. FitzRandolph says that first