KEARNS — It’s not that Emery Lehman doesn’t want to be a great sprinter.
He’s just always been better at the longer distances of long-track speedskating.
The hockey player turned speedskater isn’t sure why he seems to excel at the 5,000 and 10,000-meter distances, but he’s working hard to have that kind of success at the sport’s shorter distances, and it showed in this weekend’s World Cup qualifier at the Olympic Oval. He skated four distances and the mass start, and while he won both of the longer distances, the more unexpected accomplishment is that he earned personal bests in both the 1,500 and 1,000-meter races.
His 1:11.15 in Sunday’s 1,000 was the fifth best time, with Joey Mantia (1:08.00), Jonathan Garcia (1:08.27), Brian Hansen (1:08.86) and Shani Davis (1:08.97) finishing first through fourth, respectively.
“I don’t know,” Lehman said of what he’s attributing his new-found speed to. “It’s just been four years, and I guess I started power lifting and stuff like that. And maybe just getting older. But I’ve definitely been working on my power.”
Lehman said it was satisfying to see the results on the clock, especially this early in the season.
Heather Bergsma, a two-time Olympian and reigning world champion in both the 1,000 and 5,000-meters, made it a sweep with a victory in the 1,000, crossing the line in 1:13.91. Brittany Bowe was second with a time of 1:13.94, and Sugar Todd finished third with 1:17.25.
Bergsma said she was just trying to "get comfortable" racing again, and like most of the skaters at this event, hoping to set a baseline for a successful World Cup season.
Mantia and Bergsma also won the mass starts.
“For the most part, things were pretty good,” Mantia said. “At the end of the day, I’d like to win all of them, or at least these first two, so I can go into the third one in January at Olympic Trials and just relax and skate a clean, smart race and just finish basically and make the Olympic team.”