MILWAUKEE — The upcoming U.S. Olympic Speedskating Trials start at the Pettit National Ice Center right after the new year. But increasing eyeballs on the sport is just part of what two notable former Olympians want to do: to get more athletes in speedskating. The top goal would be to get 100,000 kids to try skating in the next decade.
"We have under 20 men (in the junior national championship) that are actually in the competition," Dave Cruikshank says. "So it's really critical for us to fill that pipeline. And DASH is really trying to get and fill that need."
Former Olympic speedskater Dave Cruikshank and his wife Bonnie Blair have seen the numbers in recent U.S. Junior national competitions.
"20 boys and like 24 girls, which actually, usually the boys outnumber the girls. But to me, that number's just not high enough," Bonnie Blair Cruikshank says.
It's why they helped form DASH, or Developing Athletes for Speedskating High-Performance, with Michael Salm.
"You can look at it as alarming. And I think it is. But it's also an opportunity," DASH Chief Business Officer Michael Salm says. "I mean, there's this wide open canvas that we kind of get to paint. And like David said, Milwaukee and the Midwest, it's a prime spot."
Work is already underway, and the upcoming Olympic Speedskating Trials will only help.
"If they go into hockey, great. If they go into figure skating, great," Dave Cruikshank says. "We just want them on the ice to experience what we've experienced, which is the pleasure of going fast and having the wind in your face. And the joy of trying to do your best."
"I just think back to the days when I was growing up and seeing all those athletes in front of me. And always wanting to chase after them. And that's really kind of what it's all about," Bonnie Blair Cruikshank says.
They have former gold medalists and Olympians skate with the kids. And who knows. Maybe they can find the next Bonnie, or Dan...in the next bunch.
"One of the big things that DASH is trying to do is take some of the most successful people that speedskating's ever seen, that this community's ever seen. And pass that knowledge down to the next generation, to continue some of that Olympic greatness that's come right out of Milwaukee," Michael Salm says.