HAMAR, Norway (AP) Haralds Silovs had better take a close look at a Vancouver city map on the first full day of the Olympics.
It is not every day that a speedskater like Silovs has to fit in one race on the big Olympic oval in the afternoon, then rush across town for three short-track races at night.
In fact, it has never been done before.
Silovs hopes there is not too much traffic on his way from suburban Richmond, south of the city, to Pacific Coliseum in east Vancouver and that he can find a car where he can stretch his weary legs for the 12 miles of stop-and-start driving Feb. 13.
“It is a little crazy,” Silovs said.
“Who knows if I ever will have that chance again in my life,” he added, because even at 23, the next Olympics seems far, far away.
To the uninitiated, short- and long-track skating can appear pretty much the same men on skates in tight suits zipping around the ice.
Still, there is a lot more in common between a daredevil downhill skier and a technical slalom specialist than between long- and short-track skaters. In skiing after all, there is a combined gold medal for downhill and slalom events, and many skiers take part in both on the Olympic slopes.
There is no such thing in skating, where few have even dreamed of pulling off a double. Four years ago, the American star Shani Davis attempted to make both United States skating teams, but came up short in short track. He went on to win a gold and a silver on the big oval.
Silovs has found that qualifying for both Latvian teams is a tad easier.
On his busy Saturday, though, just taking part in both events will be much more realistic than winning both or even one. Yet, as the 2008 European short-track champion, Silovs cannot be dismissed as a medal contender.
“If I do a perfect race, there is a chance I can score a medal,” he said.
Which brings up the question: why add the burden of the 5,000-meter event on the long track?
Because on the morning of Feb. 13, Silovs will be an Olympic rookie.
“It is my first Olympics,” he said.” It is going to be the first race of my life. Sometimes you need that one race to actually to warm you up. After the race, you can say: ‘O.K., now I am ready. Now I know how to race.’ Pretty often, athletes screw up their first race because of this. In that case, it could help me to get mentally stronger, pumped up and more ready to race.”
He will not hold back and is not likely to embarrass himself in the 5,000, which is about six and a half minutes of thigh-searing effort, so one would assume Silovs would be drained after his opening race.
“In long track, you go always all out, so every race you are going to do, you are going to die,” he said. “That is for sure.”
But recuperation does not take long with years of endurance training.
“I am used to racing, recovering, racing, recovering,” he said.
On the short track, it will not make that much of a difference. Long track is about powerful strides and big lungs; short track requires ice-hugging skills to negotiate tight corners and smart tactics to determine when to move up in the pack.
After rushing across town and changing his gear, suit and skates, Silovs is counting on some help from his short-track friends. There are two qualifying sessions for the 1,500 final, and he is hoping for an easy passage at least into the second round.
“I consider the first round to be a little easier than semis and final, which will allow me to adjust a little more,” he said.
Of course, the last thing he should count on in is predictability. In short track, brawn, muscle and plain luck can be more important than all the race fitness one can muster.
“I will be there to fight,” Silovs said. “I am not backing off.”