Northbrook club’s speed skating alum carries swagger to South Korea

By Chris Kwiecinski
Medill Reports

MILWAUKEE – He doesn’t make outlandish guarantees, but it’s easy to see that two-time Olympian Mitchell Whitmore isn’t short on confidence. 

Asked about his expectations for the 2018 Winter Games, Whitmore, who trained at the Northbrook Speed Skating Club, showcases more bravado than his fellow speed- skating Olympians.

“I think I have a chance to win a medal this time around,” Whitmore last week said about his Olympic expectations.

Whitmore, a Waukesha, Wisconsin, native, pointed to his improved 2017-2018 World Cup performances to support his confidence.

According to International Skating Union, Whitmore improved his 500-meter race from a 16th-place finish in Heerenveen, Netherlands on November 12, to a 3rd-place finish in Calgary on December 3.

These World Cup performances came against most of the skaters Team USA will face in Pyeongchang. This includes Netherlands skater, and medal favorite, Ronald Mulder, whom Whitmore sees as a main competitor in the oval.

“I really enjoy when I’m ahead of him,” Whitmore said.

U.S. All-round Long Track team head coach Tom Cushman echoed Whitmore’s confidence, saying he has a “very good” chance to medaling in South Korea.

“He just set the track record in Milwaukee,” Cushman said.

“He’s just on a very nice progression.”

Despite not being a medal favorite on paper, Whitmore’s 2017-2018 World Cup finishes have given him a confidence boost heading into the Games.

“I didn’t expect a lot, but I had a couple placings higher than what I was expecting,” Whitmore said.

Asked a similar question, two of Whitmore’s counterparts, three-time Olympian Brian Hansen and two-time Olympian Emery Lehman, shied away from swaggering statements.

Hansen, who owns a silver medal from the 2010 Olympic games, said it wasn’t too crazy to think he could medal, but had tamer expectations overall.

“I don’t expect to get on the podium,” Hansen said. “My biggest thing is that I want to know that I executed the race as the best that I could.”

Lehman also stayed away from the idea of great Olympic expectations.

“I skated faster this time around at World Cups; I placed lower,” the 21-year-old Lehman said. “I don’t know what to expect going in.”

Whitmore improvement and bravado could prove to be the missing pieces, as he said he wasn’t medal threat in 2014.

“I’m just an overall better skater now,” Whitmore said.

The Petit National Ice Center, where the U.S. Long Track Speed Skating team trained prior to the 2018 Olympics. (Chris Kwiecinski/MEDILL)