By Alexandra Smith
PLUM, Pa. — Alyson Dudek, a 22-year-old Olympic bronze medalist and member of the U.S. Short Track Speedskating National and World Teams, is aiming to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Dudek, who lives and trains in Salt Lake City, competed in the National Championships the weekend before Christmas and finished first in the four-lap time trial. Her next competition is the speedskating World Championship in Hungary, which is to be held in early March.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, Dudek competed for the United States in the women’s 500-meter event and the women’s 3,000-meter relay. The U.S. women’s 3,000-meter relay team won the bronze medal.
Dudek said her next goal after the 2010 Olympics was to make it to the 2014 Olympics, “I take every season and competition one at a time, but my ultimate goal is to make the 2014 Sochi Olympic team,” she said in an interview via Facebook chat. “Skating is my full time job.”
Since 2007, Dudek said she has lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she currently trains with the United States National Team. “We skate twice a day, two-hour sessions each,” added Dudek. “We also do off-ice training consisting of skating specific exercises, running, jumping, and multiple weight lifting sessions each week.”
Travis Jayner, one of Dudek’s teammates on the U.S. National Team and Olympic bronze medalist, said in an email interview that Dudek spends many hours training each day, “Aly arrives at the ice rink anywhere from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., depending on the day. . .When all is said and done, it is not uncommon for Aly to leave the ice rink at 7 p.m..”
“Not only is the training harder than anything I have ever done in my life, but also the fact that I now live so far away from my family and good friends is sometimes hard,” Dudek said. “I then have to remind myself why I do this, that I love this sport, and that I can be the best I can be and become a multiple Olympic medalist.”
Dudek also said she has had to make sacrifices in her life to compete professionally in speedskating. “I missed out on many school events and dances,” she said. “I left half way through my senior year to train with the rest of the National Team. I just knew that if I wanted to get to the next level in skating, I had to make that change. I am currently taking a couple of college credits at a time but I cannot be a full time student and full time elite athlete.”
Dudek’s mother, Mary, said that injury is something that she, as a mother, worries about. “Aly has had some pretty serious injuries already. In 2011 in Montreal at World Cup 2, she went down with another skater and crashed into the safety mats, dislocating her shoulder and tearing her labrum 270 degrees. This required a rather extensive surgery.” Mary mentioned that her daughter has suffered from concussions during practices as well.
Dudek said she began skating at age seven in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “My family and I would go to open skate and all I wanted to do was go fast,” she added. “My mom signed me up with the West Allis Speedskating Club there, and I fell in love with the sport.” Dudek’s mother said that once she signed her daughter up for the West Allis Speedskating Club, “the rest was history.”
In her free time, Dudek said that she enjoys cooking, baking, and spending time outdoors. “I love to cook and bake, and I am always working to find healthier alternatives in the kitchen,” she added. “I grew up snowmobiling, skiing, biking, hiking, and fishing. When I get a chance to do these things, I am all for it!”
According to Dudek, anti-bullying is her charitable platform of choice. “It is important to me to let not only kids, but also adults, know that bullying takes many forms, from elementary school to adulthood and even in the world of athletes,” she said. “I would like to be an inspiration to all ages of people who might be experiencing bullying to realize that it is more rewarding in the long run to take the high road and stand up for the right reasons.”
“Aly has a big heart and she really cares about people,” Jayner said. “I believe that Aly is trying to raise awareness about how easy it is to be a victim of bullying and for those victims to know that not only are they not alone, but that there are resources out there for them.”