Two Fairfax Station siblings have raced to the top of the competitive national speed skating scene after years of hard work and thousands of hours of practice.
“When it gets hard, I think of my competitors and how hard they’re training, and that if they’re giving 100 percent I should too,” Ethan Sohn, 11, said.
Ethan and his older sister, Monica, 16, recently placed in the 2012 U.S. Short Track Speedskating America Cup and Age Group Championships held in Green Bay, WI last month.
Monica, a junior at , won a bronze medal in the intermediate category for skaters 17 and older, and Ethan, a fifth grader at , took home a silver medal in his age group.
The siblings first got hooked onto speed skating after watching the 2006 Winter Olympics and seeing superstar Apolo Anton Ohno on the ice.
“I watched Ohno winning all of the medals and it seemed like a great sport so we wanted to try it,” Monica said.
Ethan started taking skating lessons initially, and his sister followed shortly thereafter. The duo became engrossed in the sport, taking classes in Maryland, a two-hour drive from their Fairfax Station home.
Since then, the duo have been able to find ice time closer to home at the Prince William Ice Center in Dale City as part of the club Dominion Speedskating.
“Being that the sport is so selective you get the opportunity to work with some of the top coaches,” said their mother, Kristen Sohn.
The club is coached by Jimmy Jang, former U.S. Olympic Development Coach of the Year, and by Kwang-Bok Choi, former Korean National and Olympic team coach in the past three Olympic games.
“The sport has been growing, especially after each Olympics,” Monica said.
Their success in speed skating has allowed them to actually meet Ohno in person.
“He’s an inspiration,” Monica said. “I heard that he didn’t eat junk food for three years. I don’t know if I can do that but I’ll try.”
The siblings practice five to six days a week right after school for hours, with conditioning and on-the-ice training from about 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. After practice, they have to get home and handle homework.
“Getting enough sleep is the main challenge,” Ethan, said. “When I first started out I didn’t have as many challenges because I didn’t have a lot of homework but that was in first grade.”
The kids are both straight-A students despite the time commitments they have for skating.
“They are both very responsible,” said their mother, Kristen Sohn. “They learned how to focus and it all came to them just from speedskating.”
Though the siblings both admit that the balance between schoolwork and speed skating is a challenge, they say they never seriously have considered quitting.
“Whenever I feel like it’s too tiring I think of how hard I’ve trained so far and I would be giving it up it would have all been for nothing,” Monica said.
They both have high hopes for their future as Olympic prospects, with Monica training toward the 2014 Olympics and Ethan for the Olympics in 2018. Monica is also panning to apply to the University of Virginia, William & Mary, and Georgetown University.
“I would encourage others to do this sport. It’s hard but it’s so much fun. You feel a lot of adrenaline while skating with the wind,” Monica said. “It’s like flying.”