Video | As local heroes lace up in Vancouver, speed skating clubs nurture younger talent

The Krones are a hockey family. Dad Scott plays in a local men’s league and 9-year-old JP is one of the best players for his age in the country.

So when 10-year-old Mia decided to call it quits last summer after three years in the rink, her dad asked why.

“She said she enjoyed skating, but not having to deal with the puck,” Krone says. “So I said, “Have you considered speedskating?”

Video: Novice speed skating in the northern suburbs

That’s how Mia, a fifth-grader at Hillcrest Middle School in Wilmette, got involved in speed skating. Long overshadowed by its glitzier cousin, figure skating, speed skating is a high-wire act on ice that, every four years, gets a few weeks in the spotlight.

And northeastern illinois is actually one of the sport’s most fertile training grounds. Shani Davis, the 2006 gold medalist and current world record holder in the 1000 meters, grew up on the South Side of Chicago before moving to Rogers Park to train with the Evanston Speed Skating Club.

Several members of the 2010 U.S. Olympic team have ties to the area, including Brian Hansen, who was born in Glenview and trained at the Northbrook club; Nancy Swider-Peltz, Jr., of Wheaton; and Mary Grace, another Northbrook club alum.

“It’s a great sport, and it’s nice that every few years, it gets a little publicity bump,” says Lydia Suskin, whose son, Jeff, skates with the Evanston club.

And when Davis laces up for the 1,000 meters on Feb. 17, the members of the Evanston club will be gathered the ESPN Zone in Chicago to cheer him on.

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