Special Olympics skater to race at nationals

Posted: Wednesday, March 07, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Tray Greene hurtles around a speed skating oval like a pebble whirled in a sling.

In a 333-meter preliminary race Tuesday at the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games, he had a 15-meter lead by the first turn. Moving like he was on two rails instead of two thin blades, he pulled steadily away, hardly slowing in the corners.

Greene, 20, of Rochester, N.Y., was introduced to speed skating eight years ago by his middle school special education teacher. His times have improved so much he'll compete next week in a more competitive forum: the Amateur Speedskating Union's National Short Track Championships in Bay City, Mich.

Karen Kostal, ASU national secretary, said Greene could face the nation's best short track speed skaters at the Michigan event. The ASU is a stepping stone to the national team selected by the United States Speedskating.

"He has a goal in mind," said Cris Knapp, the teacher who introduced Greene to skating. "He wants to make the Olympic team."

Two years ago, Greene began training once a week with Cathy Turner, the two-time Olympic gold medal winner in short-track speed skating, and his times dramatically improved.

"It doesn't feel like it when I'm skating," he said. But then he looks at himself on videotape and sees the difference. "I say, 'Is that me?"' he said.

Knapp said Greene listens attentively.

"He tries hard. He will try new things. Some of the Special Olympics athletes are afraid of trying new things."

Knapp said Greene is far beyond the skills of other New York Special Olympics skaters. Sometimes he takes on high school hockey players in 1,000-meter races. The hockey players skate in a relay while Greene skates the 10 laps by himself.

"Tray can do that without breaking a sweat," Knapp said. "They've never beat him."

Greene is an assistant teacher in a child-care center, working with children 3 to 5 years old, and he would like to emulate Turner when he quits skating competitively.

"Some day, as I get older, I'd like to be a coach or teacher, just like Cathy is doing with me," he said.

Kurt Krumreich, Special Olympics head coach for speed skaters in the mid-Atlantic states, said Greene's form distinguishes him from most skaters at the world games.

"That's what Cathy Turner's been teaching him," Krumreich said. "He's skating the shortest distance possible."

This is Greene's second Special Olympics World Games. He said he will have to adjust an aspect of his racing when he attends the ASU nationals.

Two years ago Greene competed in in-line skating at summer Special Olympics world games in North Carolina. He took a silver medal in one race after he stopped just short of the finish line to help a competitor who fell.

"Something just told me I had to go back," Greene said. "She got up and crossed the finish line before I did."

In the national race, he said, "They say you've got to go all out."

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