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After missing out on the Olympics twice before, Flemington's Kimi Goetz is finally a member of Team USA.
The long track speedskater made the team for the 2022 Beijing Games after placing second in both the 500- and 1,000-meter events during qualifying in Milwaukee two weeks ago.
"I thought I had a really good chance, it's time trial so you kind of know where you stand, but at Olympic trials anything can happen," Goetz said. "I knew I had to go into the trials and put together some good races to be named to the team."
Goetz took second in 37.859 behind Brittany Bowe (37.811) in the 500-meter, and again finished behind Bowe (1:13.632) in the 1,000-meter with a time of 1:14.898 to officially cement her spot on team.
"It's really exciting, it's my first Olympic Games so it feels like a huge honor," Goetz said. "At this point it's still kind of a little surreal because there was no spectators and no fans, so we raced our Olympic trials in an empty rink and then came right back home and right back into regular training. So I don't think it's sunken in yet but I'm sure once I arrive in Beijing it will."
The road to Beijing
Goetz, who graduated from Hunterdon Central High School in 2012, started inline speedskating at the age of 9 and competed in the World Championships, "which is the highest you can go for inline skating, and then I decided a few years later to switch to ice," she said.
She made the decision to switch to speedskating because inline skating wasn't an Olympic sport, so eight months before qualifying for the 2014 Games took place, Goetz started short track speedskating.
That year, Goetz was invited to join Team USA in short track, and she finished a junior national champion and a U.S. AmCup champion. She also competed in both the Short Track National Training Program and the Short Track World Cup Team before trying to qualify for the Olympics.
"I competed in (2014) and I finished fifth, there were only three spots, and I had no expectations of making that Olympic team," Goetz said. "Then I was signed up to compete in the 2018 Olympic trials, but I wasn't able to because of injury, and then this is my first Olympic trials for long track."
Goetz explained that the difference between short track and long track is short track is done on a hockey-sized rink and it's a race against other skaters, while long track is on a 400-meter sized rink and it's a time trial event.
"I just kept getting injured on short track, and I just wasn't enjoying it anymore, so I wanted to try something different," Goetz said of her switch. "I enjoy it, I'm happier doing it, so I think that's the main thing. My performance is better as well, but the main thing is I'm having more fun with it."
Goetz, who is currently ranked ninth in the world in the 1,000-meter and 12th in the world in the 500, finished in fifth place in both distances at the ISU World Single Distances Speedskating Championships in February 2020. It was the highest finishes by a U.S. woman, and it came at the end of only her second full long track season.
In December, Goetz finished 16th in the 500 and eighth in the 1000 at the ISU World Cup speedskating in Calgary, which set up her trip to the time trials at the start of January.
Training for the Olympics has been a full-time gig for Goetz, who moved to Salt Lake City after high school, as she trains six days a week, twice a day. She said she usually keeps a part-time job but leading up the Olympics she's taken a break to concentrate solely her training.
Goetz said she leaves for the Olympics on Tuesday when she'll fly to Los Angeles for team processing. She said the United States chartered a flight to Beijing for all of Team USA athletes and staff, to limit as much interaction as possible because of COVID-19 concerns.
"We're getting tested four times a week right now, so I think getting there will be as safe as we possibly can, and I think once we're there they'll have some pretty strict protocols in place to make sure everyone stays healthy and is able to compete," she said.
Goetz will be competing in the both the 500- and 1000-meter races, which will be held on Feb. 13 and 17, respectively. She said she's planning on staying until the Games end on Feb. 22, and then she'll fly to Europe for the last two competitions of the season, which are the World Sprint Championships in Norway and then the World Cup Final in the Netherlands.
"On March 15 my season will be over," Goetz said. "It's going to be a long trip. I'm not sure how it's going to feel because obviously the end goal for every athlete is the Olympic Games, so I'm not sure how it will feel to go and try to do another competition after the pinnacle of the last four years of my training. But I've competed in the World Sprint Championships, and I've competed in the World Cup Final before, and they're both really fun events, so I think it will be good and it'll be nice to end the season."
But before she can think about racing anywhere else, Goetz is solely focused on getting ready to compete in Beijing.
"It's exciting, I have an incredible team here that I train with," Goetz said. "My boyfriend (Mitch Whitmore) went to three Olympics for long track speedskating, so I have a wealth of knowledge around me to pull from and people that want to help, so I think that that's made a huge difference as well."
Goetz said that while living and training away from New Jersey can be tough sometimes, her family understands that speedskating is her top priority at this point in her life.
"This is what I want to do. I live in Salt Lake City and my sister lives here as well, so that's nice that I do have family out here, and my boyfriend and I are family, so I do have loved ones out here," she said. "It is hard to be away from my mom and my dad, my brother and my grandma especially, but they try to come out here and I go out there and they understand that this is the goal for me right now so they're just so supportive."
Goetz said that her family won't be able to join her in Beijing, and they were supposed to fly to see her compete in Milwaukee, but 48 hours before the event the decision was made to cancel spectators because of positive COVID tests.
"That was a bummer, it would have been nice for them to see me qualify for the Olympics since they can't watch me compete in the Olympics in person," she said.
Despite all the hurdles and moves and changes that Goetz has undergone in her journey as a speedskater, all of it has been worth it to be able to call herself an Olympian. And even though she feels she still has more to learn, she's ready to test herself against the best athletes in the world.
"We're still working towards it obviously," she said. "I'm still very new to speedskating since I've only been doing long track for three and a half years, so I still feel like I always have a lot to work on and learn and I'm just excited for the opportunity."
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter: @laurenknego
Lauren Knego covers scholastic sports for the Courier News and Home News Tribune. For unlimited access to local high school sports, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Kimi Goetz headed to Olympics in long track speedskating