January 15, 1988
Mark Greenwald, '86, an Olympian
by Jeff Bauer
Mark Greenwald sat proudly in his bedroom under his congeries of various speed skating trophies and medals as he talked. "This is like a dream come true. I've worked very hard for this." What Mark calls "his dream" and what he has worked very hard to achieve is a spot on the 1988 United States Speedskating Team, which he became part of last weekend. Mark went into the grueling tryouts during the first half of this month, determined to earn a spot on the U.S. speedskating team. He came out a winner. The team consists of a maximum of twenty of the country's best skaters (twelve men and eight women). Mark and the other elite nineteen men and women will compete in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada, in mid February.
Mark, the youngest member of the team, etched his name on the roster for keeps by placing highly in the 1500 and 5000 meter competitions. He will,therefore, compete in both of these races come February. "That [last weekend] was probably one of the most exciting times in my skating career so far. However, I still have a lot of work ahead of me."
Hard work is Mark Greenwald's middle name. The nineteen-year-old skater has been accustomed to massive sacrifice in order to keep his goal in sight. "I started skating at the local Oakton Ice Arena at age ten. At first, I tried playing hockey, but the fun and excitement of head to head racing was too hard to resist." Mark was a part of the local speedskating club for many years. During this time, Mark's coaches saw the potential that he possessed. As a result the coaches pushed him hard.
While attending Maine South High School, Mark had little free time and no chance to participate in extracurricular activities as a result of rough practice schedules. This loss of time, however, did not affect his grades; by managing his time wisely, he earned good grades. "From sophomore year on, I basically went to school to learn. I would get home and go straight to the rink year-round. The faculty at Maine South was very understanding of my practice schedule and let me miss school for weeks at a time when I had to go out of state to train. The teachers also helped me a great deal in making up assignments."
Throughout 1984 - 1987 Mark was coached by an Olympic skater named Nancy Swider-Peltz, who is also a Maine South graduate. (Nancy herself has just finished first recently in the women's 1000 meter. This will be her fourth Olympic appearance.) She has played a prominent role in Mark's success. "Nancy took me under her wing for hose years and probably helped me the most. Tom Carter (another Olympic skater) also had a great deal to offer me."
As important at Mark's expert coaching is, equally important is his commitment to train--and train he does! "I train eleven months out of the year (May-March). In the summer I train dry by running and cycling twice a day for three hours, six days a week. The fall consists of half dry training and half skating six days a week. And,of course, winter is all skating, four to six hours a day, six days a week."
When asked what he likes to do for fun, Mark replied, "I have no fun. I do have many hobbies, but right now skating is the only one I have time for. I haven't seen some of my friends since high school graduation. I'm paying the price."
Due to Mark's fine caliber of coaches and his hard work, Mark started his claim to fame by first making the Junior World Team in 1985 and in 1986. During these years he established himself as a World Class speed skater. Last year, Mark was also an alternate to the Men's World Team. Now, in 1988, Mark will skate in front of the world as a "first class" athlete.
As far as other important matters in this young athlete's life are concerned, they will have to wait. Markhas only one semester of work completed at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Schooling I hard to fit into his schedule, because he spends a lot of time training in foreign countries. "I will have time to go to college after the Olympics. I cannot train this vigorously after this season because I will have already reached a physiological peak. I will literally get 'burnt out' if I train hard another year."
Mark encourages youngsters to seriously consider speedskating as he did nine years ago. "To be a great speedskater, you do not have to be a perfect human specimen, but rather you have to put in the hours, as well as the year, if you want success." Marks speaks from experience.
As for the Olympics in Calgary, Mark admitted that he does not expect to win a medal, but he will be very pleased if he places in the top ten, or at least if his time is off the gold medalist's by a second and one-half. "A second and one-half doesn't seem like a lot, but in speedskating, believe me, it is."
In closing, Mark adds, "I am young, and the prime age to be in this sport is around twenty-two years old. This Olympic competition should give me great experience. I plant to stay in shape for 1992. I'll have a great chance then. I want the gold."