For Australia’s best long track speed skater Daniel Greig, the search for more is on in earnest now, having recovered from the surgery on both knees which kept him from achieving the results he believes are possible.
“I’m coming back,” he says. “I feel fantastic – really fantastic.”
Greig’s desire to succeed is fired by a furnace of self-belief and unrelenting attention to detail, having been told many times that he would not recover sufficiently enough from his surgery and subsequent nerve damage to continue his sport.
Recover he has, making it back into the coveted A Division, which only allows for the top 19 speed skaters from one race to the next, in a sport where less than two tenths of a second (.200) separates 15th place from the podium and four tenths of a second (.400) to 20th place.
“It was a long way back. My sport is extremely competitive at the top and this is the first season (since Sochi) that I’ve been fit again.”
Greig’s season began slowly in B Division at the first World Cup last November in China, placing 22nd then 14th in his favoured 500m, then an improved 7th in Japan before landing second on the podium in Kazakhstan in the third World Cup, which qualified him into the A Division.
By the fourth World Cup in Holland in mid-December, the Dutch-based Aussie had improved 1.26 seconds since his first World Cup (36.34 down to 35.08) and made it into the A Division, placing 15th.
“I still haven’t quite met my season goal yet,” he said. “I want to get into the top 10 (in A Division).”
In a sport where two, three and four tenths mean a podium or relegation to B Division, attention to detail is paramount.
“This is how I describe the sport,” Greig said. “If you take any coin and drop it from waist height, the entire A Division has crossed the finish line by the time it takes the coin to hit the ground.”
Greig, a mechanical engineering student, is a very interesting fellow who has a mind for numbers and the spread sheets at hand to back up his research. He and coach Desly Hill apply that research to his training and the highly-sophisticated equipment, race suit engineering and preparation necessary for the fastest men on ice. (“Do you know the average speed skater in a 500-metre race skates the first 100 metres in the same time as Usain Bolt’s world record 9.6seconds,” Greig says)
The quest to shave off any of the four one-thousandths of second required from his 500m time before the next World Cup in Berlin is largely down to a hard three-week training block, of which he is part-way through.
“After Kazakhstan, I needed a to get in a hard training block for three weeks. I needed more anaerobics to improve the last 100 metres of the 500.”
“The three weeks’ work should hopefully result in point two of a second, but the probability is point one of a second – and that is providing I trained harder than my opponents.”
A couple of recent unofficial test races over 100metres currently ranks Daniel Greig with the fastest time in the world.
“I do feel good,” he admitted. “I feel more at home close to the podium. Being fastest just feels like home and I’m itching to get back racing.”
The disappointment of his Sochi result no longer weighs heavily on a more mature Greig who is entering his physical prime.
I’ve already hit a major goal simply knowing my body is capable. Last time [Sochi] I was racing great but mentally not ready.”
“This is all for another shot at Olympics. If I know there’s a ten percent chance of me winning a medal then I’m going for it.”
Time will tell. Literally.
Daniel will compete in the next ISU Speed Skating in Berlin, Germany this weekend. You can watch the races live on the ISU Youtube channel http://www.eurovisionsports.tv/isu/Speed%20Skating/ (emargoes in some territories)
By Belinda Noonan