As the Short Track Speed Skating World Cup season gets underway, and with qualification places for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games up for grabs, we speak to Paul Stanley, who was part of the 2011 world record breaking 5000m relay team and is aiming to qualify for his second Olympic Games.
You’re a bit of a veteran of the Short Track squad now, how do you find being a senior member of the squad?
Yeah, I’m getting on a bit now. We’ve got a lot of youngsters coming into the team which is exciting because I’ve pretty much been there since the start of this rise of short track speed skating so it’s an exciting time for the sport.
You’ve been to a Winter Olympic Games before, what is the experience before a major event like this like?
Your first step is qualifying and it’s quite nerve-racking because you only get two competition where you have to be on top of your game to qualify for the spots, but once you’ve realised you’ve got that spot and that dream and you’re going to the Olympic Games you can look forward to the kitting out and the whole excitement that goes with the Olympic Games.
How important is it to share your experiences with the younger members of the squad?
I think in our team there are quite a few who have been to Olympic Games but we’ve done a lot of work on what to expect and I think the newer members know to treat it like any other competition. There are more people watching you but at the end of the day it’s the same competition, that’s what I’ve been advising to the others.
What is the mood in the squad feeling like ahead of a winter of Olympic qualifying events?
The mood is pretty good at the moment, obviously we’re going to have ups and downs with hard training and people might not feel like they are performing but it’s about looking ahead to the Olympic qualifiers and performing at them to get the full quota of spots.
What about the levels of expectations in the squad, what are the aims over the coming months?
We’d like to qualify both relay teams, we’ve not done that before with the women so that would be a really good achievement. Then trying to qualify as many spots as we can individually – which is a maximum three for each distance – so we’re hoping to do that. It’s pretty demanding over the four days of each weekend so it is a tall order, but we’re in a good place. Looking forward to Sochi, on the girls side we’ve got Elise who’s been medalling last season a lot so she’s got a great chance and on the boys side, we always look at the relay to try and do the business but speed skating is a funny sport. We all want to go there and try to win a medal, but on the day the ice could break away or anything. There are so many different variables to contend with, in speed skating there are no guarantees.
How would you describe Short Track Speed Skating to a newcomer?
Our sport is a bit like motor racing or Moto GP for the start, the first corner is chaos, but in speed skating it’s for the whole race.
Of all the places you’ve competed, where have you found the best fans?
It has to be Korea, they are absolutely mental. You’ll have a 4,000 seater venue but there’ll be about 6,000 Koreans there. There’s no health and safety, they’re on the stairs and everything! When we won our World Championship medal back in 2009, when the Koreans hit the front, the noise made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.
Finally, what impact has National Lottery funding had on your career?
The funding helps massively I don’t have to look for a job and I can devote my full attention to my training. It’s not just having a great rink; it’s the little things like your support staff and the one-percenters that the money helps us to achieve our best.
For more information about Short Track Speed Skating, visit the GB Short Track website.
You can follow Paul's progress on the #RoadtoSochi through the @GB_ShortTrack Twitter page, and on Paul's own Twitter profile @Stan99P.