PARK CITY, Utah — After testing positive for COVID-19 roughly three weeks before the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, taking multiple red-eye flights to make the 12,000 mile journey, losing his luggage in Paris and having to borrow another athletes blades before his own arrived, Park City local and 21 year old U.S. speed skater Casey Dawson’s Olympic dreams were finally realized after he returned home from Beijing with a bronze medal.
Clearly, Dawson’s Olympic experience was one of the most unique from this year. Unlike the majority of his teammates, Dawson missed the opening ceremonies and the 5,000m event as he was sidelined in the states due to positive COVID-19 tests. While questions loomed as to whether or not Dawson would even make it, he finally was able to pass four consecutive negative tests and immediately jumped on a plane to Beijing.
“It was almost like from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs,” Dawson said. “I was definitely not in a good headspace until I finally got the news that I was going to get over there for the fifteen-hundred. So I kinda just ran on adrenaline the whole journey over. I was getting everything together, my mind and everything, just to get to Beijing and get to the starting line for my race because I showed up literally the day of my first fifteen-hundred meter race.”
But as Dawson arrived in China, another problem quickly arose. The bags with his blades were stuck in Paris and his first event was just hours away. On top of all that, blades are fairly specific according to the athletes preferences, but lucky for Dawson, a fellow Olympian was willing to share.
“They found my bags in the craziest places in the Paris airport, like not even close to getting on the plane to Beijing,” Dawson explained. “They had to hire a task force in Paris to find my bags and actually locate them and get them to Beijing.”
“My coach is really good friends with a guy named Harald Silovs from Latvia,” Dawson continued. “He was the only one who my coach knew who had the same setup as me, because my setup is a lot different from most skaters since my boot is a little bit different than a lot of people…my bridge is a lot smaller than everyone else’s on my team so I had to use his set up, I got to the line, and that was just the biggest thing, getting to the line.”
While he did make the line and competed in the 1,500m event, Dawson admitted that his results were a true illustration of the way he was feeling. Finishing second to last, Dawson was simply running on pure adrenaline and had only been on the ice once before the race for a 20 minute warmup. Simply put, he just wanted to go to bed.
But all of Dawson’s hard work and sacrifice finally paid off. In the men’s team pursuit, Dawson and Team USA shocked the Netherlands in the bronze-race, winning by an impressive 2.81 seconds.
BRONZE for @TeamUSA! 🥉
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 15, 2022
“It’s surreal. Growing up you watch those ceremonies and you’re like, ‘what does it feel like?’ and it might have been a little bit different for us because of Covid, nobody really watched it, but it was still an amazing experience. Just stepping on the podium, among some of the greatest athletes in the world, seeing your flag being raised, grabbing that medal and putting it around your neck, its just something different and no words can explain how happy you are in that moment,” Dawson said.
View this post on Instagram
Upon returning home, Dawson has been able to share his experiences with his friends and family. He’s even been able to witness the process come full circle and as he’s returned to the Park City Ice Arena, but this time he’s the Olympic athlete with a medal around his neck and can mentor young aspiring athletes.
“I went to the Park City Ice Arena where I started skating and I was able to help coach some kids at a speed skate. Just to teach them the basics of speed skating and everything, show them my olympic medal, and just seeing their reaction on their face is priceless. Having them hold the Olympic medal and say, ‘Oh it’s so heavy,’ and everything, it’s pretty cool to do a full circle. I used to be that kid looking up at the Olympian and holding their medal. Now I get to show my medal to the younger generation and inspire them to keep going,” Dawson explained.
As for the future, Dawson will devote his time to individual distances and is aiming for an individual Olympic medal four years from now. He hopes to redeem his performance in Beijing and be able to compete rather than missing events, tracking down his luggage and borrowing the skates of other Olympians.
View this post on Instagram