For some athletes, University Games are a homecoming | News, Sports, Jobs

LAKE PLACID — Three athletes who took the field for the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games had an added incentive — the chance to compete where they used to live and train.

Speed ​​skater Sydney Terpening, along with hockey players Moe Tsukimoto and hockey player Alex Ray, are returning to the area to take part in the multi-sport festival on January 12-22.

Sydney Terpening

Sydney Terpering (provided photo)

Terpening is returning to Lake Placid from her training home of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she skates for the Dash speedskating team, coached by Olympians Dave Cruikshank and his wife Bonnie Blair Cruikshank. Bonnie Blair is a five-time gold medalist at the 1988, 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics.

22-year-old Terpening has lived and trained at Milwaukee’s famed Pettit National Ice Center for the last six years, but Lake Placid has played an integral part in a career that has seen her compete at the elite international level – two juniors – World Championships and the 2022 US Olympic Trials, where she failed to make the team for the Beijing 2022 Games.

In Lake Placid during the Empire State Winter Games, Terpening met Tom Miller, coach of the Adirondack Speedskating Club. She started speed skating at the age of 9, but on the short track. At the Empire State Winter Games, Terpening, then 10 or 11 years old, decided to try the endurance version on the oval where American Eric Heiden won five gold medals during the 1980 Olympics.

“I thought, ‘Well, I’m here, so I might as well try the long route because Lake Placid has beautiful grounds and a rich history.'” She said.

Terpening is looking forward to the FISU games, which will see friends and family – mom Traci, dad Ellery and younger sister Samantha – from Oswego and across the state watching their race. This was not possible during the Olympic trials last January, when spectators were not allowed due to the coronavirus pandemic. This will be her first time at Lake Placid since being named to the World Junior Team in 2018.

Alex Ray (provided photo)

“I am very pleased to be back in Lake Placid,” said Terping. “It’s such a magical place. I look forward to introducing my teammates who are coming to hidden locations in the city and basically having the whole world back in Lake Placid.”

Moe Tsukimoto

Tsukimoto, 24, is a 2018 graduate of Northwood School in Lake Placid, where she played for four years. She studies at Hokkai Gakuen University in Sapporo and is a forward in the World University Games team in Japan.

Tsukimoto started ice hockey at the age of 4 when she first played on her brother’s team as there are not many girls’ teams in Japan. Universities have men’s teams but no women’s teams, playing for local clubs such as Tsukimoto’s Sapporo Ice Hockey Club.

Living in Japan, this is a rare opportunity to return to the area and meet friends from Northwood, where she moved as a 15-year-old who barely spoke English – but knew she loved hockey.

“I could write my name in English” Tsukimoto remembers. “That’s it. I have asked for help many times.”

During her time in Northwood, Tsukimoto was not homesick for Japan, despite the challenges of living in another country and taking English classes. The hockey was also at a much higher level than at home, but she loved it. “It was just so much fun. All the new things, making new friends. All my teammates were so nice to me. So it wasn’t difficult at all.”

When she found out that the FISU World University Games would be held in Lake Placid, Tsukimoto – who later also played for SUNY Plattsburgh – had an extra incentive to make the team.

“Once I make the team,[Northwood friends]can see me play and I can see them – a win-win situation. I decided to practice and work hard. And when I did it, I almost cried.” She said.

No. 3-seeded Japan, who beat USA for the bronze medal in Krasnoyarsk, Russia in 2019, will meet No. 2 United States on January 12, the opening game for both teams. Tsukimoto is excited to play against former SUNY Plattsburgh teammates Annie Katonka and Erin McArdle. Other teams in the field include top-seeded Canada, No. 4 Great Britain, No. 5 Slovakia and No. 6 Czech Republic. The top four advance to the medal rounds to be held on January 20-21 at the 1980 Olympic Center’s Herb Brooks Arena when the gold medal game is played.

Alex Ray

Ray, from Hasselby, Sweden, returns to the North Country region as a forward for the Swedish men’s ice hockey team. The 2019 Northwood School graduate is a sophomore in the NCAA Div. III King’s College at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He has made nine appearances this season, scoring two goals.

“Oh my god, to be able to go back to where it all began, to play my development in the US, where I spent three years of my high school career, it’s just an amazing thing.” said Ray. “That maybe all my teachers can come and watch and visit my old coaches is going to be very special.”

Ray said that until he looked at what the FISU World University Games was all about, he originally regretted missing five games with his King’s College team. After discussions with coaches, including his king coach, and his father, it was an easy decision.

“My father was just very happy”, said Ray. “(He said) you have to go. It’s a one-time thing. I spoke to my coaches; They are really happy for me.”

Sweden’s team consists mainly of NCAA Div. III players like Ray and high profile players in Sweden who meet the age qualifications (ages 17-25) for the FISU games.

Sweden is seeded 8th in the field of 12 teams. The team’s first game will be on January 12 against No. 4 Czech Republic, then on January 13 against No. 1 Canada. Also, Sweden’s Group A consists of No.5 Latvia, No.9 Japan and No.12 Ukraine.

“I don’t really know much about the Czech team but I think it’s going to be great and a good start.” he said. “Next we’re playing Canada so it’s a good game to get into and really test ourselves. We’re going to build the chemistry for the games, see where we are and go from there.”

As for Sweden’s medal chances, it’s motivating to know that the top four teams will get a chance to play at Herb Brooks Arena, he said.

He also noted that Canada and USA are favorites for medals but don’t rule out Sweden.

“We have a chance to get out of there and get a medal,” said Ray. “It’s just an exciting time to measure ourselves and play really hard and compete and hopefully we have a chance for sure.”

The FISU Games will bring together 1,443 collegiate athletes ages 17 to 25 from more than 540 universities in 46 countries to compete in several different winter sports, according to FISU organizers. Athletes will compete in 85 medal events at Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Wilmington, North Creek, Potsdam and Canton.

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