- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

ASHLAND, Wis. (AP) - There are very few people on this earth who possess the God-given talent and skill, the drive and the good luck to be able to compete, even once, at the very top level of any given sport.

Fewer still are able to give it their best effort, put aside for several years, and then come back able to pick up where they left off and mount a serious drive to compete at a national or even international level.

One of those very few is Ashland’s Peter Macky, who most folks know as a journeyman electrician for Omer Nelson Electric, married to Elizabeth Macky, and the father of 3-year-old Eleanor.

Some folks remember that nearly a decade ago, Macky was a young, up-and-coming world-class ice speed skater who competed in two Olympic trials, in 2002 and 2006, before hanging up his skates.

“I was just kind of mentally and physically tired, and I really didn’t feel like I could compete anymore,” Macky said. “I was really physically out for shape for several of those years, and one day, I just decided to start getting back in a little better shape, and I actually started running faster than I ever had, even back in college.”

Before about a year ago, he was perhaps best known as an assistant coach for the Ashland High School track and cross country teams.

But unlike many athletes who left their sport, there was something in Macky that told him he wasn’t done yet, The Daily Press (https://bit.ly/1vnR4AL ) reported.

“I decided to put the skates back on again and see if I could beat my old times,” he said. “I did that and I was pretty happy at how it was going.”

Macky began serious conditioning and training work, retained a coach and began the process of seeing if there was anything left of the lightning-like speed that had once made him a serious contender among American speed skaters. Although the layoff might seem to be an impossible obstacle, the truth is that in speed skating, many skaters - especially in longer distance events - hit their late 20s and early 30s.

Macky is now 30, a time when he could be at his very best.

The answer to the question of whether he still had his old speed came in Roseville, Minn., earlier this month when he placed third in the 5,000-meter race and finished in the top 10 in the 1,500-meter event.

The race at Roseville was the first of three American Cup events scheduled for this winter. The second is at Milwaukee from Jan. 17-18 with the third slated to take place in Salt Lake City on March 6-8.

The races are the key for any skater seeking to enter the elite status of the World Cup racer.

“You have the National team, which is basically off at the World Cups, and one level below that in many countries including the United States are events like the American Cups,” said Macky. “All of the top skaters from around the country come to compete at those.”

Macky intends to take part in all three American Cup races.

It’s a long way from running with his high school track and cross-country teams.

“It’s my first year back skating in about nine years, and I’ve put in a lot of work over the summer in order to get where I am at right now, and it’s been going very well for me,” Macky said. “I am hoping that now, and over the next few years I can really get faster and hopefully make a world cup team.”

The top goal for any speed skater, of course, is to make an Olympic team.

“The ultimate dream is the 2016 Olympics,” he said. “Between now and then, I’d like to make a World Cup Team or two, and just keep getting faster. f I can do that I have a shot at everything else.

Mackey said sharing in that dream is his wife Elizabeth and both of their families.

“My wife has been a huge supporter and has helped me out all along the way,” he said. “She really made it possible to do all of this. Every day after work, I go and work out, and she’s there with a stopwatch and timing me. It’s kind of a family thing.”

While Macky can do things like dry-land training and in-line skating, he also has to put in a lot of ice time. That means long drives to Milwaukee and a few other locations where he can put in ice time.

“It does mean a lot of driving, but so far it has been worth it,” he said.

Macky recognizes his dream is still something of a long shot, but he says his improvement merits optimism.

“Every time I get on the ice, I get better than I was before,” he said. “I don’t know how much faster I can get, I just have to see if I can get faster.”

For Milwaukee, Macky said his goals were to be among the leaders in the 5,000-meter event and 1,500 meter. The points he gets for his races are figured into an all-around score.

“For the 1,500 and the 5,000, I’m in second place,” he said.

It’s good enough for people to sit up, take notice and say “Wow, where have you been for the last nine years?’

“That is exactly the question I’ve been getting a lot,” he laughed.

Macky’s inspirational story has been made possible by any number of people who have believed in him. Undoubtedly his biggest booster has been his wife Elizabeth.

“He told me he wanted to get back into it last Christmas in the car,” she said. “So I told him, ‘Whatever we have to do, let’s do it.’”

Elizabeth said she was greatly surprised by his decision to re-enter the world of competitive speed skating.

“It’s just so exciting and I am so proud of him,” she said. “Obviously he’s pretty talented athletically, but it’s also very brave; I think it haunted him.”

That has also been the response of family members who have supported Peter’s campaign.

“I was talking to my mom, lamenting that we were taking so much from them,” Elizabeth said. “But she said, ‘Elizabeth, none of us are brave enough or talented enough to do what Peter is doing, and we are going to pull together and make it happen for him.’”

That dedication doesn’t make life any less hectic, though.

“It’s the baby and skating right now, that’s it,” said Elizabeth.

That level of investment has made Peter’s dream Elizabeth’s as well.

“We knew early on that if I wasn’t 100 percent committed, too, it wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “I think in speed skating, there are a lot of marriages that end because the partner doesn’t get it. I think for Peter, I totally get it.”

Peter’s dream has also been aided by his coach Bob Fenn. A seasoned speed skating coach with 40 years’ experience who is also a former speed skater himself, Fenn served on the first American World Cup speed skating short track team, winning a bronze medal in the 500 meter event in 1976, and also winning a gold medal in the 5,000 meter relay.

He formerly coached Eric Flame, who in 1988 won a silver medal in the Olympic games. He also coached Shani Davis, who won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2006 and 2010 in the 1,000-meter race.

Fenn said Macky was “amazing.”

“He came down to Milwaukee and he showed a lot of promise. In fact he showed a lot more of his strengths now than when he was younger,” Fenn said.

He noted that Macky, as a coach himself, was easy to relate to, and was a much more mature athlete.

“He was always a serious-minded guy, but more so now. He has a better understanding of the sport and of the technical end of it,” Fenn said.

He agreed that Macky was someone to watch out for in the elite world of speed skating.

“We need to take the steps as they come, each weekend as h progresses, and he is progressing very well,” Fenn said. “He is dedicated, and his wife is very dedicated.”

Fenn said he could see the potential in Macky, and that the best was yet to come.

“We have to step it up each year, and each time off the ice, so we can make bigger gains in technical problems,” he said.

The one thing no one should do is to count Peter Macky out, said Fenn.

“Peter is a very determined young man,” he said.


Information from: The Daily Press, https://www.ashlandwi.com

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