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4-time Olympian Swider-Peltz sees her Olympic hopefuls get closer to Winter Games

October 26, 2009 | 12:23 pm


MILWAUKEE --  It was a great weekend for Olympian-turned-coach Nancy Swider-Peltz until her husband, Jeff Peltz, drove back to their Wheaton, Wis., home with her car keys Sunday.

Jeff would be the one who paid for that mistake, having to drive nearly all the way back to the Pettit National Ice Center to give his wife the keys.

Before that little inconvenience, it was all good for the Swider-Peltz family.

Two of the skaters Nancy coaches made the U.S. team for the fall World Cup circuit, where the results will determine how many 2010 Olympic places the United States gets in long track speedskating -- and which skaters get most of the spots.

One of the two is Nancy's daughter, Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. The other is Brian Hansen of Glenview, Ill., a 2009 graduate of Illinois' Glenbrook South High School.

Both qualified in the 1,500 meters and the distance races and were put in the five-person pool for team pursuit.

The Olympic-qualifying situation would take the better part of a week to explain, but it boils down to this for both Swider-Peltz Jr., 22, and Hansen, 19:

Their best chance at both the Olympic team and an Olympic medal will be in team pursuit.

Hansen Hansen skated on the U.S. pursuit team that won a bronze medal at the 2009 World Single Distance Championships. Swider-Peltz won a bronze medal in pursuit at one of last season's World Cup meets.

Four men and four women will be selected in December for the U.S. Olympic team in pursuit. Three skate in the race.

The World Cup season begins 12 days from now in Berlin. That is too soon for coach Swider-Peltz, a four-time speedskating Olympian (1976 through 1988).

"We need three or four weeks more training before we begin serious racing," she said, but the system the International Skating Union "set up for Olympic qualification means you have to be there."

There could be two 2009 Glenbrook South grads skating in the Olympics. Lana Gehring, 19, made the U.S. short track team. Whether she competes in Vancouver will depend on results of four global qualifying events in short track. Her best chance is to make it on the relay.

Jonathan Kuck's skating in the World Cup team trials clearly justified his decision to take the fall semester off from the University of Illinois.

And there is a good chance he will be taking the second semester off as well to compete in the Olympics.

Kuck, 19, of Champaign, Ill., made the World Cup team in four events -- 1,000, 1,500, distance (5,000 / 10,000) and team pursuit. His most impressive performance came in the 10,000, where Kuck finished second to Shani Davis.

"It would have been disappointing if I hadn't made it after taking a semester off," Kuck said.

Kuck is a junior majoring in engineering physics. He plans to get a minor in computer science and specialize in computational physics.

-- Philip Hersh

Photos: At top, Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. gets some pointers from her mother and coach, Nancy Swider-Peltz, before her final race at the World Cup team trials Sunday in Milwaukee. Credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images. Lower, Glenview's Brian Hansen skating onto the U.S. World Cup team. Credit: Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images