Like clockwork, every Sunday night speed skater Kimi Goetz sits down and writes out her plans for the week ahead. She schedules her training, her work hours and even her eating.
“That’s one thing that helps when you have such a busy lifestyle,” said Goetz, who works part-time at a finance company. “Then I kind of know what to expect and what I need to get done.”
For this weekend, Goetz had mapped out her plans for the Desert Classic at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah, outside Salt Lake City. The low-key event is the first U.S. racing of the 2021-2022 season.
With the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics only five months away, Goetz, 27, was eager to get back on the competitive ice.
“It’s inevitable to try to find your footing in the first races,” Goetz, who raced the 500m and 1000m on Saturday and will race another 500m on Sunday, said earlier in the week. “I’m just glad I’m going get it out of the way now so that the rest of my races this year I’m more prepared for.”
World Cup racing begins in November and will determine each country’s Olympic berths. “Everyone needs get their act together and be ready to skate fast come November,” Goetz said.
Her act came together quickly, with a win in the 1000m and runner-up finish in the 500.
She has no regrets about skipping two World Cups last January, precursors to the World Championships, that were all held inside a bubble in the Dutch city of Heerenveen due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“Of course, I wanted to go and I wanted to be there,” Goetz said. “I didn’t go and no one got sick or had a problem, which I was so worried about in the first place. But I am happy with my decision.”
If she had gone, Goetz knew she would have been distracted by everyone’s adherence to the Covid-19 guidelines and would not have been able to give her skating the attention it deserved. “So, I thought it would be best to stay home,” Goetz said.
She resumed training in May with a lot of cycling, dryland training, and inline and short track skating because the long track ice did not open until July.
“Now we’re in the full swing of things,” Goetz said.
If not for an unlucky fall more than three years ago, she wouldn’t be where she is today. At that time Goetz was a top contender for the 2018 U.S. Olympic team in short track, not long track.
On the first day of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Trials, she fell during her warmup and hit her head. Goetz was diagnosed with a concussion – she still gets dizzy and nauseous if she tries to look over her shoulder on her left side – and was not able to compete for a spot on the Olympic team. While undergoing months of rehabilitation, Goetz realized her head wasn’t in the right place when it came to her sport.
After four years in short track, she simply wasn’t enjoying herself. Goetz had started inline skating at age 8 and when she initially transferred to ice she felt comfortable with the similar pack racing. Then as Goetz started falling and getting hurt, she became more timid.
In August 2018, Goetz decided to switch to long track, where she only had to worry about herself instead of what other people in the race were doing. However, the New Jersey native had to start at the bottom and earn her way onto the national team. Not to worry. Her favorite quote is, “The expert at anything is once a beginner.”
In February 2020, at the end of only her second full long track season, Goetz had a breakout performance. She had the highest finishes by a U.S. woman at the 2020 World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Kearns, placing fifth in both the 500m and the 1000m. Goetz posted personal bests in three events on three consecutive days: 37.18 seconds in the 500m, 1:12.70 in the 1000m and 1:55.25 in the 1500m.
“It was definitely exciting,” Goetz said, “and it was a little bit of validation, too, that I made a good decision switching from short track to long track. Obviously, it’s about being happy more than about the result. I really was enjoying long track, but to see results come along with being in a better place mentally and physically was exciting.”
However, had she made the Olympic team in 2018 in short track, Goetz said, “I can’t imagine myself switching, so it all worked out.”
She said she still has a lot to learn, especially on the straightaways. “In short track, you come out of a turn, you take half a stroke and you’re back in the turns again,” Goetz said. “The straightaways have been a struggle. I have some technical things that if I fix I can hopefully shave off some time.”
When she first converted to long track, Goetz was coached by her boyfriend, three-time Olympian Mitch Whitmore. Once she made the national sprint team, Goetz moved to coach Ryan Shimabukuro.
She also has some magnificent mentors in her corner: Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen, Joey Cheek and Heather Bergsma.
“The four of them I feel like I could reach out at any time with any problem and they would be willing to help me,” Goetz said.
As she navigated her first two seasons of long track, Goetz took her mind off skating by writing a cookbook, and proceeds from the sales helped fund her career.
“Mindful Meals” is still available on a link from Goetz’s Instagram page.
Two of Goetz’s favorites recipes are a burrito bowl with cilantro lime dressing and a homemade chicken pot pie.
A lot of her teammates have used the cookbook. “They’re so funny,” said Goetz, who hopes to eventually work with a sports team as a cook or nutritionist. “They always tell me the next day, or text me a picture: ‘I made this!’ They let me know what they think about it, so I’m glad that it’s been helpful.”
Her top U.S. rivals are consistently Olympians Brittany Bowe, 33, who is also the world record holder in the 1000, and Erin Jackson, 28.
Bowe reached out to offer help to Goetz after her accident, having suffered lingering effects from her own concussion.
“Obviously, racing Brittany and Erin gets you excited,” Goetz said. “For the most part, the three of us have been so close.”
Bowe has a personal best of 37.03 seconds in the 500m and Jackson’s best is 37.28, just a tenth of a second slower than Goetz’s PR.
Jackson beat out Goetz in Saturday’s Desert Classic 500m, 37.85 seconds to 38.40.
Most of the national team members will start their competitive seasons later.
“We’re the two newest to ice,” Goetz said. “Erin started a year before I did for long track, so we more than anyone need the extra race experience.”
While Goetz still is concerned about Covid-19, she said she is trying not to be as stressed about it as she was last year. “I realized all I can control is what I do, and I am doing my best to stay safe and healthy,” she said.
Goetz hopes the schedule won’t be disrupted in the lead-up to the Beijing Games. A World Cup is supposed to be held at the Utah Olympic Oval in December
“I hope all the athletes can get into the United States and we’re able to host that event,” Goetz said.
The last time a major event was held in Kearns (2020 Worlds), she said, “I had the best races of my life. My family came and it was just a really good experience. I would love to try to do that again.”
She is trying to prepare herself, however, for no spectators in Beijing if she qualifies for her Olympic debut. No decision has been announced, but there were no spectators at the recent summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“As long as all the competitors are there,” Goetz said, “that’s enough to get everyone fired up whether we have a loud crowd or not.”
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