Losing her skating coach and missing the 2014 Olympic Trials by one-hundredth of a second caused Columbus native Taylor Wentz to question if she should continue her speedskating career.
“I thought it would be best to take a break and re-evaluate what I wanted to do, if skating was something I thought I wanted to do for the next four years,” Wentz said. “Just kind of re-evaluate my goals and kind of find the fun in skating again.”
After taking a break for part of the 2015-16 season, Wentz put her skates back on and found the joy in speedskating again. Her new coach and 2010 Olympic gold medalist Linlin Sun helped her find her new perspective on skating.
Now, Wentz is headed to this year’s Olympic Trials from Dec. 15 to 17 at the Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Columbus East graduate, who now lives in Salt Lake City, qualified for the trials after earning one of the last four qualifying spots at the American Cup in August.
Sixteen women will be competing at the Olympic Trials for a chance to compete in the Olympics in South Korea in early February. Twelve of the women already had prequalified, and Wentz said jockeying for one of the four final spots was pretty stressful.
“It was really tough racing it,” Wentz said. “It definitely came down to the last race on the last day. It wasn’t decided until then. It was a stressful weekend, but I just tried to get as many points as I could every single race.”
Wentz had to race the 1,500 meters, 1,000 and 500 race twice and said that ended up being about eight races a day for three days during the American Cup. She said it was probably one of the hardest races she’s ever done.
The top three at the trials qualify for the Olympics. If the relay team qualifies for the Olympics, then the top five skaters will advance. If the relay team doesn’t qualify, then only the top three will. Wentz said everyone’s best chance for an Olympic medal is on the relay team.
Wentz is in her sixth year as a speedskater but had been figure skating for 15 years before that. She first started taking skating lessons as a toddler at the Hamilton Center Ice Arena to launch her figure skating career. It wasn’t until the Crossroads Speed Skating Club came to Columbus in 2010 when Wentz decided to learn how to speed skate for her 2011 senior project.
Her senior project has turned into trips all over the world to places like Spain and Canada to compete in speedskating competitions. Wentz even won the 2013 intermediate Ladies National Championship. She continues to represent Columbus by skating under Crossroads Speed Skating as her club affiliation.
Wentz still hasn’t lost her figure skating roots, though. After going two years without any figure skating, Wentz realized how much she missed the sport.
“I think that is part of what made me really sad because I love figure skating so much,” Wentz said. “A figure skater will always be what I really am.”
Wentz keeps her figure skating roots in tact by teaching figure skating at the Utah Olympic Oval in the evenings after her own training. Wentz is currently toying with the idea of ending her speedskating career after this year.
She and her husband, Michael Burdekin, got married in September 2016, and Wentz said it has been a bit of a challenge finding time to spend together with their busy schedules. Burdekin is a retired speedskater, so he understands the demands of Wentz’s training.
“It’s almost like our lives are a little bit on pause until I am done skating,” Wentz said. “Hopefully, we will get to do more real life stuff after, but he understands, so that’s nice at least.”
Wentz will wait to see what happens after the Olympics with the cycle of skaters who leave and new skaters coming in before deciding to hang it up or not. Her goal is to eventually move back to Columbus to be with her family.
“I think eventually we will move back to Columbus, whether it’s this April or maybe in the summer of next season; we’ll see,” Wentz said. “This is my sixth year now that I’ve been out here (in Utah), and I would really like to come home. I miss home.”
Name: Taylor Wentz
High school: Columbus East
Residence: Salt Lake City, Utah
Club Affiliation: Crossroads Speed Skating