Q&A: Two-sport star Chris Witty on goals, favorite flicks

By Charlie Snyder // usolympicteam.com // August 14, 2003

In cycling, Chris Witty is gunning to make her fourth U.S. Olympic Team in six years. A three-time winter medalist in long track speedskating—two silvers in 1998 and gold in 2002–and current world record holder in the 1000m, Witty was fifth at the cycling time trials event in Sydney. Next year, Witty will look to become only the second U.S. Olympian to medal in both Games, joining Eddie Eagan, who won boxing gold in 1920 and bobsled gold in 1932.

Q1: How do you do it?

Chris Witty: “If you have a sport that you can transition into easily that works well as a cross training tool for your full-time sport, why not compete? With the Olympics alternating every two years, I think it just makes you better because you have more top-end competition and more experience you have doing that the less chance you have of making a mistake when it counts.”

Q2: Do you know any of the athletes in Santo Domingo competing in a second sport?

Chris Witty: “No, except for Clara (Chris points behind the reporter.), Clara Hughes. She’s a speedskater. She won bronze on the bike in Atlanta and bronze in speedskating in Salt Lake. So she’s the fourth ever in the history of the Olympics to medal in both

Q2a: I didn’t know that …

Chris Witty: “I know, no one does and I can’t believe it. I’m shocked. I mean that’s history right there.

Q2b: Where is she?

Chris Witty: “She’s that Canadian right there, warming up.

Q2c: Oh, Canadian … ahh …

Chris Witty: “Maybe that’s why. Yeah, but still … I mean there’s only been four.

Q3: I read that you could become the second-person to ever win a medal in both …

Chris Witty: “Maybe second American. First female American and I’d be the fifth ever in history.

Q3a: You’re kind of keeping track of this …

Chris Witty: “No, other people keep track and they keep telling me about it, so that’s how I know it. (laughs)

Q4: So would that be a goal, or you just out here for the heck of it?

Chris Witty: “No, I’m just out here cause … this is something I started when I was 16. I started skating when I was nine. I wasn’t aware of it then, so why should it be a goal now, you know what I mean. I mean, your goal as a kid is to go to the Olympics and win a medal and that’s something that sticks with you.

Q4a: It’s the same goal, not a new goal?

Chris Witty: “Right. All those other statistics, that’s for you guys.

Q5: How cool is it going to be to compete in Athens – the birthplace of the Olympics?

Chris Witty: ”It will be awesome.

Q6: Have you been to Athens?

Chris Witty: “Yeah, my second Junior Worlds as a cyclist was in ’92 and I won a bronze medal. We went to the Acropolis; we just drove by a lot of things. The coach was a history buff and he was telling us all that, but when you’re 16 you don’t care. You’re like, ‘wow, that’s cool, but when’s the Starbucks going in. Nah … I wasn’t drinking coffee when I was 16, but anyways … “

Q7: Did you take a break after Salt Lake?

Chris Witty: I did take a break. I did the whole little tour thing for a while. When the fanfare of the Olympics faded, which was end of May, early June, then I took some time off. I went to Europe with a friend, cruised around for a couple months and then I got back on the ice in September and had a season of having fun and racing. It was a good time. In April, that’s when I really began training hard again for cycling. So basically, I had a full year of … yeah I was skating, but I wasn’t training that hard … I was racing and traveling and having fun.

Q8: Most people train the full four years prior to the Olympics for one event, while you’re splitting it half and half?

Chris Witty: “Well, this will be the first time I’ve ever skipped any part of a skating season to be a cyclist, but I’m still going to skate a little bit this year. I’ll skate the first couple World Cups because they’re in North America in December and then after that I’ll jump on the bike, so I’ll miss the whole rest of the season. But otherwise I’ve always had a full skating season and a really short, abbreviated version of a cycling season, but I didn’t even cycle every year; it was like every couple of years that I’d get out and do it. I was much more of a full-time speedskater.

Q9: Any books that you read that our inspirational or instructional that has helped you in your career?

Chris Witty: “Damn, I know the answer is Harry Potter, but inspirational? “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” … I read it years ago. He’s way of not over thinking things, kind of switching your brain off when it’s time to race. Staying in the moment, that’s helpful.

Q10: What about the Harry Potter books do you like?

Chris Witty: ”I just think they’re great. They just take you back to your childhood. It really gives you a good feeling of being a kid again, having a good imagination. I just started book five. Isn’t it cool that kids are reading it. I think it’s amazing that J.K. Rowling has created a book that is so big that all these kids are going to read it in an age when there’s Internet, Playstation and all that other stuff. It’s pretty incredible.”

I Feel Witty … Chris Witty’s Favorite Movie Comedies

Bruce Almighty … “Just having that much power; it’s kind of cool … walking on water.”

Cable Guy … “Even though it’s kind of creepy. The scene with the sword-fight, Medievel Times…“

Nutty Professor … “Just the way he played all the characters. Actually, I think the funniest character is when he plays Richard Simmons. You don’t even realize that it’s him playing Richard Simmons. That’s one of my favorite things sometimes when I’m training and I go, ‘Ooo, my calves are burning.’ He says that when he’s working out as Richard Simmons, but nobody gets it, because they miss that little part of the movie.

Dumb and Dumber … “‘We’re there.’” That’s the scene where Lloyd and Harry cycle all the way to Aspen. “Or the bus scene at the end when the bus shows up with all the girls in the bikinis … ‘no way, it’s that way.’ Something like that.”

Happy Gilmore … “’The price is wrong … Tap it in, tap it in, just tap, tap, tap it.’”

Muriel’s Wedding … “I really like Muriel’s Wedding.”

Forrest Gump … “I know that’s kind of a drama, but it’s funny too … ’Bubba Gump’ … you’ve got to laugh.”

The Waterboy … “What is it, modula oblongata? Why do alligators have so many teeth … “

Slapshot … “Not that that’s my favorite movie, but when I was a junior, for some reason the boys on the team loved the movie, Slapshot.”

Blues Brothers … “It’s a 106 miles to Chicago … it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Groundhog’s Day … “It’s kind of like that sometimes, when the radio stations keep playing the same songs. I remember in the Milwaukee training, it would be the same. Sometimes you’d show up at the rink and at exactly 9:12 you’d hear the same song …”

This interview originally appeared on usolympicteam.com.
To follow U.S. Olympic athletes today, visited teamusa.org

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