Almost anything can spark a life changing moment. For 13-year-old Aidan Eustace, the catalyst was a free soda coupon he found while lingering at the end of a friendly race at popular skating rink Cal Skate in Rohnert Park.
That soda coupon, promising sweet and bubbly refreshment, drove then 8-year-old Eustace to participate in his very first race on inline skates, which quickly transformed into a competitive passion.
“I got into speed skating because of my love for soda,” says Eustace.
But before Eustace could claim his sugary treat, he had to enter — and win — his first-ever race, and win he did.
“Afterwards, an employee gave me a “speeding ticket,” which was a flyer for the speed skating team. “I went to the first practice and became hooked on it,” says Eustace.
Fresh back from the national speed skating competition in Lincoln, Neb., Eustace just finished his most successful season yet.
“I got first at regionals, and then I went to nationals. I came in fourth in all of my races, and only the top three advance to finals, so I was that close,” says Eustace.
“Personally, I did great at nationals. I didn’t place, but I got some best times in my races.”
His mother, Claire Eustace, breaks down the division and distances that her son competes in.
“Aidan’s division has a short distance, a medium distance and a long distance,” she explains. “He’s in the freshman boys division, so he has a three-, five-, and 10- lap race,” says his mother. “Those are the distances he competed in at nationals. Before he got to nationals, Aidan was undefeated in all of those distances.”
The 13-year-old speed skater details what he feels is the greatest challenge of the sport: facing unknown competitors such as those he opposed at the national competition.
“Within my league, I know the racers competing in my division. I know what their strengths and weaknesses are,” says Eustace. “But you never know at nationals. You just have to hope that you know what the other people are going to do.”
Eustace is hoping to transition to ice speed skating, so that he has a shot at competing at the Olympic level.
“Inline speed skating is not currently in the Olympics, but there were at least three Olympic team members this past Olympics who all started with inline and then moved to ice,” explains his mother.
“When you have a child get really interested in something and its not parent driven, it’s all individually driven from your child, it’s pretty amazing that they have this drive and desire to do well in a sport,” she adds.
“I had no idea what we were getting into for the sake of a drink pass and a little cup of soda.”