Trevor Marsicano held the world record for 20 minutes in the 1,000-meter speed skating race in March 2009. Then his record of 1:06:8 was broken by his teammate, Shani Davis, who was only four-tenths of a second faster.
But just a week later Marsicano turned the tables and defeated Davis for the gold medal at the World Single Distance Championships. At 20 years old, he was already among the best in the world in speed skating. Marsicano was literally unknown on the international circuit and may be America’s fastest-rising athlete heading into the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. He became the first American to win four medals at a World Single Distance Championship — gold (1000m), silver (1500m), bronze (5000m, Team Pursuit).
“Now, after a couple of disappointing races at Olympic Trials, I have a lot of pressure [on me] to win a medal at the Olympic Games,” Marsicano said.
He started skating when he was a year old and playing hockey when he was four. “When I was in third grade, my teacher knew Pat Maxwell,” Marsicano said. “He was the ‘98 Olympic short-track coach. Just from hearing him talk about it, I thought it was the coolest thing.”
As a young, shy teenager, Marsicano battled depression. “I was having trouble in middle school from other kids bullying me by verbally and physically abusing me,” he says. “It got so bad, that I had to go on depression medication.
“I was on that for four years, and during that time I realized I was going to need greater hope than people were giving me. I wanted to turn to something else. One day at church I grabbed this pamphlet about accepting Christ into my life.” After reading the pamphlet, Marsicano realized he wanted that Source of Hope it talked about — Jesus Christ.
“I then said the prayer on the back of the pamphlet. After that moment, ‘living for Christ’ had a new meaning to me,” he added.
Not long after that, at age 13, Marsicano wanted to do something positive with his time. “I wanted to try something different, and after remembering Pat Maxwell in my class, I tried speed skating,” he said. “I trained for a couple of years and realized I could be very good at this sport — maybe even great.”
In 2008, he had to move away from his home in New York State because he needed more ice time. “I took a daring chance to move away from my family and my coach to live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” he said. “There I had to train mainly by myself and I communicated with my coach over the phone. It was tough being out on my own; I even had to take a dishwashing job to make some extra cash to pay the bills.”
“I had people telling me I would not be successful and this path that I had chosen would not work,” he explained. “At the beginning of the year, it looked like they were right. However, through perseverance, a strong will to fight, and my faith in God, I worked my way through the ranks to become a world champion.”
Even though it appears that Marsicano came out of nowhere, his coach, Paul Marchese, said, “He has been there in the shadows for a while, just building, building.”
During that time Marsicano also suffered a setback that caused him to refocus his training. In 2004, an accident in a short track race resulted in a life-threatening and potentially career-ending injury. A competitor slipped and one of his skates sliced Marsicano’s leg to the bone. “I could see my femur,” he remembered. He lost half the blood in his body and was set back a year. At that time he gave up short track skating to focus on the long track.
That move has proven to be a good one. In 2007 he won bronze in the overall at the World Junior Championships and has moved up in world rankings from there.
Marchese says about Marsicano, “He’s still just 20 and he’s got a lot of years ahead of him at this level. Anything he achieves this year is…another stepping stone.”
“The best advice I was ever given was, ‘Surround yourself with positive people,’” said Marsicano. “I have always believed there was something more to life than just living it. I always believed there was a bigger purpose to live. I will have to rely on God to pull me through and chase this dream that I and many others have worked hard for. Ecclesiastes 7:4 says, ‘When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.’”