Sports Medicine Center Patient Story: Ryan Leveille
Skater Seeks Extra Edge
Ryan Leveille is in top shape. He has to be. As an Olympic speed skater, he knows his chance only comes once every four years. It’s up to him to make the most of it.
Leveille is a naturally gifted skater with an ambitious goal: He wants to become the first Olympic athlete to compete and medal in both Short and Long Track speed skating. So Leveille, a Georgia native who trains with former Olympian Tony Goskowicz at the Pettit National Ice Center, turned to the Performance Enhancement Program (PEP) at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Medicine Center.
The PEP program is designed to help athletes of all levels — from 10-year-old Little Leaguers to Olympians like Leveille — improve their skills, learn techniques to prevent injury and reach their optimal athletic performance.
Leveille, a former in-line skater who moved to the ice in 2003, has always been a gifted athlete. Just a month after he started competitive skating, at the age of six, he placed 2nd in a national in-line speed skating event. Two months after taking to the ice, he won two bronze medals at the 2003 U.S. Short Track National Championship.
But a devastating skating accident resulted in a broken back, and the promising athlete found himself in a body cast for four months. He returned to the ice shortly after getting the cast off, but the pressures of training with the best-of-the-best while he was still recovering emotionally and physically from an almost career-ending injury were too much. “I was frustrated and scared and didn’t have the confidence,” Leveille says. He headed to Tennessee for a life off the ice.
It wasn’t until Goskowicz lured him to Milwaukee that Leveille re-discovered his passion for speed skating. Goskowicz talked the short track whiz into trying long track, a very different sport involving an entirely different pair of skates and technique. Leveille again excelled, and just months after making the move to long track, Leveille placed 6th in the men’s team pursuit and 15th in the 10,000 meter at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
With characteristic determination, Leveille returned to Milwaukee with a new goal: to compete in both short and long track speed skating. It’s an ambitious goal, but Leveille feels confident. “Any goal I’ve ever set for myself, I’d either obtained or I’m still striving to obtain it,” Leveille says.
He works with his coach daily, but last year, Leveille said, “I wanted to pull out all the stops.” He turned to PEP at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Medicine Center.
For almost five months, he worked with Michael Ribar, ATC, PES, coordinator of PEP and Kris Juergens, PsyD, ATC. “They looked at my program and told me what looks good or bad, from a physiologic standpoint,” Leveille said. “Then we worked in some more strength training and cut out exercises that weren’t really beneficial. They also helped identify my weaknesses and made them my strengths.”
Because of his injury, Leveille’s back will always be vulnerable. So “we worked out my core, to strengthen everything, so that my back doesn’t have to pull all the weight,” Leveille said. “I liked the results that I saw.”
Leveille is now in intensive training, preparing for the Olympic trials. Thanks to PEP, he says he has a better understanding of his body.
“PEP made me realize that the body as a whole needs to be strong, not just my legs,” Leveille said. “It’s important for your entire body to be fit, and the program does that. PEP gives you whole body fitness.”