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Twin Billing

Twin BillingTufts freshmen, brothers and elite short-track speed skaters Ben and David Gertner are a team like no other.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [03.15.10] Last month at the Winter Olympics, the world was captivated by speed skaters like Apolo Anton Ohno, who seemed to fly around the ice almost effortlessly. Here at Tufts, two freshmen watched Ohno and saw themselves, perhaps, in a few years.

Those freshmen -- twin brothers David and Ben Gertner -- are two rising stars in the world of short-track speed skating. They placed third and eighth, respectively, in their age group at the U.S. Junior Short Track Championships this past December.

The Games in Vancouver shone a two-week spotlight on what for the Gertners is a way of life, balancing training and competition with life as an undergraduate. The brothers put in the work with one goal in mind: their own shot at the Olympic Games.

"I think we both have the work ethic that's required to get to the next level," says Ben. "I think there's no reason to laugh at the idea."

The Need for Speed

Ben describes speed skating as "NASCAR on ice," and the comparison is apt. Elite speed skaters can reach speeds of more than 30 miles per hour, all while maneuvering past other skaters in a tightly packed field.

The Gertners grew up playing hockey, but after watching short-track speed skating during the 2006 Winter Olympics -- and looking for a new, individual challenge after years of team sports -- they decided to trade in their hockey skates for the longer blades of speed skating.

"In skating, you produce your own results, and no one can control that except for you," says David. "That was a key factor that really encouraged us to get more involved, and that was also a big transition that we had to face."

In April 2006, the Gertners began training with a skating club near their hometown of Framingham, Mass. The following February, they went to a national competition for the first time.

"When you're racing, the goal is to be incredibly relaxed, yet focused," says Ben. But, as David explains, adrenaline plays a huge role.

"Our longest race only goes about two and a half minutes," says David, who earlier this month competed in the American Cup short-track speed skating championship. "It's over before you can blink your eyes."

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David Gertner

Jumbo Commitments

The Gertners' speed skating accomplishments are not widely known beyond their immediate circle of friends, but it's not that their classmates didn't get a hint. During the Matriculation ceremony, when Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Lee Coffin read his annual letter about the class of 2013, he mentioned that two members of the incoming class were speed skating twin brothers.

"I actually kept the pamphlet, so it's our little claim to fame there," says Ben.

Ben is eyeing a double major in economics and computer science ("and maybe a music minor if I can fit it in"). David, who came into the School of Engineering, is now exploring liberal arts offerings. Outside of the classroom, they co-host a radio show on WMFO and work as tour guides for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

Balancing college life with a rigorous training schedule -- on-ice training twice a week coupled with ongoing weight training and cardio work -- is a challenge, but David says that the process has helped him learn how to prioritize his time.

"It really teaches me time management skills, responsibility, accountability, all of those qualities that are important to have," he says.

Buddy System

One of the benefits to having a twin brother competing in the same sport is that you have a built-in training partner. While the two admit to friendly rivalry, they also serve as each other's support system.

Ben recalls skating time trials at competitions and thinking that a certain time would be out of reach for him.

"Then I would see [David] do it, and I would convince myself that if he was just able to do it, I'm able to reach it."

Even though the Gertners went into speed skating in part for the challenge of an individual sport, it looks like they belong to a team, after all.

Profile by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications

Photos courtesy of Jerry Search

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