NBC10.com | Matt Maiorano
Olympic speed skater Chris Creveling scrapes the ice off his trusty Saturn before heading out to practice.
As the Olympic Flame began traveling across Russia, it likely brought another torch to mind for first-time Olympian Chris Creveling.
"We went to Greensboro, North Carolina for an inline competition and my brother was there … Somehow both of us made it to the final," said the 27-year-old speed skater, who competed at the national level on inline skates for 12 years before switching to ice full-time.
Patrick, who is five years older than Chris, says he was about 20 meters ahead of his younger brother with the final two laps to go in the two-man relay.
"I went as fast as I could possibly go," Patrick said. "If the person doesn’t pass you by the last corner, you can scoot up to block him."
"I ended up chasing him down on the last lap," Chris said. “That was when we passed the torch."
"He played it so smart," said Patrick, who admits he made some mistakes in his panic to finish. "That was the first time he ever beat me…. That was the one time I was happy to lose."
For Chris that was the time he decided to take his speed skating to the next level.
The Palisades High School graduate left Kintnersville, Pa. in 2007 and drove his gray ’97 Saturn to Salt Lake City to enter the Wheels on Ice Program, a venture of US Speedskating and USA Roller Sport.
"I was more worried about his car breaking down than anything. It had 200,000 miles on it at that point," said Chris’ father, Ross Creveling.
As for the transition to ice and the cross-country move, Ross was unfazed for his then-teenage son.
"He never had any fear," said Ross, who added that Chris, "a big tree climber" as a child, broke the front forks on two bikes when he tested a homemade jumping course.
"And he was always so athletic, it usually worked," said Ross, who mentioned Chris qualified for state competitions for his high school cross country team multiple times.
Chris spent his first year in Utah dabbling in both long and short track before making the decision to focus exclusively on short track. He trained under the direction of Olympic Gold Medalist Derek Parra -- another inline skater who made the switch to ice.
But aside from talent and discipline, Chris still needed more to survive in Salt Lake – money.
He returned to the Lehigh Valley during summers to work construction and landscaping jobs. During the season he earned a paycheck working for a short time at a Target in Utah. He even sold old skating equipment on eBay to make ends meet.
He toughed out the combination of paid work and training until he received a scholarship allowing him to attend Northern Michigan University and train at the United States Olympic Education Center in Marquette, Mich., where Olympic teammate Kyle Carr lived. So in 2009 Chris loaded up the Saturn again for his latest cross country trek.
He spent the next three years training full-time while taking 14 credits per semester towards a degree in Business Finance.
Although it was difficult to juggle so much, his ability to multitask helped propel Chris to where he is today.
"He’s super good at seeing the big picture. Getting up everyday and doing what it takes," Patrick said. "It always amazed me that he was always willing to put in the hard work."
In the 2010 Olympic trials, he placed 13th – not high enough to make the team. He forged ahead, spending another two years at Northern Michigan before the program ended due to financial constraints.
Once again Chris had to uproot himself so he could continue to compete with other elite speed skaters. He put his education on hold and packed up his trusty Saturn for the third time and returned to Salt Lake City in May 2012.
Even though Chris was a solid competitor up to that point, he made adjustments to his diet to give himself even more of an edge as he recommitted to the sport with the move.
"I made the decision with my nutritionist to cut gluten out," he said. "It instantly made a huge difference in my performance."
At the same time, his skills on the ice caught the attention of Jae Su Chun, coach of the national team, who invited Chris to train with the team.
After dedicating years to speed skating, Chris says he finally had the right mix of training, coaching, funding and diet. “That’s when it all clicked for me,” he said.
In September 2012 he bested Olympic medalist J.R. Celski with a win in the 1,000 meter at World Team Trials and also took first in the 444 meter race.
He continued to have success as part of the World Cup Team with a win in the 1000 meters at the 2013 National Championships and a 16th place finish – the highest of any American - at the 2013 World Championships.
On Jan. 5 he qualified to represent the U.S. in three short track speed skating events. He’ll compete in the individual 1,000 meter and 1,500 meter races and the 5,000 meter relay.
"It has been so many years in the making," he said. "It is just the biggest experience of my life."
But for his older brother, it is no surprise that Chris made the Olympic team.
"He had the same smile he had when he beat me the first time, same arm gestures," said Patrick, recalling the 2014 Olympic Trials.
All of America is hoping to see that grin when Chris takes to the ice on Feb. 10 for his first event.