Freddie Polak from Southwell, Nottinghamshire represented Team GB at the Gangwon 2024 Youth Olympic Games in South Korea
Speed skater Freddie Polak has returned home from the Gangwon 2024 Youth Olympic Games in South Korea.
The games saw Great Britain send a squad of 39 athletes who competed across 11 sports.
Polak was joined by his friend and fellow speed skater Willem Murray, from West Bridgford, at the Games.
To get to South Korea, both skaters had to reach a qualification time in one of the distances within 10% of the world record.
Polak competed in the 500m, 1,000m, and 1,500m races in the short track speed skating.
However, the 17-year-old from Southwell did not make it out of the first events in the three races, despite coming close on several occasions.
Each lap on the ice in short-track speed skating is 111m.
Competitors race four and 1/2 laps for 500m, and nine laps for 1,000m. A total of 131/2 laps are completed to race the 1,500m distance.
Polak came third in the 500m and 1,000m races, narrowly missing out on advancing further with his times.
Due to a small competition field, Polak started in the quarter-finals of the 1,500m event but received a penalty that stopped him from progressing at that distance.
"He was unfortunate that he got one of the third fastest times in two races but due to there being advancements elsewhere he didn't get through for the 1,000m and 500m," said Freddie's mum, Tracy who along with his dad Gary travelled to the event for support.
Freddie said he had enjoyed skating at the Youth Olympics and had learned a lot from the experience.
"Within Europe, you don't get to skate against the best in the world like the Koreans and the Chinese so to even be there was a new experience," he said.
"The Koreans have the best technique, they learn from a very young age.
"It was great to watch them and see them in action.
"It was amazing to skate in front of thousands of people.
"I didn't feel nervous even though it was in front of a large crowd."
Gary added that the event was popular with spectators and 11,000 tickets were sold to people wanting to watch the speed skating contests.
Competition was tough at the Youth Olympics with the best skaters in the world posting competitive times.
"I didn't skate anywhere near my personal bests but I got a lot out of the event," said Freddie.
"I got to share the ice with the world’s best.
"The competition was very high and it was great to be there as it was a good learning experience for me."
Freddie originally started on the ice playing hockey after his older sisters began taking him to the rink when he was just five.
He played as a centre and grew up following the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sidney Crosby was Freddie's favourite player and he wore the same shirt number as him, number 87.
After joining the GB squad in July last year, Freddie stopped playing hockey soon after to concentrate more on speed skating.
"He has always liked speed skating over hockey," said Tracy.
"Mandy Worth is a former Olympian and Freddie’s club coach, she has always believed in him and encouraged him.
"She messaged us during the Olympics, and watched the races in the early hours of the morning here."
"Korea was very different to what we are used to," added Gary.
"It was minus-27 at one point," said Tracey.
"I have never seen snow on a beach before but we saw that over there."
“Speed skating is the main sport in South Korea," said Gary.
"People do the sport there because it is seen as a wealthy pursuit.
"The skaters there are treated like professional footballers are treated here.
"The races were held at the same venues where the Winter Olympics took place in 2018.
"In the space of a few hundred yards, they had skating, curling and hockey arenas."
"Speed skating in Asia is huge," said Freddie.
"China and South Korea are two nations who love the sport and because of this they have some of the best speed skaters in the world."
Freddie became the British Champion for the fifth time only weeks before he headed abroad to the Youth Olympic Games.
He now holds four British records in the sport and is gearing up for his next event, the International Skating Union Short Track Speed Skating World Cup.
The World Cup will be held in Heerenveen, Holland, and will start on February 17.
Freddie said his ultimate goal was to compate in the Milan 2026 Winter Olympics.