Minnesota ice tech preps for Olympic challenge

Figure skaters and speed skaters in PyeongChang will depend on ice made and maintained by a Minnesota man.

SAINT CLOUD, MINN. - Cory Portner is the ice man.

As the Associate Director of the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center at Saint Cloud State University, Portner is in charge of creating the perfect ice conditions for the Huskies. 

But last year, he was offered the gig of a lifetime - head ice technician for figure skating and short track speed skating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

"I’m nervous, it’s a good nervous," said Portner. "The first time I went over (to Pyeongchang), I knew zero about the culture. I knew zero (Korean)." 

But after his eighth trip to South Korea, "I've been able to pick up bits and pieces (of the language)." 

Portner's job is to make sure the ice conditions at the Gangneung Ice Arena, which seats 12,000 spectators, are perfect for figure skaters and short track speed skaters. 

"We did a lot of prep work with the facilities. I've got 3 sheets of ice that I have to look after," explained Portner.

Portner has never had any security issues in South Korea, but with the rising tensions with North Korea, the possibility of an attack from the regime is hard to shake off. 

"Although it’s a very real security threat, I’ve never felt unsafe the whole time I'm been there. You know how close you are, within an hour of being in North Korea," said Portner. "It's always in the back of my mind, my wife and my kids are always concerned when I’m over there." 

Security concerns aside, Portner is excited to watch USA athletes take home the gold and of course, "give the athletes a field of play that they deserve for the level of competition that they’re at." 

© 2017 TEGNA MEDIA


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