The gigantic spotlight on Vancouver this month turned to Elmira for a brief moment as Olympia ice-resurfacers, locally made products shipped to the west coast for the Games, made two Olympic-sized errors on the world stage earlier this week.
The machine struggled during a speed skating event at the Winter Games, leaving behind a pile of snow and a puddle of water in the middle of a competition after a mechanical breakdown – twice. On Sunday, the first machine regurgitated hot water and waste ice shavings onto the racing surface, briefly delaying the women’s 3,000-metre event and the following day the backup unit also acted up, scratching holes in the ice that took more than an hour to fix. The problem was reportedly traced to a lever that drops the blade that resurfaces the ice.
Olympias are made by Elmira-based Resurfice Corp., founded in 1967 and owned by the Schlupp family. Its products are distributed in 12 countries. The company provided 17 Olympia machines to keep the Olympic rinks in top condition for the ice sports events, and four technicians were on site to keep the machines themselves in top shape.
For the local company, insult was added to injury when organizers arranged for a Zamboni, the company’s rival, to be rushed to the Richmond Olympic oval from the Calgary Olympic oval, the site of the 1988 speed skating event.
Both Andy Schlupp and Don Schlupp, the company’s technical and marketing manager, were in Vancouver in case of any problems with the battery-powered equipment there. The company has determined that the breakdown of the ice-resurfacing machines at the Richmond site earlier this week occurred because of an electrical malfunction.
“This was a maintenance issue, not a design issue,” said Don Schlupp in a release. “We take personal pride in every machine we produce. Contrary to what some reports have suggested, these machines are not prototypes. They have been in service at the oval for almost two years, and this problem has never occurred before.”
The malfunction has been fixed, Schlupp noted, and the Olympia machine performed up to standard in time for the women’s 500-metre speed skating event.
“The timing of the malfunctions at the oval was unfortunate, and athlete safety is our primary concern,” he added, “but the problem was minor and we’ve got it fixed.”
The Olympias were back in running order and put back into service Tuesday as the Zamboni arrived, but the problems had already received international play courtesy of the massive media contingent covering the Games.