Little kids often have big dreams. Many grow up wanting to be teachers, or professional athletes, or be just like mom and dad.
Emily Scott Githens? She knew early on that she wanted to be an Olympic athlete, a bold goal if ever there was one for a girl from Springfield.
A world champion as an inline skater in her youth, Scott Githens eventually transitioned to the ice and took up speed skating, becoming one of the top athletes in the world in her new sport. And in 2014, she achieved her goal of competing in the Olympics, representing the United States in Sochi. Her excellence on the ice is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Scott Githens with the Class of 2023.
Scott Githens began her athletics career on the rink – the roller rink. Inline skating was her first love. And she was good. Really good.
“I was four when I started inline skating,” she said. “My coach would skate backwards and hold out his hands for me to ‘chase’ him. That’s how I learned.”
Skating was a much-needed outlet for an athletic young girl.
“Skating came somewhat natural to me, and to say I lived at the skating rink would not be an overstatement,” Scott Githens said. “I loved chasing the older kids and trying to be better than them. Eventually they all quit the sport and I kept going.”
She kept going all the way to five inline skating World Championships. Eventually, she outgrew the sport but maintained her Olympic dream.
“For many years we hoped that roller skating would make it into the Olympics as a sport,” Scott Githens said. “When it became clear that wasn’t happening, we knew that to keep the dream alive, I would have to make the switch.”
Scott Githens excelled on the ice. She helped the United States to a team bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships in Warsaw, before winning silver in the 3000-meter relay the next year in Shanghai, helping lead the United States to a second-place team finish.
“We set small goals of winning Nationals, making the World Team, winning Worlds,” Scott Githens said. “Eventually, I had accomplished all the goals we set, so next up was the Olympics. I felt like if I continued to put in the work, it could be possible.”
With the 2014 Olympics right around the corner, Scott Githens wasn’t guaranteed a spot on the Olympic team. Once again, she had to earn it. And earn it she did, placing second in both 500-meter short track races. The Olympic dream was fulfilled.
“After I secured my spot on the Olympic team, I ran to the stands to find my dad and coach,” she said. “With tears in my eyes the only thing I could say was ‘WE DID IT!’ It was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Over 20 years of work and we finally did it.”
At Sochi, Scott Githens competed in the 500m, and reached the finals of the 1500m, finishing fifth after being knocked to the ice by a competitor.
While she didn’t medal at the Olympics, Scott Githens is grateful for what speedskating gave to her and her family.
“Skating gave me an outlet to dream and travel the world, something that I likely wouldn’t have had if not for the sport,” she said. “I believe I had the success I did because I was reminded of the sacrifices that my family made for me to be the best. I didn’t want to let myself down but, most importantly, the people that believed in me.”
As with any athlete, Scott Githens didn’t succeed on her own. Whether it was her father, Craig, or her coach, Ted Hall, she had support along every path.
“I have always said that my dad is my hero,” she said. “We didn’t have much growing up, but we were also never without. My dad worked seven days a week to be able to support my skating. Ted treated me like one of his own since I was four. He owned the skating rink that I skated at and taught me everything I knew. There were times I would try to quit but he never let me.”
That support network also includes former coach Derrick Parra, fellow athletes Guy Thibault and Monique Gagnon and, of course, her husband, Alex, of whom she says, “He is the best father and husband that I could have dreamt up for myself.”
As for her induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Scott Githens is both honored and humbled.
“I am honored to be the first speed skater inducted, but certainly hope that I am not the last,” she said. “I could have never fathomed as a 4-year-old little girl that someday my name would be in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.”