Inside the workshop that helps Team USA glide to gold

Athletes make their way around the ice during a training session at Team USA's speed skating headquarters in Kearns, Utah. 
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In the sport of speed skating one second can be the difference between a gold medal and last place. So getting an extra edge is crucial. 

Inside Team USA's speed skating headquarters, Chris Needham makes sure athletes have the right equipment to glide across the ice with ease.

"Every single one of our athletes is on a custom boot, they are made out of carbon fiber, they are extremely light," Needham explained. 

As the team's talent coordinator and skate technician it's his job to make sure each athlete has the perfect skate.  "This is so so critical, so absolutely critical and something we spent the last four years working on," Needham says. 

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There are really two parts to a skate: there is a boot and a blade. And while the blade is just 1.1 millimeters thick, making sure that's sharp on race day is critical. 

"One thing that we always say is, you can have the most expensive, best fitting boots in the world, and you can have the most well tuned blades in the world and the highest quality everything, but if you don't have a good edge, it's all for not, it's essentially having a race car with bald tires," he described. 

Inside Chris's Olympic workshop there are two types of skates. Short track blades are fixed to the boot while long track skates, or clap skates, attach firmly to the boot only at the front and the heel detaches from the blade. That different allows the skater to lengthen their stride to get more power into the ice through the length of the stride, according to Needham. 

And while athletes are getting stronger and faster, according to Needham, the boots are a big reason why the speed skating world has seen over a dozen world records set in the past decade.

Athletes will compete Jan. 2-7 at the U.S. Olympic long track trials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to try and earn a spot on the Olympic team.