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Blizzard have a busy season ahead
Speed skating, especially short track, is a very simple sport: Go fast and turn left.
For members of the PG Blizzard speed skating club, those are words to live by, and they’ll be getting plenty of chances over the next couple of seasons to practice them at home.
With the Canada Winter Games coming to Prince George in 2015, this winter will see test events in all the sports, including both short track and long track skating. Ariadne Hiller is the sport leader for short track skating at the Games, and she says it should be a great event.
“We hope to have the fastest ice in B.C. at the Kin Centre for the Games,” she says. “Right now, the Coliseum is the fastest in B.C. for short track.”
Kin 1 will be used for the short track events at the Games, while the long track races will be held at the Outdoor Oval. Hiller says they are already gearing up for a test event for short track this winter.
“Things are going really, really well. Speed Skating Canada will be sending high-level officials to the test event to help train local people to be officials at the Games.”
The test events will also test every aspect of the facility and the volunteers, including transportation, the venue itself, and medical facilities. Hiller says they hope they never have to use the medical facilities, but it can happen.
“I was in Kitimat when the BC Games were held there, and we had a catastrophic injury. A skater had a skate blade pierce their lung. We saved a life because we had the proper medical equipment and staff.”
Samara Thew knows the dangers of short-track skating firsthand.
“I went into the boards headfirst during a race last year,” the 16-year-old says. “I was in the hospital for quite a while, wondering at first if I had a broken neck.”
That’s one of the reasons she prefers long-track skating.
“I do short track for the training, so I stay ready for long track.”
Samara has been speed skating for three years, but has been a figure skater for 13, and still does both.
“I like long track because it’s more like figure skating. It’s more of a solo event. When you’re on the ice, you’re never directly competing against another person at the same time really.”
She says the toughest part about making the change from figure skating to speed skating was getting used to the longer blade on the speed skate, as well as the lack of a toe pick.
“I’m still working on my technique, especially for my starts. I think I’ve got a lot of endurance, so I like the longer races. My favourite is the 3,000 (metres), because I can just keep going and the other racers usually fall away.”
Samara competed at the Short Track Single Distance races in Calgary at the end of September, her first major speed skating event.
“I wanted to get personal bests in my races, and I did, but not as much as I wanted.”
Carolina Hiller was another member of the Blizzard who was at Calgary, and she returned to Calgary last weekend for the Canadian Open National Qualifier, where she qualified for the nationals.
“This will be my second trip to the Nationals,” says the 16-year-old. “I was 27th last year in Toronto. This year, they’re in Montreal.”
Unfortunately, she says, you don’t get to see much of the city.
“There are practices and you skate in the races. There’s not much time to be a tourist.”
Carolina has been skating for 12 years, and says she thinks the start is key to her races.
“I get a good start. Last year, I was always first to the corner in every race. I think being in track helped with that.”
Along with Hiller, Alison Desmarais also qualified for the nationals. Desmarais splits her training between Vanderhoof, where she lives, and Prince George. Madison Pilling of the Blizzard also skated in the meet on the weekend, but was hampered by a knee injury.
Corine Masich is the vice-president of the Blizzard, as well as more.
“I’m also an advanced group coach, the marketing and media director, and the fundraising coordinator. We’re a small club, so we all keep busy.”
Her family joined the club seven years ago, and she says it’s nice at times that it is a small club.
“There’s a real sense of family, everyone takes care of everyone. Many of the parents are also officials, and it’s nice to know when you’re timing, that someone else is making sure your child is getting their skates tied up correctly for their next race.”
The Blizzard have about 50 skaters in the club this year, ranging in age for 4 to 60.
“We take a bit of a break in December for long-track skating,” Masich says. “It’s a pretty short season for us here.”
For more information on the PG Blizzard, go to their website at www.pgblizzrd.ca.