The Active Interns: Speed Skating

Speed skating is a fast paced, adrenaline-filled sport that combines technique and composure. Speed skating has always been a sport that has beenon my radar, as Canada has done incredibly well in the sport with speed skaters such as: Clara Hughes, Charles Hamelin, and of course Catriona Le May Doan claiming gold medals at the highest stage in the sport.

In this edition of the Active Interns I will be trying out and exploring the sport of speed skating with The Calgary Grizzlies Speed Skating Club and The Calgary Speed Skating Association (CSSA).

If you aren’t familiar with the sport check out the video below!

An Introduction to Speed Skating and Background

Canadian Long Track Gold Medalist and Sport Calgary Senior Director of Community & Sport Engagement, Catriona Le May Doan

Canadian Long Track Gold Medalist and Sport Calgary Senior Director of Community & Sport Engagement, Catriona Le May Doan

Speed Skating is a competitive form of ice skating in which the competitors race each other in travelling a certain distance on skates. Types of speed skating are long track speed skating, short track speed skating, and marathon speed skating. In the Olympic Games, long-track speed skating is usually referred to as just "speed skating", while short-track speed skating is known as "short track" The ISU, the governing body of both ice sports, refers to long track as "speed skating" and short track as "short track skating" (Wikipedia, para. 1)

Long Track Canadian Speed Skater and Olympic Medalist, Clara Hughes

Long Track Canadian Speed Skater and Olympic Medalist, Clara Hughes

Long Track Speed Skating is done in pairs, counterclockwise, on two lanes of a 400m oval track, the skaters change lanes every lap in order to equalize the distance covered. The skater in the outside lane has the right-of-way at the crossover if the skaters arrive at the same time.

Pairs are selected by a draw held by the referee the night before the first race. A random draw designates the starting lanes, inner or outer, and the starting order for each group. Separate draws are held for each race. The skater starting in the inner lane wears a white armband and the skater in the outer lane wears a red armband. 

Canadian Short Track Speed Skater Charles Hamlin

Canadian Short Track Speed Skater Charles Hamlin


Short Track Speed Skating Instead of racing in pairs as in long track, short track skaters mass start with four to eight skaters on the starting line. Positions are drawn by lot and the competition pits skater against skater. Strategies and tactics are very important in a race. Races are often won by the smartest rather than the fastest skater. The roots of speed skating date back over a millennium to Scandinavia, Northern Europe and the Netherlands, where the natives added bones to their shoes and used them to travel on frozen rivers, canals and lakes.

My Experience with Speed Skating with the Calgary Grizzlies

Matt first starting off the speed skating session looking like a baby deer on the ice

Matt first starting off the speed skating session looking like a baby deer on the ice

Upon arriving at the Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge, I was ready to jump out of my shoes and onto the ice with our other Sport Calgary Intern Adriane. This summer, when the Active Interns was still in the planning phase, Sport Calgary’s Catriona Le May Doan encouraged me to try out the sport.

At first I was tentative, because I have never been the strongest skater, however, I was up to the test. After reaching out to the Calgary Grizzlies and CSSA, representatives from both were excited at the opportunity. I was introduced to Marc Poulin and Josie Duab who are the respective Presidents of each organization. They were both excited to showcase the sport.

After lacing up my skates and stepping onto the ice, my first impression of the skates was how different they felt from the hockey skates I was initially taught how to skate in. The most noticeable difference I found was how easy it was to turn and manoeuvre on the skates in contrast to hockey skates. This increased mobility I felt was sourced to the longer blades found on speed skates as well as the smaller boot portion of the skate.

To compare speed skates to hockey skates, think of hockey skates as high top shoes where speed skates would be more similar to a low cut shoe. In short track speed skating, skaters will often wear speed skates that go higher up on the ankle to provide more support going into sharper turns, whereas in long track the skates provide less ankle support and are designed for more manoeuvrability and comfort.

I really enjoyed the session! The coaches were all great giving us little pointers throughout my time on the ice.

At the end of the session Catriona made an appearance and encouraged me to try on a speed skating suit and take a couple laps. I mean, when an Olympic gold medalist tosses you a suit, how do you say no to that?

After I put the suit on, as well as the “speed” goggles provided by Adriane, I felt like I fit right in.

 
Matt at the end of the session wearing a long track speed skating suit

Matt at the end of the session wearing a long track speed skating suit

 

After taking a couple more laps in the suit it felt like I was ready to hop onto the ice in Beijing in 2022. Overall, the experience was amazing! It was great learning about the different opportunities the Grizzlies and CSSA provide for those interested in trying the sport and why people should check speed skating out. 

About The Calgary Grizzlies Speed Skating Club and The Calgary Speed Skating Association 

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The Grizzlies take a key role in promoting and developing Short Track and Long Track Speed Skating on the basis of friendship and mutual understanding with other club. The Grizzlies are dedicated to broadening the interest in Speed Skating with PRIDE!

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The Calgary Grizzlies offer a wide array of programs for all ages interested in trying the sport or taking it to the next level. The Grizzlies first offer the Learn to Speed Skate program designed for kids between 4 and 9 who have some experience skating. For those interested in taking the sport to the next level, the Grizzlies also offer the Learn to Train and Advanced programs for people who are interested in staying in the sport competitively.

The Calgary Speed Skating Association similarly to the Grizzlies offers various programs that encourage anyone interested in the sport an opportunity to try it out. CSSA offers youth programs that teach everything from the fundamentals to how skaters can take the next step in their training.

For those interested in perusing the sport after the early years, CSSA offers teen programs as well. These programs falls within the Train to Train progressing to the Learning to Compete level of development. Skaters need to commit to a higher volume and higher intensity training throughout the year.

Last The Calgary Speed Skating Association supports adult athletes at all levels of development in their participation and enjoyment of the sport of speed skating. CSSA has programs for those who want to try short or long track speed skating as well as coached sessions available for those who want to refine their technique on the ice.

Thanks once again to both organizations for having us out and stay tuned for the next installment of The Active Interns!