Potential speed skaters hit the ice for the first time in Calgary

Calgary's Olympic Oval regularly hosts speed skaters who are training for their next competition. But over the August long weekend a unique group of athletes hit the track, many of whom had never actually tried the sport before.

Athletes from other sports hit the long track as part of RBC Training Ground

Athletes who have never tried the sport before attend a speed skating training camp at the Calgary Olympic Oval. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Athletes from across Western Canada without any previous experience in speed skating were training at Calgary's Olympic Oval over the August long weekend to learn how to compete on the long track.

Speed Skating Canada is participating in the RBC Training Ground program for the first time, testing athletes from sports such as track and field, hockey or ringette.

Ten athletes from across Western Canada made the cut to train as speed skaters through the RBC Training Ground program. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"We've narrowed it down to 10 athletes from Western Canada to come here to try out to be speed skaters," said Mark Wild, national coach with Speed Skating Canada.

"Normally speed skaters start when they're young. They start as speed skaters and perhaps don't do a lot of different sports."

Mark Wild is a national coach with Speed Skating Canada based in Calgary. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

According to the coach and former short and long track skater, many speed skaters start as young as age six. The people being tested through the Training Ground program are typically good athletes who could be moved into the sport without having trained since childhood.

"That's the beauty of this program. It gives national sport organizations a non-traditional way of streamlining athletes into the programs," said Wise.

Gavin Broadhead (left) is trained by speed skating coach Mark Wild in Calgary. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Former hockey player Gavin Broadhead came to Calgary for the weekend from his hometown of Hay River, N.W.T. to try speed skating for the first time.

"The first ice session was tricky because the blades are way different but I'm in good shape and I'm having a lot of fun with it." said Broadhead.

"The skates are really fast," he added.

"We actually switched back to our hockey skates after the speed skates and you felt a lot slower," said Winnipeg ringette player Raeanne Wysocki. 

Ten athletes from across Western Canada were selected to train in speed skating for the RBC Training Ground program. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"[Speed skates are] very different compared to hockey skates or ringette skates where you need a lot more effort to get your speed up," said Wysocki, who is studying at the University of Manitoba and said she had never been on speed skates before the training camp over the weekend.

Raeanne Wysocki is a competitive ringette player who attends the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and tried speed skating for the first time in Calgary. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Speed Skating Canada isn't sure how long the participating athletes may need to become competitive in multi-sport events, such as the Olympics. 

Ringette player Raeanne Wysocki (right) takes speed skating training at Calgary's Olympic Oval. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

"There's no set timeline on how quickly somebody can become a speed skater," said Wild.

"We saw an athlete like Cindy Klassen transfer from hockey to Canada's most decorated Winter Olympian, and she did that in five to six years."

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About the Author

Anis Heydari

Video Journalist

Anis Robert Heydari has worked in jobs ranging from cleaning up oil spills to fixing phone lines, but all those roads eventually led to being a jack-of-all-trades and CBC News reporter. Reach him at anis@cbc.ca.