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Olympic speed skater returns to Ottawa to volunteer at at his old arena

The Ottawa speed skater that holds the national record for the 1,000-metre race is returning to volunteer at the local arena where he first sharpened his skates.

Vincent De Haitre holds the Canadian senior record for the 1,000-metre

Ottawa's Vincent De Haitre celebrates his second-place finish in the first men's 1000-metre competition at the ISU world sprint speed skating championships in Calgary. He's in Ottawa to volunteer at an age-class championship. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Vincent De Haitre may be a budding star and a Canadian record holder, but he hasn't forgotten about the Cumberland arena where his speed skating ambitions all started.

The 22-year-old Ottawa skater is volunteering this weekend at the Bob MacQuarrie Recreation Complex, the site of the Canada East Short Track Championships.

It's the same arena where De Haitre got his own training in short track speed skating. He'll be doing the same kinds of things volunteers did when he started out — handing out water bottles, setting pucks, tracking scores and times.

"I've spent about 12 years of my life in that arena skating short track, so going back [makes for some] nice little fond memory flashbacks," De Haitre told Giacomo Panico, host of CBC Radio's In Town and Out.

"[The championships are] very volunteer-run so without people coming back and helping it really wouldn't go over so well," he said. "I think it's important to come back to the track and help out the ones that help you."

The competition runs Saturday and Sunday and will include "future stars" competing against each other, De Haitre said.

One to watch

While De Haitre trained in Cumberland in short track, he actually made Canada's long track speed skating team at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Earlier this year, he won the silver medal in the 1,000-metre event at the 2017 ISU World Single Distance Championships. He also broke the 1,000-metre Canadian men's senior record, previously held by Jeremy Wotherspoon — prompting Wotherspoon to dub De Haitre the guy to watch in Canadian speed skating.

"I try and not see it as pressure," De Haitre said. "I see it as motivation. Knowing that one of Canada's greatest is saying that I'm one of the guys to watch is definitely a huge confidence boost — and with that comes the motivation to prove him right."

De Haitre said he spends most of his time training in Calgary, though he does try to get back to Ottawa to volunteer. He said he only was able to spend about 20 hours in Ottawa last summer, presenting sports awards at his high school.

Listen here to De Haitre's conversation on In Town and Out — in which he talks about "Quadzilla," his experience at the Sochi Winter Olympics and why wearing red racing stripes on his competition outfit was perhaps a bad idea.