Kamloops speedskater from Colombia defies expectations

One of the fastest skaters at the Kamloops Long Blades Skating Club put on his first pair of ice skates a less than six months ago.

Isaiah Jessie skates on blades that used to belong to Olympic silver medalist Jessica Hewitt

Isaiah Jessie (left) arrived in Kamloops last September and was eager to start skating, said coach Sandi Vyse (right). (Jennifer Chrumka/CBC)

One of the fastest skaters at the Kamloops Long Blades Speed Skating Club put on his first pair of ice skates a less than six months ago.

Isaiah Jessie, 14, arrived in B.C. from Colombia as an exchange student in September and immediately set his sights on the rink.

"By the end of the first week, he was already out skating with the fast guys, and by the second week he was doing push-relay," said Sandi Vyse, Jessie's coach.

"He progressed really quickly."

After one month of skating, he went to a national long-track competition at the Calgary Olympic Oval and Vyse says he "did really well there."

14-year-old speed skater Isaiah Jessie practising in Kamloops. (Jennifer Chrumka/CBC)

It turns out Jessie already had some of the skills and muscles necessary for speedskating, before he took his first wobbly steps on Kamloops ice.

He competed in in-line skating races in Colombia and it didn't take long for him to transfer those skills onto the ice.

Isaiah says he hopes to compete on the world stage one day.

"I dream to be a really good skater and to go to the Olympics, in some big race, to represent my country."

Colombia joined the International Skating Union this year, which means their athletes are now able to enter international speedskating competitions, according to Vyse.

In Olympic company

Isaiah brought his own pair of in-line skate boots to Kamloops and Vyse attached blades so he could wear them out on the ice.

But it soon became apparent that the generic blades Vyse had given him would not be good enough, so Vyse switched them out for something better.

Now, Isaiah skates on the blades of hometown hero and Olympic silver medalist Jessica Hewitt.

Speed skating coach Sandi Vyse found a pair of spare blades that belonged to Olympian Jessica Hewitt and gave them to Jessie Isaiah, a 14-year old Colombian exchange student. (Jennifer Chrumka/CBC)

He says the support in Kamloops has made all the difference in his learning exchange experience.

"All these people, they make me feel like part of their family."

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Kamloops speedskater from Colombia defies expectations.


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