Potential speed skaters hit the ice for the first time in Calgary
Athletes from other sports hit the long track as part of RBC Training Ground
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.
"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."
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.
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.
"[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.
Speed Skating Canada isn't sure how long the participating athletes may need to become competitive in multi-sport events, such as the Olympics.
"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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