World Allround Championships Are Home-Ice Opportunity for Speed Skaters

As Calgary welcomes the world’s best speed skaters to the Olympic Oval on the one-year anniversary of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, fans will have the opportunity to get to know a new-look Canadian Team of established veterans and emerging stars.

Over the past four years, Canadian speed skaters Kristina Groves, Clara Hughes and Jeremy Wotherspoon, through strong World Cup results and consistent World Championship success, led by example, fortifying both the strength and depth of the Canadian Team. With the retirement of Wotherspoon and Hughes and the concussion that has kept Kristina Groves on the sidelines, new faces have skated into the spotlight.

“The team is definitely different with the retirement of veteran skaters like Jeremy, Clara and Mike Ireland. They were leaders on our team, so it’s sad to see them go,” said speed skater Cindy Klassen, who earned five Olympic medals at the 2006 Games. “However, that’s part of sport, and now a new generation is rising up, and we have some strong young skaters to watch.”

With Klassen beginning to return to form, it’s been Olympic gold medalist Christine Nesbitt that has emerged as the most dominant female speed skater, with wins in every 1000m and 1500m World Cup race she’s competed in this season and a victory at the 2011World Sprint Championships.

On the men’s side, Lucas Makowsky, who won gold in the Team Pursuit with Mathieu Giroux and Denny Morrison at the 2010 Vancouver Games, is now a World Cup veteran and enjoys the excitement that comes with a team in transition.

“The new program structure with bigger training groups gave everyone a fresh start to the year ,” said Makowsky who has been competing in World Cup competition for five years. “It’s allowed me to train with other athletes like Kristina, who I’ve never trained with before. Personally, I try to learn from everyone around me so that in itself was inspiration for me. The new structure has also helped bring the entire team together, which makes it all the more exciting when we compete in international events.”

The team changes continue off the ice as well including a new group-training structure, where the four previous training groups at the Olympic Oval were merged into two large training groups with two National Team head coaches for each group. Two new coaches, Mark Wild and Bart Schouten, have joined Xiuli Wang and Mike Crowe to help coach the two groups.

“Following the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, we reviewed our program and decided to use more of a team approach,” said Sean Ireland, Long Track Program Director for Speed Skating Canada. “We reduced our number of training groups to two, allowing more collaboration between the skaters. It’s proved very efficient so far, allowing our veterans to remain elite while helping young up-and-coming skaters to gain valuable expertise as they make their debut on the international stage.”