Fort St. John Elks’ speed skater Jacob Graham left for Quebec City on Wednesday to compete in the Canadian Junior Championships Feb. 1-3 where he’s hoping to make the podium this time around.
Last year at the same event Graham, 15, finished fourth in the sprint division.
“I did pretty good last year, so hopefully I can get a podium finish this year,” he said from the B.C. Long Track Championships on Sunday.
“It went really good [this weekend] and I think I’m going to skate really well in Quebec. I’m getting really excited,” he said. “I already missed out on the Junior World Trials to go to Italy, so there’s nothing huge that I really have to do this year so I’m just going to go there and have fun with it and do the best I could.”
At the provincial long tracks at the Pomeroy Sport Centre this past weekend, Graham only competed in three races, two 500 metres and the 1,000 to “warm up” for Quebec City.
“I just wanted to come here for a bit of race prep and stay on the edge,” Graham explained at the time. “I still treated it as if I would for any race, it was just physically and mentally to prepare myself [for Quebec].”
Graham finished second in the 500 m with a time 0:37.82 as well as second in the 1,000 m, both finishes only a second after national speed skater Jay Morrison.
“I think his second 500 and 1,000 were the best races I’ve seen him do,” said Graham’s speed skating coach Richard Stickel. “His times were really good, and I think he’ll do well there. He’s on a mission to show what he can do and I think it’s going to be really special.”
“It’s a brand new thing being really, really good and he’s not surprising anyone anymore,” Stickel added. “He’s going there and they know who he is, so it’s good to go there and skate and have expectations of yourself.”
Graham, who’s in Grade 11 at Dawson Creek Secondary School, is still adjusting to competing at the high performance level, but is determined to medal in Quebec City. He still has two years left in the Junior category and said he has plenty of time to prove himself and make it to Worlds.
“I think my 500 m is probably my best [race], but my 1,000 is pretty close. From then on the longer ones start to really hurt me,” he said.
“I think [Quebec City] will be really good.”
Graham will be joined by fellow Dawson Creek speed skater Braden Clouthier, 18, who trains out of Calgary. The Junior Championships begin Friday at the Gaetan-Boucher National Centre with the finals scheduled for Sunday.