When it comes to the B.C. Winter Games, it seems the majority of the athletes are just happy to be there. This is an exciting event that athletes only get to compete in once, usually at age 14, and it gives them an opportunity to take on the best in the province in a more formal setting than they’re used to.
Unless, of course, the athletes in question are competing in speed skating. Matthew Mitchell, Emma North, Austin MacGregor, and Cheyanne Key will be representing the Fort St. John Elks, and are excited about the challenge of dominating the competition on home ice.
Not only do the Elks regularly compete at provincials and are among the best in B.C., they also have the home-ice advantage, having practiced at the Pomeroy Sport Centre most of their careers. “It’s great that our families and friends will be able to come watch us, and that we know what to expect,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell isn’t letting the spotlight or challenge get to him. Rather, he’s going into the competition looking for gold medals in long track and a silver or gold in short track.
“I’m skating really well this year and can’t wait to get the racing started,” Mitchell said.
The other advantage is, because the games are held in Fort St. John, long track speed skating was added to the sports list. The Elks are better at long track than short track overall, and are well-suited for the 2020 Games specifically.
“This might be the only year they do long track, and knowing it’s my only chance to compete at the B.C. Winter Games, I want to make it count,” MacGregor said.
MacGregor is the youngest speed skater competing, at 12 years old, and hopes to turn heads with a medal.
“It’s always exciting to have our skaters at the B.C. Winter Games, but it will be a whole different experience at home. We’re very happy for them,” said Elks Head Coach Richard Stickel.
The speed skaters, along with all the athletes, will be staying in rooms with their teams, and not at home despite competing in Fort St. John. As well, the medal presentations will be bigger, and there will be more people watching, making the event bigger than a typical Fort St. John speed skating meet in all regards.
“It’s really exciting, but there’s also more pressure. The medals are bigger, the stands will be more full, but I want to podium, that’s my main goal,” North said.
Key feels similarly.
“I’m both excited and nervous. I want to compete with the best in the province and do my best.
Speed skating starts on Friday, February 21 at 9 a.m.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at email@example.com.