The cold around the Pomeroy Sport Centre oval may be uncomfortable to some, but for long track speed skaters, it welcomes a unique opportunity to reunite with old friends and get a new season underway.
For the local skaters who get the chance to train there on a weekly basis it’s a sanctuary where they get to hone their skills, and this week it’ll will be a welcoming venue for visiting skaters from across the province.
The Fort St. John Elks are once again hosting their annual summer skating camp and according to head coach Richard Stickel, it’s a chance for a group of like minded individuals to train together and with that, share their passion and ideas about the sport under one roof.
“It was probably the biggest camp in western Canada last year, it probably will be again, so it’s really good, we are really happy,” he said about the camp that is now in its fifth year of operation and has about 50 kids in attendance this week.
“We just want them to have a good opportunity to skate. We have some level five coaches — some national level coaches and just having different voices and having the kids hear a different way from what they normally do at their club is kind of what we are looking at.”
Some of those coaches include legendary national team coach from 1978 to 1994 Jack Walters, David Morrison, who is a regional development mentor for Speed Skating Canada, Mike Marshall and Mike Hall, who were both part of the National Long Track program in the 90s.
While the instructors bring plenty of on ice knowledge for the skaters, a lot of the camp is about the experience of the bond created between the athletes.
Elks skater Josh Telizyn,13, said along with just shaking off the rust, returning to the camp to catch up with skaters who you worked with last summer is always a big deal.
“Getting back on the ice,” he said, “during the summer you lose all that oopmh and stride and you forget how fun skating is. The main part is getting back on the ice and catching up with your friends.”
That bond, Stickel added, is a huge part of the sport and the community that it has created with these young skaters.
“It’s a sport where they run across a weekend here and a weekend there and they get to be really good friends,” he said.
“Some of their best friends get to be kids from different towns. So, when they get a chance to spend four or five days together they are pretty excited to do that, so it’s pretty good for them.”
The five day camp will be four days of technical skills both on and off the ice, including dryland training, mental preparation and skating technique. On the final day the skaters will get to test out their skills in a race setting.
For Stickel, the camp marks an opportunity to see what the season might hold for the club and as of now, he likes what he sees.
“I’m pretty excited to hit the ice and get started,” he said. “B.C. Winter Games will be the big focus … You can see kids really hit their stride. We are going to have a bigger group go to some of the bigger meets. We’re starting to have that group at that age that can go out and do some bigger meets.”