The Canadian National Speed Skating Long Track Team participated in a free public skate with the community at the Pomeroy Sport Centre last night, August 30. Prior to the skate, the City of Fort St. John and the team held a short ceremony introducing the team and welcoming them to Fort St. John.
“I’ve never been to Fort St. John before. We’re very excited, and this is a beautiful facility that we’re very excited to use,” said Coach Bart Shouten about the Pomeroy Sport Centre.
Fort St. John’s Denny Morrison spoke to those in attendance and thanked the community for having the team there. He mentioned the hard work that Elks coach Jenn Gibson and vice president Wim Kok had in building up the Elks program and hosting the national camp.
“We’re so grateful to the city for having us here. The entire country is represented here in Fort St. John,” Morrison said.
Ted-Jan Bloemen, who won gold in the 10,000m at the 2018 Olympics earlier this year, was excited to be in Fort St. John and to have a camp away from Calgary where the team normally trains.
“It’s nice to change the venue and get away from home so you’re more focused on training and skating,” said Bloemen.
Valerie Maltais, who recently made the switch from short track to long track, is at her first national long track camp and is looking forward to the challenge.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to be able to skate at a good level, and I’m excited to skate tomorrow,” Maltais said.
The women arrived at the Fort St. John Airport at 5 p.m. last night, an hour before the ceremony, and had their first ice time this morning. The men have been here all week, and have been able to work with the local Elks skaters as well.
“It’s nice we can be here to support the kids, and show them how we train, and hopefully inspire them for the future,” Bloemen said.
Bloemen reflected on winning the gold medal six months ago and how he feels about it now.
“It’s a weird feeling. You dream of it for all of your life. I’m not 20, I’ve been trying for a long time, and to become Olympic champion at 31 years old is very emotional and hard to process,” he said.
Bloemen said he took a long and much needed vacation with his wife after the season ended, and started training and getting into shape a little later this summer than normal, which he said made it harder to get back to where he needs to be.
“I needed that, and now I’m fit and in camp and eager to get back to competing,” Bloemen said.