Some of Canada’s top long track speed skaters are taking advantage of facilities in Red Deer.
Speed Skating Canada has approval from Alberta Health to train at Great Chief Park’s Setters Place outdoor oval over the next two months.
Members of the national team are set to train in Red Deer three times a week between December in January and Wednesday made for some idyllic conditions on the outdoor oval.
“It’s a fantastic facility, the quality of the ice is really good,” said Mark Wild, Speed Skating Canada’s long track national and development team coach.
“We know it’s new and we know it’s fresh, the quality of the ice we’re able to train on has been excellent.”
In a year that is anything but typical, Canada’s best long track speed skaters have been forced to adapt in all sorts of ways.
The latest hiccup came when the ice at their home training facility on Calgary’s Olympic Oval was made unavailable due to a mechanical issue.
Last month, the team found refuge in Fort St. John, B.C., and ran a two-week training camp on an indoor oval there, before returning to Calgary.
“The athletes, as well as the coaches are learning how to adapt. These are some skill sets that you don’t necessarily plan for or plan to train,” Wild said.
“In many ways, the resilience the athletes have shown through the whole season has really been one that’s going to benefit them in the long run.”
With suitable long track training facilities tricky to come by in Alberta, the team turned to the site of the 2019 Canada Winter Games to host its training.
“We knew the weather was cooperating and it allowed the ice facility (in Red Deer) to be set up and in operation. We went through the process with the City of Red Deer, ensuring that our safety protocols around COVID-19 met the demands and needs of the Alberta government,” Wild said.
Some of the Canadian team on the ice Wednesday included two-time Olympian Gilmore Junio as well as development team member, Brooklyn McDougall who won a collection of medals on the same ice two years ago in Red Deer.
Wild added that it was nice to see the skaters outdoors and smiling, for some an ode to their earlier days in the sport.
“Some of those memories they have skating as kids or that enjoyment factor, in a sport they all love is there and it’s a nice thing as a coach to see athletes train with smiles on their faces,” he said.
In November, the International Skating Union approved a hub concept for the long track World Cup events, which will likely take place sometime in early 2021.
Speed Skating Canada has said they plan to have athletes participate on the world stage next year if it’s safe to do so.