The Alberta Winter Games kick off Friday in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the Zone 4 contingent is stacked with medal hopefuls.
More than 150 local athletes from Central Alberta will represent the area and compete for medals, pride and all the experience that comes with it.
Twenty sports in total will be contested at the games from speed skating to hockey and every other winter sport in between.
There will also be some indoor sports including badminton, gymnastics, wrestling, and volleyball. Athletes from ages 11-17 will compete. The event will kick off on Feb. 16 and wrap up on Feb. 19.
There’s a variety of reasons athletes will suit up at the games said Zone 4 speed skating coach Nick Schultz and even on the ice for speed skaters it varies.
“For a lot of them, the racing will feel normal because they’re racing against the same kids and doing the same distances and have the same rules,” he said.
“The difference is that it’s for them. It’s for athletes. For a lot of these kids, this may be the highest level of competition they reach… Red Deer has a very strong lineage as far as producing some world-class level skaters out of Central Alberta. Some of these kids may be the next one… some may not reach any higher, but some may see this as a building block to the next thing.”
For the group local speed skaters in particular who will attend the games, it’s been a difficult season. They haven’t been able to use their brand new outdoor oval at Setters Place because of ice making difficulties, but it hasn’t stopped them from getting their training in.
Schultz said they’ve been making use of the indoor ice at Kinex in order to get ready for the games, which will have athletes compete in short track relays, as well as several of the typical short track distances. He said the unique experience of both the relay and building up points for the zone will be a strong development point for the 12 skaters from Central Alberta.
“Typically speed skating is an individual sport but we do some work with relays which is groupings of two, three or four skaters. But going to the games, we are all going as a team,” Schultz said.
“So we get an opportunity to represent our zone as a team which is not something speed skaters get an opportunity to do. This is the one event where we are really trying to promote that this is a team.. we should be proud of that.”
Three skaters from Red Deer headline the speed skating crew with Eoin Wolfe, Jackson Schultz, and Daniel Revie representing zone 4. Charlotte Cutts and Teresa Cutts of Lacombe, along with Cooper Moore (Rimbey) and Brinley Davidson (Red Deer County) and also five skaters from Rocky Mountain House, Elizabeth Barnett, Eleita Collinson, Tyler Larson, Mark Malthouse and Brianne Melvin will compete.
For a full list of the Central Alberta athletes that will attend the games, head to www.albertagames.rampinteractive.com/public/results.aspx.