It’s rare to hear talk of a break in the weather at minus-25.
After a week of record-breaking cold in Red Deer, the weekend finally brought some reprieve. It also allowed more than 130 skaters to hit the outdoor oval at Setters Place for the second annual Jeremy Wotherspoon Open, hosted by the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club.
Red Deer coach Nick Schultz said his club was forced inside most of the week to do dryland training, but the kids were happy to hit the ice for the annual competition on the weekend.
“The weather this week contributed to some skater stress and some stressful parents,” he said.
“But the day of the event, the weather is slightly better, kids are eager to skate. They are showing and proving that as chilly as it is, they know what they’re doing and they’re doing well.”
Brinley Davidson, 16, has been skating with the Lions for a decade and said the opportunity to skate on the oval in Red Deer is a special one every time.
“It’s amazing to have this facility like this and the ice quality is great, I can’t believe it’s here in Red Deer. I live outside of town, but it’s nice to come here and show other clubs and open up the sport to other people,” she said.
“You can try something new that you can not know you love until you try it.”
The calm before the cold. Skaters in the (warm) marshalling area at the annual Jeremy Wotherspoon Open. It’s a balmy -25 today, but just warm enough they can skate! @RDSpeedSkating @AB_SpeedSkating pic.twitter.com/UNftIxZX8s
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) January 18, 2020
Davidson, who has competed all across Canada in both long and short track, said what’s kept her coming back to the sport is all the unique people you meet at competitions across Canada.
“I love the people. The environment and atmosphere is amazing. Just to hang out and the skating, I love the feel of being on the ice. Gliding and the hard work really gets me, I love being able to accomplish something,” she said.
Kids of all ages from Lloydminster, Edmonton, Calgary, Banff and Lethbridge hit the oval over the course of the event, but it was particularly important for competitors between the ages of 11-15. Those athletes were battling for a qualifying spot at the Canadian Youth Long Track Championships, which will be held in Red Deer from Feb. 8-9.
“This is a provincial qualifier for the Canadian Youth Long Track national level race, which we are lucky enough to be hosting. The top racers from each of the categories will be pre-selected to attend that national race,” said Schultz.
“A lot of the skaters have known that from the beginning of the season and have been training and working hard towards that.”
Red Deer was selected to host that event after Speed Skating Canada saw how Setters Place operated last year during the Canada Winter Games.
“For the club and the organizers, this national-level race has been on our calendar for a year now,” Schultz said from Setters Place on Saturday.
“We know with this venue being an amazing venue and with the organization of our club, as well as the outside volunteers, that we can put on a local race, but we can successfully host a national level race.”