© Herald Photo by Perry Bergson
The Prince Albert Speedskating Club might be small in numbers, but it is big in talent as five members will be representing the district at the Saskatchewan Winter Games scheduled for Prince Albert next month. The group generally practises twice a week and have competed in a number of short-track competitions around the province to prepare for the Games. Shown in the photo are the local speedskaters who will be competing at the Winter Games. From left, Thomas Rusk, Lauren Rusk, Ria MacDonald, Jayden Bisskey and MaKenna Bloom.
They might be small in numbers, but the Prince Albert Speed Skating Club makes up for its membership shortage in talent.
Almost half of the regular members have qualified for the Lakeland district team that will compete at the Saskatchewan Winter Games in Prince Albert next month and if it wasn’t for an age limitation at the event there would be more.
Thomas Rusk, Jayden Bissky, Makenna Bloom, Ria MacDonald and Lauren Rusk have all qualified for the Winter Games with Prince Albert Speed Skating Club coach Ron Hlasny occupying a similar role with the Lakeland squad.
The local club has a total of 13 skaters, but the Winter Games have limited the age to 11-14-year-olds leaving several ineligible as they are either too young or too old.
Hlasny is a founding member of the local speed skating club as he formed the group back in 1991. In 25 years of coaching Hlasny notes that some years have more people interested while others see a decline due mainly to participation in other sports.
Hlasny points out that the speed skating club has plenty of options and levels of development for those who might want to take a crack at the unique sport.
“We could handle up to 35 pretty easily,” says Hlasny. “We have a good selection of skates.”
“It’s a completely different sport,” adds Hlasny, who competed for a number of years before he got into coaching. “It takes a while to get used to that blade. There is no real pressure; kids are supposed to have fun in sports.”
There are two learn-to-skate sessions offered by the club – one in the fall and another that just started in the New Year. Participants in this program skate once a week for eight weeks and during this time get familiar with the equipment, which features a much straighter and longer blade than what is on a traditional skate boot.
From there the skaters move into a group that learns the art of speed skating. Hlasny says there is a lot of strategy involved in speed skating, moreso on the short tracks as opposed to the long tracks that are outdoors.
The final group is for the more advanced skater and includes those who want to compete. The Prince Albert club participated in several short-track competitions in the fall and will now spend time training for the remainder of the season during their bi-weekly sessions at the Art Hauser Centre.
The quintet of local skaters going to the Winter Games is the latest group of local skaters to achieve a level of success in the sport. Elliott Nelson is a former member who went to the 2006 Saskatchewan Winter Games and captured four gold medals and also had a second-place finish. Nelson is presently with the Saskatchewan Speed Skating Team.
Current member Tristan Franc is moving in the same direction as he presently trains with the Saskatchewan Long Track Development Team in addition to skating with the local group.
The Prince Albert club has a number of qualified coaches and a great group of volunteers. Hlasny says the experience is something that more should take advantage of.
“We cover a wide area,” says Hlasny in reference to past members coming from Melfort, Shellbrook and Spiritwood among other locales. “Come out and try it for a couple of weeks (there is a two-week free trial available to everyone). If the kids want to try it they can.”
More information on the sport, and the Prince Albert Speed Skating Club itself, can be obtained by contacting the club at: email@example.com.
It is an unheralded sport, but one that always generates plenty of excitement at large events, such as the upcoming Winter Games in Prince Albert or even the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Prince Albert Speed Skating Club is the first step.