Despite starting as an adult, Hamish Black has shown a natural ability on the speed skating short track.
The 26-year-old only took the sport up two years ago, when he showed up to the Esquimalt Speedskating Club’s first session of the season.
“I remember that day, it was a gong show, as the first skate of the season can be,” said club president Ian Phillips. “That was before I knew (Black). I got on the ice and I saw him out there skating, falling down and I thought, ‘We’ll have to watch this guy.’”
Watch him they have.
Black not only impressed the club coaches with his knack for an efficient stride and progress as a fluid skater (he won the club’s skater of the year award for 2012-13), but also his all-around attitude. He’s been great with the kids and is always eager to put put up and take down the wall padding for each session, Phillips said.
This week, Black has taken a leap of faith as he left his Gordon Head home to train and live full-time in Calgary, one of Canada’s havens for the sport. To do it, Black leaves behind his job as the manager of TeenWork, a youth employment program at UVic’s CanAssist. It’s a necessary sacrifice to chase a dream of competing nationally and internationally, he said.
“If you asked me two years ago when I showed up here, no way would I believe I’d be moving to Calgary for skating,” Black said.
In Calgary, Black will work to build world-class power into his stride, something he believes he can do, as he was a competitive nordic skier before he left Ontario for the University of Victoria in 2007.
When he initially arrived in Greater Victoria, he did try other sports including UVic’s novice rowing program, but none were the right fit. In 2012, he “Googled” speed skating and found the only two clubs in the region, Esquimalt and the Peninsula Speed Skating Club at Panorama. Black joined both short track clubs (there are no long track clubs here) so he could get on the ice five times each week.
“The more I do this, the more I like it,” Black said.
It paid off, as he was invited to spend three weeks at a speed skating development camp in Calgary this summer. He did it again in September, which led to the full time invite. It will be on his own dime, but the support community is said to be very helpful, providing part time jobs that work around the training schedule.
“Even with a lack of competition experience, the camp coaches said I’ve shown enough that they are interested in having me there to train all year. That’s enough for me,” Black said.
It’s been a speedy ride since his first racing competition, when Black fell in most of his heats but did win a long race that turned some heads, Phillips said.
“(Black) prepared very hard for Calgary. He’s very keen and passionate about the sport, you can see that,” Phillips added.
Black’s season includes four Canada Cup events, which will eventually determine his progress.
“We know it’s unlikely Black will make the national team,” Phillips said. “Hopefully he makes me eat my words, because you can never rule it out.”