A pair of young speed skaters training in North Saanich are hoping to reach the Canada Games next season and are already making great strides in that direction.
Toria Kalyinuk and Peyton Stonehouse-Smith train with the Peninsula Speed Skating Club, based at the Panorama Recreation Centre, and are coached by Brenda Hennigar, a three-time national long track champion and former national team member. She said both girls contacted her, saying they were interested in expanding their repertoire on the ice from short track to long track events.
“Perhaps they were inspired by Hamish Black,” Hennigar said.
Black trained in Victoria with Ian Hennigar before moving to Calgary in 2014, in order to train for the Olympics on long track speed skating.
“They asked me if I would consider coming back to coaching to help them with skating long track, so in doing that we’ve been working together for the past six months,” she said.
The skaters had to learn how to use the ‘clap’ skates — the long blades that are not connected at the back of the boot. She said there was a learning curve but they took to it well.
“They’re working really, really hard.”
Hennigar said the pair have been learning how to skate in the 400 metre oval in Calgary — during the CanAm International event in November. She said skaters on the Island do not have access to courses of that length. While in Alberta, the pair skated well among 118 other competitors from six different countries.
The Jan. 12 to 14 weekend, Kalyinuk was back in Calgary for the Alberta Open Long Track event. Competing in her first Under 15 age group competition, Kalyinuk was hoping to reach the top ten. Henniger said she skated to a couple seventh place finishes, as well as an eighth and a ninth place — finishing in ninth place overall. She even took part in a 300-metre mass start event, which will be a new Winter Olympic event.
Kalyinuk and Stonehouse-Smith are both in Fort St. John Jan. 20 and 21 for the provincial speed skating championships. They will compete in both short and long track events, Hennigar said. Stonehouse-Smith will take part in her first Under 20 Junior Olympic Division event as a 15 year old.
Depending on how they do there, Hennigar said the skaters could be in a position to represent B.C. at the Canadian Age Class Championships in Quebec in February. As well, they are also going to be skating at the BC Winter Games next month in Kamloops.
Hennigar said the girls are training hard and working to be able to compete at a national level.
“They have been competing in qualifying events this year, to be able to try out for the Canada Games team next year,” she said.