Clipper alumnus on the cutting edge

Alison Desmerais to give us an update on her activities her sport

Alison Desmerais competing in the Montreal at Canadian Senior Selections #2 March 9-12

Editors note: Last week I asked speed skater Alison Desmerais to give us an update on her activities and explain to us a bit about her sport.

She wrote us a lovely newsletter. Enjoy!

“The competition I just returned from was Canadian Senior Selections #2 which is a fancy name for the third national ranking competition of the season. The way short track works is throughout the season there are three competitions that count toward your national ranking and the rest of the competitions are just for experience. How well we finish this season determines if we get to go to fall world cup selections (only top 14 skaters qualify) but since this year is Olympic year the Fall World Cup Selections are olympic trials instead. My goal going into this season was to qualify for Olympic Trials and I’m happy to say I did!

Going into this competition I knew I wanted to finish in the top ten to give me a top 14 finish for the 2016/17 season and qualify for Olympic Trials, which take place mid to late August 2017. I already had a 15th place finish in FWCS and a 10th place from January Olympic Trials so I was right on the verge of making a qualifying spot. But in short track anything can happen so you never know where you’re going to finish until you actually race the races.

This competition I qualified for the B final in the 1500 m and the 1000 m and the C final in the 500 m. I am happy with all of my races this weekend but one stood out, the 1500 m final.

The 1500 m is a very tactical race, at this level all the skaters are strong, fit and fast so you can’t just rely on your physical ability to do well. It is very important to be aware of everyone around you and what they’re doing so you don’t get left behind when someone makes a move.

Race awareness is something I have struggled with in the past and have been working on all season. In my 1500 m final I was definitely aware, reacting to moves of my competitors, not backing away from bumping and anticipating blocks and passes. There were still things to improve on in the race, however I was very happy with the improvement I made in my awareness and tactics, and finishing 2nd in the race (9th overall in the 1500 m) added to my excitement. The rest of the weekend also went well, I finished 10th in the 500 m and 6th in the 1000 m giving me an overall ranking of 8th at this meet and a spot in olympic trials.

As far as what I do with the rest of my life the answer is not much. I am enrolled in a Kinesiology undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary, however I only take a part time course load (2 courses a semester) as I cannot fit more into my schedule. My training hours are from 8:30 am – 11:30 am and then again from 2:00 pm – 4:45 pm Monday through Saturday. We usually get Wednesday afternoons and Saturday afternoons off to recover, as well as every Sunday.

Since these are also the times most classes are offered it is hard to find relevant courses that I can actually attend. To try and get around this I have started taking online classes through Athabasca University because they have a far more flexible schedule. Spring and summer semesters are also an option for me as I stay in Calgary to train.

Outside of skating and school I skate more. I started coaching for the Calgary Speed Skating Club this year because apparently I don’t spend enough of my life on skates already 🙂 It has been a wonderful opportunity to coach younger skaters and watch them improve both as skaters and athletes. It helps that the club has their sessions at the Olympic Oval which is pretty much where I spend all my time, so I don’t have to put time and money into commuting. It is also good because the club understands what a competitive speed skating schedule entails and is flexible when I miss weeks at a time for competition.

I am fortunate enough to have parents who financially support me in my schooling and my training so that I don’t have to add work into my busy schedule. I have also received financial support from BC Speed Skating Association and The Olympic Oval which help offset the cost of training, travelling and competitions.

As well I live with family friends in Calgary who cook most of my meals, do my grocery shopping and help me in pretty much any way they can which is a huge blessing.

The sacrifices high performance athletes make to pursue their dreams are extensive, from slowing down schooling, moving away from home at young ages, pushing our bodies to their limits, relying on family and community support and trying to balance somehow living a life outside of sport. However we don’t really see them as sacrifices. We see it as an opportunity to spend every day doing what we love, of course some days are harder than others but in the end you do it because you love it. I truly believe it would not be possible to dedicate this much of your life to something you didn’t enjoy.”

– Congratulations Alison! And thank you for sharpening our insight into your life in the fast lane.