Vanderhoof speed skater competes for a spot to represent Canada

Vanderhoof’s speed skater Alison Desmarais competed against Canada’s top 15 short track skaters for the chance to represent the country.

Alison Desmarais (middle) poised for the turn at the Fall World Cup Selections in Montreal from Sept. 23 to 25.

Alison Desmarais (middle) poised for the turn at the Fall World Cup Selections in Montreal from Sept. 23 to 25.

For the first time, Vanderhoof’s speed skater Alison Desmarais competed against Canada’s top 15 short track skaters for the opportunity to represent the country in World Cup events this season.

Ranked sixth and 16th in Canada within the junior and senior categories respectively, Desmarais is the youngest of four B.C. athletes who qualified for the Fall World Cup Selections that took place in Montreal from Sept. 23 to 25.

“Because I went into the competition ranked 16th, a spot on the World Cup team was not really in the cards, as only the top four skaters move on to World Cups,” Desmarais said. “I looked at this competition as an opportunity to learn and gain racing experience at a higher level.”

Skating 500-metre, 1,000-metre, and 1,500-metre events twice for a total of six races, Desmarais finished 15th overall, based on points gathered from the results of each distance.

“I am very happy with my results in this competition, coming out with two 12th-place finishes and two 13th,” she said. “I went into each race with a different race plan to try, [focussing] on using track pattern to block, passing at the most beneficial time for me and working with my teammate to keep other skaters behind us.

“In short track speed skating, it is all about the position you finish in at the line, so often time does not really matter.”

At her first major competition as a senior skater — 2016 is the first year — Desmarais took away various useful racing skills.

“From when to set up passes and blocks to benefit my finish,” she said. “I also learned how aware I have to be while racing in order to read and react to the race around me.

“In the end I learned from things I did well and things I didn’t do so well.”

As a top-32 ranked junior, she attended senior events in the past, though she will no longer attend the Junior Nationals events in December.

Her first experience of competing against top-ranked international speed skaters took place during the Intercontinental Short Track Invitational event in Calgary last year, skating with 39 male and female skaters — 22 of which hailing from Russia, Belgium, Poland, Norway, and Great Britain.

Desmarais will next compete during the Thanksgiving weekend at this year’s Intercontinental Invitational at the Calgary Olympic Oval.

“I am excited to take what I learned at FWCS into this competition, and excited to use this competition as a learning experience as well,” she said.

Studying for the second year in the Kinesiology program at the University of Calgary, Desmarais just finished her first year of skating in the Short Track Elite program at the Olympic Oval. She also helps out with coaching at the Calgary Speed Skating Club.

 

From Fort St. James

 

A member of Canada’s national short track speed skating team, Fort St. James’ Jamie Macdonald placed sixth in the Fall World Cup Selections event in Montreal from Sept. 23 to 25.

Ranked sixth in Canada as a senior skater, Macdonald won first place in last year’s Intercontinental Invitational event in Calgary.

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