Local Speed Skaters Open To Hub Possibility

By Ben Hamill - September 15 2020
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Local Speed Skaters Open To Hub Possibility

Even though it may at times feel as if they’re being made to take one step back after another, Canada’s speed skaters say they remain hopeful of being able to train and compete again soon. And if that means having travel to the Netherlands in order to enter for months on end into a bio-bubbled hub the International Skating Union is currently considering, then so be it too, says Winnipeg native and Olympic speed skater Heather McLean.

McLean, having realised the potential severity of the health crisis early on already, this following her having witnessed for herself the evolving situation in Europe in March, returned home to Canada and proceeded to self-isolate for 14 days – even though at the time not yet a law or guideline.

But what the first-hand account in Europe also did was to prepare McLean on the possibility of her not being able to race again until Beijing’s 2022 Winter Olympics.

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Speed Skating Big In Netherlands

As for the possibility of a Netherlands training and competitions hub, McLean says she personally is all for it. They have good facilities, said McLean of the potential new hub country, and are kind to Canadians and speed skating athletes in general.

What’s more, and perhaps most important a consideration of all, is that they’re a country whose passion for speed skating rivals that of even hockey in Canada. Instead of growing up with dreams of one day playing for the NHL, Dutch kids strive towards becoming the next national speed skating champion. Dutch kids are Ireen Wusts and Sven Kramers in the making – and they get to daily dream their speed skating dreams whilst dashing around skating ovals scattered all throughout the country.

NHL-Style Bubble An Option

Though predominantly a winter-sports country, the situation in as far as it pertains to speed skating is very different in Canada when compared to the Netherlands. Due to a mechanical failure experienced at Calgary’s Olympic Oval earlier this month, most local speed professional speed skaters now have nowhere left to train.

All of which are leading Canadian speed skaters to become more and more open to the possibility of a bubble – not unlike the bubble so successfully being pulled off by the NHL in Edmonton and Toronto. Whilst remaining cooped up in a hotel room and training bubble for five or even more weeks on end must without a doubt be daunting and psychologically challenging, distance specialist Isabelle Weidemann says it makes no difference to her willingness to give it a shot. Being able to race is the biggest reason for her getting up and training each morning, says the Ottawa athlete.

And as far as passing the rest of the time is concerned, says Weidemann, there’s always FaceTime and video games.

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