Skaters hit the ice

Speedskating club growing

Sarah Ladik | INUVIK
October 8, 2015
Jackson Christie leads a pack of skaters around the ice at a practice earlier this month. - photo courtesy of Paul MacDonald

Jackson Christie leads a pack of skaters around the ice at a practice earlier this month. – photo courtesy of Paul MacDonald

After a weekend away in Whitehorse learning from some of the best in Canada, Inuvik’s speedskating club is back on home ice.

“It’s a good year for us,” said head coach Paul MacDonald, adding that 24 registrants is an increase from last year. “It’s starting to really grow. The bigger we can make the club, the better.”

It’s easy to see why. While the season had only just gotten started, skaters were eager to hit the ice at practice Oct. 1.

“I like games, especially the racing games,” said Madden MacNeil. “And I’m looking forward to travelling.”

His teammates agreed with him, particularly about the travelling.

“I like travelling and doing races,” said Kaleb Picek.

“It’s fun to skate against other teams.”

That unique blend of team and individual achievement is what makes speedskating alluring to children, said MacDonald. He said the club has a real family feel and that makes it easy to get skaters to come back season after season.

“It’s team and it’s individual,” he said. “If you do well, the whole team does well, but there isn’t that pressure of having to live up to a team’s expectations.”

The growing popularity of the club has meant a completely new set of equipment, bought last year. MacDonald said speed skating is one of the most accessible winter sports in town as the club provides all the equipment for new skaters for free. While they do encourage families to purchase their own once the child has committed to the sport, it makes it easier for them to give it a try without spending a lot of money to do so.

Inuvik doesn’t host any meets for logistical reasons, but the club does travel to the capital to pit themselves against other skaters. The meets are a highlight of the season for many of the skaters and a good opportunity for them to test their skills against higher calibre athletes.

“We have skaters from here going to the Canada Winter Games and the Arctic Winter Games,” said MacDonald. “There’s a lot of potential here.”

But at the end of the day, the club is about more than just winning at meets and developing skaters.

“We’re not about building speedskaters,” said MacDonald. “We’re about building athletes for life.”