Even though the 2019 Canada Winter Games are still two years away, the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club already have a lot to look forward to in the future.
According to Coaching Coordinator Shawna Pearman, the Club has a few athletes that have already begun training to compete at the Games, which Red Deer is set to host.
“There are athletes here that are preparing for them and then there are other, younger skaters who are just out starting to skate and enjoy the sport,” said Pearman during one of the Club’s Tuesday evening practices at the outdoor speed skating oval outside the Golden Circle last week.
Every year since it opened in 1967, from December or January until the end of February, athletes from the skating club have taken to the oval’s glass-like ice surface to hone their skills and participate in competitions.
But with Red Deer set to host the Winter Games in a couple short years and construction already underway on a new oval at Great Chief Park, this will be one of the speed skating club’s last winters on the historic ice surface.
“There’s good things and bad things. It’s more the history that you leave here at this place. I mean, I skated here in 1975, so you leave this history,” said Pearman, who has been with the Club as a coach for the past 16 years.
Still, she said, the Club is looking forward to having a new facility to use.
“We’re going to a brand new facility and it’s going to be beautiful.”
Currently, City of Red Deer crews are working on an expansion to the football field at Great Chief Park which will allow for the field to be converted into a 400m long track oval through the winter months. Construction on the speed skating track is slated to be completed in January or February 2018, with construction on a new field house facility set to wrap up later that spring.
In addition to the new long track oval, the Club will also see the completion of a new facility where they can skate short track with the new Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre set to open on Red Deer College campus in the fall of 2018.
Currently, the Club skates short track at the Kinex Arena in early December and mid-March.
“It’ll be a nice facility for us and good for competitions. You can run higher-level competitions there. You can run national championships and some bigger provincial championships,” Pearman said.
She also noted that speed skating is a great sport for athletes of all skill levels.
While many of the athletes who come out to the Club’s regular practices skate competitively, some brave the cold weather to brave the (occasionally) frigid temperatures on the outdoor long track oval for the sheer fun of skating and honing their skills.
“I think because it’s an individual sport, it’s another winter sport, it’s skating, you’re outside. For people who don’t want to play hockey or want to figure skate it provides another option and it’s pretty inexpensive,” Pearman said.
“It’s just exhilarating and thrilling,” said Brady Schmidt, 9, who has been skating with the Club for the past four years.
The Club holds practices every Tuesday and Thursday beginning at 5:45 p.m. If you would like more information on the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club, you can visit their web site at www.reddeerspeedskating.com.