One of the next Canadian speed skating greats could once again be coming from the City of Red Deer.
Stephanie Spicer, 17, recently received a grant from the Red Deer Games Foundation and has been training with the Alberta High Performance Speed Skating Team out of the Calgary Olympic Oval.
During her winter skating season, she captured two gold medals at the National Age Class Speed Skating Championships in the 500m and the 1,000m events.
Her journey began over a decade ago when she was enrolled in figure skating.
“I started 10 years ago. I was watching the World Cup races on TV with my parents and I thought it was something really cool that I would want to try out,” she said. “They signed me up for a ‘try it’ night in the middle of the season and I loved it. I have stuck with it ever since.”
The transition to speed skating was simple for Spicer, as figure skating was not her forte.
“I was in figure skating lessons but I hated it. I wore hockey skates so whenever we were told to do the tricks, jumps or to dance pretty – I would just race around the outside,” she said.
Skating began as a way to have fun for the seven-year-old Spicer, but her competitive instincts would eventually break through.
“For the first couple years, I trained and did it for fun without racing and then I decided to change that,” she said.
“Our club holds a meet every year, which is just a fun meet that they encourage all of the younger skaters to come out and try. I decided to go for that and ended up having a lot more fun then I was expecting.”
After her initial success, Spicer continued to hone her skills before she was eventually invited to complete on the Junior National Speed Skating Circuit.
Spicer said her recent success at the Age Class Championships are due in part to the considerable time she puts into her craft.
“This past season, we trained three days a week for our club and then I also qualified for the provincial development team,” she said. “I have been driving to Calgary once per week to train with them as well.”
Spicer is planning to attend the University of Calgary next year, which is conveniently on the same campus as the Olympic Oval. This allows her to transition from training one day per week in Calgary to five days per week.
She noted she also puts in two to three sessions in the gym or doing dryland training.
Spicer said her goal would be ideally to compete one day in the Winter Olympic Games, however she remains very committed to her educational goal – which is to become a veterinarian.
“I am not 100 per cent sure where I want to end up right now. School is a high priority for me, so I am going to see this year how it goes with keeping up with both skating and my studies,” she said. “Right now, my goal is the 2019 Canada Winter Games. I want to qualify for those and then we will see.”
Spicer said reaching the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer is made easier by the coaching she has received as well as the rich history of speed skating in Red Deer.
“I have an amazing coach and she has known a lot of them (Red Deer Olympic speed skaters) since they were little,” she said. “She was involved with the club then and it has been cool to be able to watch them move up the ranks and see that I could follow in their footsteps.”
She added the Red Deer Games Foundation grant will help her reach many of her goals and that she was very grateful to be selected.
“It will be super helpful,” she said. “I will be moving to Calgary so it will help offset those costs and with the registrations, ice times and competition fees. It will certainly help allow me to do as much as I possibly can.”
Spicer added she looks forward to figuring out a good life balance in Calgary next year.
“It will definitely be an adventure, but I have talked to my coaches and they are very flexible. They have worked with full-time students lots in the past. They know how to make it work,” she said.