Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Dustin Cook

FOLLOW THE LEADER – The Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club is training towards the Arctic Winter Games. The event has been reinstated after not being part of the Games in 2016. The team will be competing in trials for the Games in December.

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Photo by Dustin Cook

MAKING STRIDES – Members of the Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club practise Tuesday evening at the CGC.

Whitehorse speedskaters take the ice with the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in sight

The Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club is hard at work on the ice preparing for the new season.

By Dustin Cook on October 19, 2017

The Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club is hard at work on the ice preparing for the new season.

The competitive team is on the ice three times a week at the Canada Games Centre, head coach Phil Hoffman said at the team’s practice Tuesday evening.

“We started in mid-September,” he said. “We’ve got some club races happening on November 5.”

The club, ranging in ages from five to 67 and all skill levels, is working towards the big event of the season — the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in Hay River and Fort Smith, N.W.T.

Speedskating is back in the games after a year hiatus in 2016 because the host city of Nuuk, Greenland didn’t have the facilities to host the indoor ice sports.

The team travelled to Calgary for their first race of the season at the end of September to compete in the Western Elite 1 event.

Hoffman said the club is relatively small being far away from major competitions and need to travel down to Edmonton and Calgary for most of the competitive meets.

Following the club races on Nov. 5 where members will test their skills against each other, Hoffman said about nine young members of the team will be heading to Alberta from the Edmonton Fall Classic running Nov. 10-12.

This event will be the lead up to the Arctic Winter Games Trials for the team happening on Dec. 10.

Hoffman said he originally got involved with speedskating because his kids were enrolled in it and he never looked back.­­

“One of them still skates,” he said.

The team trains on an ice hockey rink, optimal for short-track speedskating which is raced on a 111.12 metre oval track.

The race distances for the short track circuit are usually shorter in length.

Large blue mats are dragged out by the team before every practice and draped along the four corners so a crash landing would be softer if a skater were to wipe out going into the boards.

To make up for missing the Arctic Games in 2016, the Yukon government re-allocated $100,000 to help affected athletes go to other competitions across the country allowing members of the Rapids to compete at the Olympic Oval in Calgary in the RU Fast meet.

But this season, the club is set to compete at the Games and will have a number of tune-ups prior to including the Yukon Championships.

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