PRINCE GEORGE, B.C.
If Haines Junction’s Michael Ritchie was born five weeks later, he wouldn’t be competing at the Canada Winter Games this week.
Ritchie is one of just three 14-year-olds competing in short-track speedskating, an under-20 competition, in Prince George.
He’s young, and in some ways all alone. He’s the only Yukon speedskater competing at the Games.
“It’s a great learning experience,” said Ritchie. “It’s a bigger competition so I’m seeing how big the playing field is and how much competition there is from other places that I don’t see much of.
“When you skate with higher-lever skaters, there are different techniques and strategies they use ... I really only skate in western Canada, so to see Quebec (skaters), it’s quite something.”
Ritchie, who won three silver and a bronze at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, is looking at the big picture. He considers his Games experience in Prince George as preparation for the 2019 Games in Red Deer, which he will still be eligible for.
“I still have another one I can go to and I’ll be older and I’ll be at the older end of the group,” said Ritchie.
“He’s doing well. The whole goal coming here was to get some experience because he’s actually eligible for the next Canada Games too,” said coach Phil Hoffman. “So we just want him to get some experience and try to get some PBs - and he got two of them today.”
Ritchie is five years younger than many of his competitors, but he’s holding his own.
He placed 41st out of 49 skaters in the 1,500-metre on Sunday. All eight skaters behind Ritchie were all at least one year older than him.
He then set personal bests in two preliminary races on Monday. Ritchie finished the 500-metre with a time of 49.948 seconds and then the 1,000-metre at 1:43.720. He will next jostle for final positions in those events Wednesday and Thursday.
His goals for the rest of the week: “Some more PBs would be nice and to do well in my races, not fall or anything,” said Ritchie.
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