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Long time speed skater bids farewell at Yukon championship

Michael Ritchie’s love for speed skating can be measured in kilometres.

Michael Ritchie’s love for speed skating can be measured in kilometres.

As a resident of Haines Junction and a member of the Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club, he and his father have made a lot of trips back and forth over the last seven years.

“We did the math and I think I’ve done over 35,000 kilometres of driving,” said Ritchie.

The one-hour-40-minute drives have come to an end. Ritchie raced his last meet as a Rapids skater at the Yukon Speed Skating Championships at the Canada Games Centre on March 12.

The 16-year-old is leaving the territory to attend the Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific in Victoria, B.C. where there isn’t a speed skating club.

Ritchie was awarded a scholarship to attend the prestigious school by the Yukon government.

He could always rejoin the Rapids club after high school, but for now he’s hanging up his skates.

“It’s my last meet … until I’m done high school, I guess,” said Ritchie. “It’s sad to be done, especially without Arctic Winter Games this past year because that would have been my last one. But it’s been a good seven years. It’s the end of an era.

“To be done after seven years — it’s a lot of training and all that — it’s also exciting to move on past it.”

Ritchie skated for Team Yukon at the 2012 and 2014 Arctic Winter Games. (The 2016 Arctic Winter Games, held in Greenland, did not include speed skating.)

He was the only skater to represent Yukon at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C.

“I’m still age-eligible to go to the next Arctic Games and the next Canada Games, but I won’t be training so I won’t be going,” said Ritchie.

At the 2012 and 2014 Arctic Winter Games he collected a total of five medals — four silver and a bronze. One highlight from his competitive career is winning silver with his team in a relay at the 2014 Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“It was just a really fun team. We all trained together and went,” said Ritchie. “Another highlight would definitely be the Canada Games, just (competing) at that higher level and skating with kids from all over Canada. Usually I just race a western circuit and to race kids from all over Canada was really exciting.”

Twenty skaters, ages five to 60, took part in the season-ending Yukon championships last weekend. Over 50 personal best times were set, with some skaters posting PBs in all four of the distances they raced.

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