Racing blades carve ice in Whitehorse

Team Yukon short trackers had a rough time on the Olympic Ice this weekend during the 2006 Canada Post Age Class Short Track Championships.

Team Yukon short trackers had a rough time on the Olympic Ice this weekend during the 2006 Canada Post Age Class Short Track Championships.

After last month’s impressive medal haul at the Arctic Winter Games, this weekend humbled the team.

“It’s quite a bit tougher at the nationals,” said Troy Henry, who skated to four gold ulus in Kenai. “These skaters will be going to the national team.”

Henry had some hard luck in his junior division races, and things just wouldn’t come together for him.

“I had one bad race, and two falls,” he said.

In the 777 metre, his best event, he was disqualified after winning the c-consolation final on Sunday.

Fellow Yukoner Brett Elliot skated to a d-consolation win in the intermediate men’s 500-metre on Saturday.

“This calibre of competition is amazing, a lot higher than Arctics,” said Elliot. “It was nice to have the home crowd cheering for me, too.”

Bruce Henry, president of Speed Skating Yukon, put the weekend’s results in perspective.

“These are the best skaters in their age group in Canada, and Canada is at the top in the world in this sport… this is the top echelon,” he said. “So if we finished in mid-park, we did fantastic.”

Top young skaters from six provinces and all three territories descended on the Canada Games Centre earlier in the week, 130 athletes in midget, juvenile, junior and intermediate divisions. (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, PEI and Manitoba didn’t send teams this year.)

It was a great tournament overall, according to Yukon coach Tom Elliot. “Many personal bests were set, and everyone put together at least one good race.”

A total of seven new Canadian records were set over the weekend, and there were 32 skaters had sub-record times on top of that.

Most impressive was the intermediate women’s 1000 metre, in which the top four skaters beat the old record, with Quebec’s Caroline Truchon taking the gold.

“It’s a sign we have good ice,” said Tom Elliot. The high altitude doesn’t hurt either. “It’s easier to move through thinner air,” said Bruce Henry.

Short track powerhouse Quebec led the medal count, and there were many cheek kisses for Olympian Catriona Le May Doan, as she presented medals to the champions.

 Le May Doan was in town to boost the Canada Winter Games, and help announce Bell Canada’s commitment of $250,000 in funding for the Games.

“This is where I was,” said Le May Doan after handing out the medals on Saturday. “I skated these championships many, many times, I did both short and long track.”

“It’s a thrill for me because these are the kids of the future, in the sport I love,” she added.

“It was fortunate for us,” said Brian Kitchen, Canada Games sport chair for speed skating and one of the organizers of this weekend’s championships. Le May Doan’s schedule and the championships just came together at the right time.

Although Yukon didn’t get any medals, things seem golden for the tournament organizers.

“Everyone is raving about the facility, this is an A-one spot,” said Kitchen. It’s good news for next year’s Canada Games, which will actually host fewer athletes in an open age category. “It’s simply fine tuning. All the officials are happy with the setup.”

“We’ve got nothing but praise for how smoothly things have gone,” said Tom Elliot after the last race on Sunday. “The people behind the scenes deserve a pat on the back.”