PRINCE GEORGE, B.C.
Yukon short-track speedskater Michael Ritchie is striking everything off his to-do list at the Canada Winter Games this week.
He’s experiencing high-level competition and setting personal best times in Prince George. In fact, he set personal bests in every distance he’s raced so far with one event to go.
“It definitely went well. What I came for was personal bests and experience and that’s what I’m leaving with,” said Ritchie. “The first day we got here the ice was really hard and really fast. As the week progressed it’s gotten pretty grippy and good for setting times on.”
Ritchie, who is from Haines Junction, is the only Yukon speedskater at the Games.
By Thursday he had already set personal best times in three distances, but that didn’t stop him from doing it again.
He shaved more than two seconds off his 1,000-metre in a heat in the morning, finishing with a time of 1:41.251.
He then raced the “lower finals” in the bottom bracket to finish 41st out of 49 in the afternoon. He placed second in his final and of the 14 skaters in the “lower finals,” only three were faster than Ritchie.
He also placed 41st in the 1,500-metre on Sunday.
Not bad considering he’s one of the youngest racers. Ritchie is one of only three 14-year-olds in the under-20 competition.
He only made the cutoff by five weeks and will be eligible for the next Games in 2019.
“(The Games) have been pretty good for him. He’s been setting personal best times all the time and that’s what we were hoping for,” said coach Phil Hoffman. “I know he’s going to be done in the placings, but the whole goal here is to get some experience in higher-level competition and to get some personal best times.”
Ritchie broke into the top 40 on Wednesday, placing 38th in the 500-metre.
He set a personal best in the preliminary races on Monday and then cut more off in his heat, crossing the line in 48.730 seconds.
Ritchie, who won three silver and a bronze at the 2014 Arctic Winter Games, will finish his stay in Prince George with the 3,000-metre points race on Friday. In the event, skaters race for points every seventh lap, sort of like a criterium in road cycling.
“It’s going to be good,” said Ritchie. “It’s definitely a challenging race with the combination of it being a points (race). So it’s definitely a lot of work to do, but it’s a good challenge.”
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