Small, seasoned speed skaters set for Games

"Small" is the word Yukon coach Phil Hoffman used to describe Yukon's speedskating team for the 2014 Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska. Another word could be "experienced.

2Another word could be “experienced.”

Though the team is sending six skaters to the Games, down from 10 in 2012, half the team has competed at the Arctic Games before.

“We’re kind of short on numbers this year for whatever reason,” said Hoffman. “We had a few retire or quit skating, one move away, so we’re down in numbers generally.

“We have some kids coming up who aren’t quite old enough. But as far as eligible kids, we’re kind of short this year.”

Six skaters were added to the Team Yukon roster for the Arctics following team trials, hosted by the Yukon Amateur Speed Skating Association at the Canada Games Centre on Sunday.

All six are members of the Whitehorse Rapids Speed Skating Club.

Set to compete are Whitehorse’s Shea Hoffman and Hanna Wirth in the junior division.

Haines Junction’s Michael Ritchie, Marsh Lake’s Micah Taggart-Cox and Whitehorse brothers Caleb and Jacob MacPherson will skate in the juvenile division.

Fairbanks will mark Shea’s seventh major Games. He has competed at three previous Arctic Winter Games and one Canada Winter Games in speedskating.

He also cycled for Yukon at the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in August, and at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games.

He won a bronze medal at the 2008 Arctics in Yellowknife at the age of 13.

The 2014 Arctics will be Wirth’s third. She won a gold, two silver and a bronze at the 2012 Games in Whitehorse and a bronze at the 2010 Games in Grande Prairie, Alta.

Ritchie competed at the 2012 Games and won a silver in the 2,000-metre relay in juvenile male at the age of 11.

A big loss to the team will be the absence of Whitehorse’s Heather Clarke, who won two gold and three silver, and set a Arctic Games record, in 2012.

Clarke, who trains with the Calgary Oval Program, will instead compete at the National Team Selections that are taking place at the same time as the Games this March.

“Yes, I am still eligible for the Games and would love to go and take a crack at (Yellowknife’s) Jill Gilday’s records,” said Clarke in an email to the News. “(The selections competition) is pretty important because it will determine an overall season’s ranking.”

In other Rapids news, Whitehorse’s Troy Henry has qualified for the Team Canada’s Olympic trials, Speed Skating Canada announced

last week.

Henry will vie for a spot on Canada’s Olympic team bound for the Sochi Games in the 5,000- and 10,000-metre long-track events.

“I was pretty happy about it,” said the 24-year-old. “Most of it was from a competition I had in October – the World Cup trials that I skated pretty well at. I got seventh there and that gave me a lot of points towards getting to the Olympic trials.”

Henry will race in the 5,000- metre trials Dec. 28 and the 10,000-metre on Jan. 3 at the

Calgary Olympic Oval.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com

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