Speed skater Clarke bags bronze at nationals

Whitehorse speed skater Heather Clarke sped past her expectations at the Canadian Short Track Championships at the Richmond Olympic Oval last weekend in B.C.

Whitehorse speed skater Heather Clarke sped past her expectations at the Canadian Short Track Championships at the Richmond Olympic Oval last weekend in B.C.

Clarke, the first female skater from the Yukon to compete at the event, won bronze in the 1,500-metre event on her way to finishing fifth overall in women’s junior B (17-and-under).

The bronze represents the best ever finish by a Yukon skater at the championships.

“I definitely didn’t go in expecting to do that well,” said the 17-year-old. “It’s always good to have confidence going in – and I did – I just didn’t expect to finish that high. So it was quite surprising and very exciting for me.

“I had a lot of fun skating and it worked out well for me.”

For the medal, Clarke outpaced some of Canada’s fastest, with nine provinces represented in the division. Her time in the 1,500 was actually about 30 seconds off of her personal best time.

“It’s hard to set a personal best in the 1,500 because it can start off really slow, nobody will want to lead the race and everyone wants to draft off of someone else,” said Clarke. “It was a three-minute 1,500 and my personal best is 2:33, so it wasn’t really the fastest race.”

She also placed fifth in the 1,000-metre – setting a new personal best time – fifth in the 3,000-metre and seventh in the 500-metre.

“Overall it was a really good weekend. There were some fun races there,” said Clarke. “I met some nice skaters there and that always makes it fun.”

Clarke was joined by Whitehorse Rapids Club teammates Donald Fortune and Shea Hoffman at the championships.

Fortune, who was competing in men’s junior A, took 16th in the 1,000-metre for his strongest placing. He also placed 18th in the 500-, 1,500- and the 3,000-metre points race.

Hoffman, skating in men’s junior B, finished 28th overall, but the high level of competition raised his game, he said.

“You know you don’t have a chance coming in with much faster skaters, including the skaters from Quebec. But trying to keep up with them for as long as I could did result in a person best in the 1,000m by over three seconds,” said Hoffman in a media release.

The Rapids club was also represented at the Canada West Short Track Championship held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, last weekend. It was the first time a member of the Whitehorse club competed in the championships.

Rapids’ Hanna Wirth, 14, finished seventh out of 15 skaters in the 400-metre sprint, and ninth in the1,500-metre race.

It’s been a big season for Clarke. She was the only Yukoner to compete at the Canadian Junior Championships in December at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. After four events, Clarke finished 30th overall at the championships. It was her first time competing at that event too.

Clarke also won two golds and three silvers at the Arctic Winter Games a few weeks ago in Whitehorse. In addition to making all her A finals, she set an Arctic Games record in the junior female 777-metre event, with a time of 1:17.17.

Also at the Games, Fortune won silvers across the board, collecting four in total. In the 1,500-metre, he was just 0.15 behind the gold medalist. He also produced personal best times in all four of his events.

Wirth, skating in juvenile female at the Games, was another multiple medal winner. She won gold in the 666-metre event, silver in the 1,000-metre and silver in the 500-metre – just 0.06 seconds behind gold. She also won the Yukon’s only bronze in speed skating, in the 777-metre.

Hoffman’s best result at the Arctic Games was sixth in the 1,500-metre.

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