Yukon’s speedskating team was in seventh heaven at the Arctic Winter Games last week.
The team took in seven medals in short-track speedskating with a bucket load of personal best times.
“I didn’t count them up yet, but I know most of them had several personal best times,” said Yukon coach Phil Hoffman. “If they didn’t medal in their individual events, they all entered their best times by quite a bit.”
Haines Junction’s Michael Ritchie was the team’s big winner with four medals. Ritchie skated to silver in the 666-metre and the 1,000-metre in juvenile male. He also won bronze in the 777-metre.
Ritchie and teammates Jacob McPherson, Micah Taggart-Cox, and Caleb McPherson won silver in the 2,000-metre relay in juvenile male.
Taggart-Cox, who’s from Marsh Lake, took bronze in the 1,000-metre and also claimed eighth in the 777-metre.
Whitehorse’s Shea Hoffman made his last major Games a good one. Shea, who was Yukon’s flag-bearer for the opening ceremony of the Games, skated to silver in 777-metre and a bronze in the 1,500-metre in junior male.
Both medals were Shea’s first from individual races. His first Games medal came in a relay race at the 2008 Games in Yellowknife.
“So he’s waited a while for that so it was nice for him and he’s pretty happy with that,” said Phil.
Fairbanks marked Shea’s fourth Arctics and seventh major Games. He also skated at a Canada Winter Games and raced in road cycling at the last Canada Summer Games and the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games.
As for being named Yukon’s flag-bearer, “It’s great for my last Games,” said Shea. “I wasn’t expecting it.”
Other top results for Yukon were Caleb placing seventh and Jacob 11th in the 777-metre.
Teammate Hannah Wirth came eighth in the 1,000-metre for junior female.
“It’s a good experience for the kids,” said Phil. “Three of them had been to Arctic Winter Games before and three hadn’t, so it was a good mix of older, more experienced skaters and less experienced skaters.”
With speedskating cut from the 2016 Arctic Games in Nuuk, Greenland, due to a lack of facilities, the team’s next big focus will be working towards competing at the Canada Winter Games.
“We hope, by not having speedskating in the next Arctic Games, it won’t dwindle our numbers because the Arctic Games is a key goal for many of our kids and if they don’t get to go to Greenland they might choose another sport instead.”
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