Less than 125 days out from the opening ceremony, the latest test event for the 2019 Canada Winter Games is being held this weekend in Red Deer.
Also a qualifying event for the Games, the competition is taking place at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre where athletes will thrill fans five months from now.
Maggie Dekking, Short Track Technical Representative for the Games, says having the test event makes it a bit more real that the Games are so close.
“Currently, we are speed skating in a hockey facility, so we're trying to figure out what to do with the ice to get the quality right, what to do for the safety of the skaters, the flow of athletes, media, everything like that,” she explains.
“It’s been fantastic to work with Red Deer College. They, together with the Canada Games group, have done a tremendous job and this facility is just gorgeous. We're excited.”
Fifty-five skaters from Alberta, BC, the Yukon and Manitoba took part in this weekend's event ahead of further qualifying competitions in the coming months.
But the test event isn’t just for the athletes.
“It also translates to all the officials and volunteers that are here who have a chance to work at a higher level meet and get certifications,” Dekking adds. “It’s very important for them that this is happening in Red Deer.”
A number of members from the Red Deer Central Lions Speed Skating Club are also involved with volunteering and officiating, including Shawna Pearman and Andrew Jenkins who are serving as meet coordinators for short track and long track speed skating, respectively.
“This is an opportunity for some of our local clubs skaters who are interested in attending the next Canada Winter Games to see what this quality and level of skating looks like,” says Alison Wigelsworth, club registrar, who notes that the majority of local skaters don’t fall into the appropriate age range for the upcoming Games.
“For them, it’s inspirational and a way for them to achieve their goals. For us as a club, this has been an amazing opportunity.”
Day two of competition goes Sunday from 9-2. It is free and open to the public.
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