Thursday was the day that the team was officially announced. Even though the announcement had been leaked earlier in the week by yours truly and others on the team, it was still a big showy event.
Fancypants. Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
The event started out with a few speakers from the COC. Following that, we were presented with our team jackets. It was cool way of doing the announcement.
Chef de Mission and former Canadian downhill skier Steve Podborski giving me my team jacket. Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
After the jacket presentation, the photo opportunities started. We had several set photo ops to do. The first was a ‘check-in’ to the Hilton on our way to Sochi. Hilton Hotels was announced at the press conference as the official hotel supplier of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Checking in. Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
The second was a team shot outside. First we had to just line up, then we were supposed to ham it up for the camera. I think this one of me flexing and making a face in the back ended up in the Globe and Mail, I haven’t seen it myself, but apparently my Grandmother did and was unsurprised that I was the only one making a face…
Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
Anyways, it gave me a good idea of what its like to be on a red carpet. A LOT of camera flashes.
First group shot as a team. Photo from Speed Skating Canada.
After that, it was on to interviews. I did a TV interview for CBC North and then several telephone interviews to different media outlets at home in the Northwest Territories. I’m pretty amazed by the support that is coming from home!
I think I’m still in a bit of shock over the whole announcement of my name as one of the 10 that are nominated to the team. Racing, and hopefully winning, at the Olympics has been my goal for so many years, and I am getting so close to realizing that dream. At the same time, since I’m currently on the sidelines, I can’t help but feel like I’m not making any progress on my path towards the opening ceremonies in February. Despite what I’m trying to tell myself that everything I do now is another step toward being at my best in February, its hard to believe my own words when all I can do is very, very light workouts and rest.
Healing my head has been a patience testing process at best. My body feels amazing. Its not often that it gets this much recovery. But my head and neck are still not perfect. And so I will continue to do my best at recovering so that when its time, I can go full gas.
Now that Olympic Trials are over, its time for me to recap my crash from a week and a half ago.
As many who read this blog may have heard, I crashed hard in the first A final of the Intact Insurance Short Track Olympic Team Selections. It was a bit of a freak accident. After taking the bell lap in 2nd place, I was rounding the second to last corner when I hit a rut and went down. Had I just fallen by myself, it would have been a routine, although disappointing, crash. Unfortunately though, Charle Cournoyer, who was following a few positions behind me, hit the same rut and went down as well, piling straight into me. My knee went straight into my face and Charle hit the rest of my head as he went into the mats. I’ve posted the video below.
When a skater falls in short track, the first thing you do is a sort of systems check to make sure everything feels like its in one piece. The first thing I noticed was that my face hurt and it felt like my nose was bleeding. As I opened my eyes to check for the blood I expected to be coming from my nose, I was surprised to see an orangish liquid, one that I’ve never seen before, coming out of my nose faster than you want to see. By that time the doctor and medical team had jumped over the boards and were pinning me in place in case of a severe spinal injury. After they checked with me to make sure I was experiencing any tingling in my extremities and that I could move my arms, legs etc, I wanted to get up and off the ice.
Feeling a little woozy once I got off the ice, our team doctors decided that I should really go to the hospital to get a CT scan on my face and skull since I took such a wack to the face and because that orangish fluid can potentially be an indication of skull fracture. This would mean I would have to pull out of the trials for at least the rest of the day. Normally this would be something that would make me mad and I would resist against (pulling out, not precautionary scans), but this time, I didn’t feel like going back on the ice that day. And when I don’t feel like that, I know that theres something serious.
After an awful drive, starting and stopping in rush hour traffic while concussed and nauseous is not fun at all, we got to the hospital. After a relatively quick wait, I received my CT scan and the good news that no fracture was shown. I headed back home with a banging headache and a swollen cheek.
Its my experience with injuries like this during times of competition that getting injured isn’t the hard part. The hard part is waiting to get better while you watch your training partners and friends get ready to continue racing. I wanted to be out there so badly. But each time I tried to run scenarios of when I could get back on the ice and compete, I worked myself up and my headaches got worse. Finally, after being re-evaluated each day and hoping I would magically wake up each morning feeling 100%, we (myself and the team medical staff) made the decision last Thursday that I would pull out from the rest of the Olympic Trials. There was no way I could get on the ice and be ready for the last days of the competition with anything close to my 100% performance level that would be needed to participate, and succeed, in such an elite level competition.
The decision to pull out was both an easy one and a hard one at the same time. Easy because I know that I only have one brain for the rest of my life (although Liam Mcfarlane may argue differently…he’s sure robotics will take over in the not too distant future) and also because I knew that I would potentially be a hazard to not only myself but the other skaters on the ice. And hard because I had worked hard for a long time so that I could perform at my best at the Olympic Trials and prove to myself and others that I was deserving of a spot on the 2014 Canadian Olympic Short Track Team.
So whats next? Well immediately after the crash, my focus turned to getting back to full health. Since Aug 7th, I have seen a very good improvement in my condition. The headaches are subsiding, my neck is feeling slowly better and I feel more myself each day. I’m hoping to get back to some light off ice training sometime this week and maybe back on the ice in a week or so. Of course its all a day to day thing, as I must continue to be symptom free during my return to training. Everyone I have talked to has told me not to push it and come back too early, and I plan on taking that advice, even if its hard to do as I’m chopping at the bit to get back.
On the Olympic qualification side of things, I am lucky to live in a country that leaves space in their selection policy for medical byes. I will have to ask to be selected to the team through this route, based on my performances from last season. Now that the competition is over, Speed Skating Canada will be deliberating this week before an official announcement of the team in the coming days. Having to request a bye is not what I had envisioned, but I am lucky to even still have a chance to potentially qualify.
As always, thanks to my sponsors, SSi Micro, Tait Communications and the Government of the NWT. Thanks as well to everyone who has wished me well over the past few days!
The end of another season. I can’t believe how fast this season seemed to go. World Championships are now done, and I’m back in Canada.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way things went in my first individual World Championships. It seemed to take me a while to get the goal of skating individually at Worlds checked off my list, especially so since I was slated to compete last year but had to miss out due to my broken shoulder. But its checked off now, and I can hopefully move onto bigger things!
Instead of rehashing the details of how my races went (well I’ll write this: 5th in 1500m, PEN in 500m quarter finals, 5th in 1000m, 1st in relay) I’ll share some highlights and lowlights of the competition with you, the faithful few readers. If you really want to see how my races went, I suggest watching some video. Full coverage can be found online at CBC’s website or on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/lgs1083?feature=g-high-rec.
I’ll start with the lowlights, since no one likes ending on a low.
1. All three Canadian men (Charles Hamelin, Olivier Jean and myself) getting penalised (Dqed) in our quarter finals. Canada has traditionally been strongest in the 500m and after a strong start on Friday in the 1500 with 2 men in the final (myself included), I think we all thought some big results were possible in the 500m. Not to be, and everyone was bummed out about that one. I think I read somewhere that this was the first time that no Canadian man has podiumed in the 500 at World Champs since 2002.
2. Meng Wang’s blatant contact to knock Park Seung-Hi down in the 3000m super final, which ended Park’s chances of catching Meng in the overall standings. Despicable in my opinion. Sure our sport is unpredictable, but predictably taking someone out in order to win does not fall in the category of unpredictable. Win fair and square or accept that someone else was better than you on the day.
3. My pre-competition preparation. This isn’t really a massive low light, but I definitely felt that I fought myself mentally in the month between the World Cup in Dresden and the start of the World Champs. As a result, I didn’t come in with as much confidence as I would have liked. That said, I still managed to have decent performances, so maybe how I managed the fact that I wasn’t feeling 100% prior to a competition so that I could get good results can be considered a highlight. Hmm, I’ll take that as a sign to switch to highlights now.
1. Winning the relay. We didn’t do well this year on the World Cup. We wanted to be better at World Champs and defend our title from last year. We did.
2. Our team staff. I really can’t say enough about our team staff. They work hard and tirelessly to make it easy for us and they have fun while the do it. Thanks to Yves, Suzanne, Vero, Fabian, Alex, Laurent, Francois, Phil and the coaches Derrick and Fred. For this trip, a special mention goes out to Fabian our sports psych for helping me keep my head on straight, and Vero, our physio for keeping the body in one piece at the end of the season.
3. Another highlight was the Hungarian hospitality in Debrecen. The competition itself was very well organized. There was a boardless mat system which no doubt saved me from injury after I fell with a Dutch skater in the 500m. The hotel and food were great, in a great location and close to the rink. I hope they can host more competitions there in the future.
Relay Gold! Photo Credit – Istvan Lehotzky
Thats a good looking team there! (minus the possessed eyes we all seem to have)
Notice something wrong with how I’m skating here? Just after the Korean skater on the right bumped me, resulting in their DQ. Photo credit – Istvan Lehotzky
Painfaces. 1000m Quarter final behind 2013 World Champ Sin Da-Woon. Photo Credit – Istvan Lehotzky
So, as promised, I brought my camera to practice today. Luckily, the sun came out!
Sochi has been great so far. The rink is new and nice and the volunteers are friendly and will check your accreditation more times that you can count. The biggest thing that we have all noticed is that the entire area from our hotel to the Olympic park (about a 15 min drive without traffic, 45 with traffic) is one enormous construction zone. Everything is being built. Roads, train tracks and stations, hotels, Olympic venues. You name it. Even one part of the road that we drive on is open only to us as its still under construction. It seems like there is a TON of work still to be done, but I’m sure that they will finish it all up for next year and that everything will look great!
The main stadium under construction.
The iceberg is huge!
Security is tight even for a test event. X-ray scanners, metal detectors and pat-downs everytime we get to the rink
This building will house the IOC during the games. The dirt construction area is what everything around the rink looks like
The temporary dirt road that we use to access the rink
Contruction of something Olympics related
Flat roofed building is the Long track oval.
Morning view of the Black sea from my hotel room
The stadium that will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies is, like so many other things in Sochi, still under construction
Some snow up in the mountains. Kind of reminds me of Vancouver. Warm and ocean influenced city with snow capped mountains in the background
The biggest rink is home to men’s hockey.
Inside our rink.
The Iceberg, the arena for Short Track and figure Skating
Like I mentioned last week, this past weekend was our Canadian Championships. Its a big meet. Not only does it serve as the Canadian Championships, it serves as a selection meet for the remainder of the World Cup season and the World Championships, it also goes a long way in determining who is on the National team for next season.
Its a meet you want to be ready for. Lucky for me, I was. And I came away with my first ever Canadian Championship. Heres how it unfolded.
Friday was the 1500m. Despite a (as normal) nervous lead-up to the weekend, I had found a really good feeling in the last couple days of practice. During warmup on Friday, I could feel that I was physically on a good day. Knowing this, I stayed out of trouble in most of my races, made smart moves when I needed to and managed to win the 1500m. Good way to start!
Just after the finish of the 1500m final. A little bit of intensity… Photo by Patrice Lapointe, Fotosports.ca
1500m podium. Guillaume Bastille, myself, Vincent Cournoyer. Photo by Patrice Lapointe, Fotosports.ca
Saturday, we raced the 500m. In the past, I have had some trouble with this distance. Too often, I have finished well down the results and failed to score big points. Since the teams for World Cups and World Champs are selected from a cumulative ranking of points amassed over two sets of trials races, it is important to count as many points as possible on any given day. This season, I have invested heavily in fine tuning a new start position in order to improve my start, which is crucial in a 500m sprint. It seems to be paying off. While I’m not always first off the line, I am in the mix a lot more often, and almost never find myself with a gap to close if I get off the line in last. Instead of focusing on closing the gap, I can focus on passing and winning the race. By the end of Saturday, I had made my way to the A final, a first for me at a Canadian Champs, and finished with a slightly disappointing (at the time) 4th place. Still, my best result in a 500m to date.
Sunday is the longest, and hardest day, of trials. Why? Well first of all we already have two days of racing in our legs, and second we have to race the 1000m four times, as well as finish an intense weekend with a grueling 3000m. In the 1000m, I again made my way into the final and like the 500m finished 4th. In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed with this result. I never really managed to make a move in the race and felt like a bit of a passenger. I have to give kudos to the distance winner Charles Hamelin though, because his skating was a big part of that feeling. He was simply extremely strong on that day and I think all of us in the race felt a bit like passengers on the “Locomotive de Ste-Julie” as world famous announcer Dany Lemay likes to call him.
Next up was the 3000m. What can I say. The 3k is always a slog. A stressful weekend of racing takes a lot out of you and grinding out 27 laps is going to hurt. I managed to win the bonus points sprint after nine laps with a cheeky little acceleration. After that, for whatever reason, I decided that I should go ahead and pull about 15 of the remaining 18 laps. That kind of effort catches up with you and unfortunately for me, it caught up with me in sight of the finish line. I was passed 3 times in the final lap to finish 4th again. I’ll save you the details, but I was definitely cursing myself. In a weird twist of fate though, Charles, with who I was battling for the overall, fell of his own accord and thanks to my taking the bonus sprint, I managed to have just enough points to take my first Canadian Championship by a razor thin 16 points (very slim margin, as each distance is worth 1000 to the winner)
All in all, a good weekend for me. With that result, I’m qualified for the last two World Cups of the season and I will also be competing individually at the World Championships. I’m excited for the rest of the season! Thanks to all of my supporters, especially the Government of the Northwest Territories, currently my only personal ‘sponsor’.
Lastly, below is a picture of my new World Record Ring. My teammates Charles Hamelin, Olivier Jean, Francois Hamelin and each received one of these last week for our record breaking relay at the World Cup in Calgary this past October. The Olympic Oval has the fastest ice in the world and anybody who breaks a world record there become a member of the brothers of the wind and receives a ring as recognition. I am happy to be part of the club!
This week, I have a few pictures that show a little bit of what a day at the rink during a World Cup looks like. Since I was racing, I was only able to take photos when I wasn’t getting ready for a race or racing, so there are only a few. Meh.
Waking up to a fairly nice sunny, smoggy Shanghai day. Racing doesn’t start until 2pm and we head to the rink around 1130am so its nice to take advantage of the late start to relax in bed for a bit.
Can’t lie in bed all morning. Getting some abs done to wake up the body.
Arrival at the rink. I was racing the 1500 on this day, which was the last distance to get underway, so when I arrived, the 500m guys and girls had already been on the ice for warm-up and were getting ready for their first races. Liam and Charles sharpening their skates.
Our super hard working and always smiling physio Vero. Our staff work the longest hours of anyone on the team and they are always happy and smiling even when they’ve been on their feet all day. They are one of the big reasons that our team is an awesome one to hang around and travel with.
After my on ice warm-up, I had some time to kill. Time to pull out the book. There are sometimes long waits in-between races and I like to read to pass the time. Its way more relaxing than watching races all day and listening to Gangnam style play over and over. It’s also a good escape for the mind. Sometimes a rested mind is better than (or at least equal to) a rested body.
After all of the individual races for the day have been finished, the relay races start up. This is a pic of the our team racing our relay against Japan (front) and Hungary (3rd). I didn’t race the relay this day, so I was in the stands to cheer on the guys.
So thats it. After the relays are finished, its wait for the bus, get home to the hotel, cold bath, dinner, relax, bed. Repeat!
We travelled last night to Calgary for the second time already this season. Reason? World Cup #1. Its been nearly 10 years since Calgary has hosted a World Cup, and I’ve been looking forward to this competition a lot ever since word came out that Calgary would be hosting. I doubt I’ll ever have the experience of having a world cup at my home rink in Yellowknife, so this is about as close as it gets for me, and its pretty exciting.
The last few weeks of training have been all about refining and tweaking our training slightly in preparation for this set of competitions (there is also a World Cup in Montreal in two weeks). Overall, the past few weeks have gone really well, and I’m feeling good about my fitness for the start of another World Cup season.
This morning I headed down to breakfast and ended up sitting with the dutch team since I was the first from our team to arrive. Its been 8 months since I was last on the world cup, and this was one thing I missed the most. As we travel to each world cup, we tend to see the same people over and over. Its a bit of a traveling circus, and everybody gets to know each other. Its a fun vibe and one of the best parts of competing on the World Cup circuit.
If you are in Calgary, or Montreal, come out and watch. There is no hockey this year, so why not check out something new and exciting!
In Calgary, you can get your tickets at: http://oval.ucalgary.ca/stwc
For Montreal, check out: http://www.coupedumonde2012.ca/
Hope to see you there, bring your flags, noisemakers and wear red!