Tag Archives: World

Weekly Update #27 – World Championships

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.

Highlights

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.

And now…Pictures!

Relay Gold! Photo Credit - Istvan Lehotzky

Relay Gold! Photo Credit – Istvan Lehotzky

Thats a good looking team there! (minus the possessed eyes we all seem to have)

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

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

Painfaces. 1000m Quarter final behind 2013 World Champ Sin Da-Woon. Photo Credit – Istvan Lehotzky

Photo Credit - Istvan Lehotzky

Photo Credit – Istvan Lehotzky

Weekly Update #26 – Hungary!

The team and I are now in Debrecen, site of the 2013 World Championships putting the final touches on our form for this weekend’s competition.

Like I mentioned in my last post, we spent a week in Budapest acclimatizing to the jet-lag and getting a last bit of training under our belts. Despite having trained in Budapest this summer, I had completely forgotten how cold the rink was. Maybe it was the fact that when we were there in June it was above 30C almost everyday or my mind had erased bad memories of the cold, but I was shocked. Most of the team struggled a bit with not being able to feel our feet after 30 or so minutes on the ice. We also had to resort to extra layers over our skin suits. I like to consider myself a hardy northerner, but even I had to wear a toque under my helmet a couple times. Pathetic!

I love dried dates and figs. I picked some up at the Budapest market.

I love dried dates and figs. I picked some up at the Budapest market.

Olivier was pumped to buy his weight in sausage

Olivier was pumped to buy his weight in sausage at the market

On Sunday we hoped on a bus with the Hungarian team and travelled the 2.5 hours to Debrecen. We are staying at a very nice hotel only a few minutes from the rink. Its been gorgeous here every day. Today, Val, Gabby and I rented bikes from the hotel and went for a little tour around the hotel. The area around the hotel is a big park/sports complex/water park, and the local university is close to, so that made for a nice short tour to shake our legs out on our afternoon off.

Our hotel in Debrecen.

Our hotel in Debrecen.

Afternoon bike ride

Afternoon bike ride

University in Debrecen. According to Gabby, it has a good medical school.

University in Debrecen. According to Gabby, it has a good medical school.

Some off path riding...

Some off path riding…

...And some off roading

…And some off roading

Tomorrow is the last day of practice of the season. I’m ready to get this competition going!

Weekly Update #25

Well, a lot has happened since I last posted about our team’s crazy travel day from Sochi to Dresden. First of all, I’m already back over in Europe, having just arrived in Budapest today for a week long training camp before we do the short drive over to Debrecen for the World Championships. So since I’m back in a battle with my good friend jet lag, I figured I’d do a quick summary of the last couple weeks to help me fight the urge to sleep and give my few faithful readers something new to peruse.

So, the last few weeks went like this. First, I competed in Dresden. I started out shakily, not unlike I did in Sochi, but was able to pull out a decent 6th in the 1000m and 4th in the 1500m. Not my best results, but closer to my capabilities after the train wreck that was Sochi.

Following Dresden, the team flew home and brought with us an extra passenger that a few of the team picked up the week before. A nice little cold virus. I was one of the majority who got it on the trip back and I spend the better part of the first week back getting over that. It only stopped me from training for one day, I maybe could have taken a second, but training calls and we needed to put in some good strong training in order to get ready for Worlds.

By the middle of last week, I was feeling much more closer to my normal self and it started to show in training. I’m interested to see what type of form I can bring to Worlds in two weeks. It will be my first individual World Champs and I’m excited!

First up though, like I mentioned above, we have some training and time zone adaptation here in Budapest to do, so keep watching back here for updates from Hungary.

Video of my 1500m final in Dresden

Highlight video put together by the ISU

A travel story

A travel day involving two stop overs enroute to your destination while travelling through two countries can lead to some potential mixups on the best of days. Doing that same travel with a team of 20 and a massive snowstorm in one of the aforementioned stop overs is a recipe for potential disaster. That is exactly what our team headed into yesterday.

We started our travel day from Sochi to Dresden like any other travel day between world cups. With a bus ride and the seemingly interminable process of checking in 20 people and paying for excess luggage. The Sochi airport was a bit of a zoo since there was also a cross country ski world cup last weekend and ski teams were heading back home, massive ski and wax bags in tow. After sitting on the tarmac for a while, we finally got on our way with the knowledge that our connection in Moscow would now be quite tight.

Upon arrival in Moscow, it was apparent the airport was in a bit of chaos. Visibility was reduced to almost none due to a snowstorm and there were long line ups of planes waiting to take off. The baggage arrivals area was very busy as we waited for our bags to come out. Finally, we collected all of our bags, except for one. My skating equipment bag. This is about were the trouble and adventure started. While the rest of the team ran to the check in counter to attempt to make their connection Munich, which was now delayed due to the storm, I waded through the mess that is lost baggage claim in a busy airport that functions in a language that isn’t yours. After an hour and a half of being shuttled around from desk to desk trying to get someone to give me back my baggage tags and let me fill in lost baggage forms, while hearing horror stories from other skaters, including the entire Korean team as well as most of the Norwegian cross country team, our team leader Yves came back. Both of us had to run immediately to the Lufthansa checkin desk or miss our connection. We were finally able to fill in forms but by the time the paperwork was ready, our flight was closed. Looked like we would be spending the night in Moscow.

Waiting for a hotel shuttle in a Moscow snowstorm.

Waiting for a hotel shuttle in a Moscow snowstorm.

Meanwhile, the rest of our team had now boarded the flight to Munich, and were beginning their three hour wait on the runway. Unsure whether they would get away or not, Yves and I had to wait at the airport in case they didn’t take off. While we did that, we rebooked our flight for the next morning. Finally around 1030pm (we left the hotel in Sochi at 1030am and accomplished a 2 hour flight in 12 hours) the rest of the team took off. Yves and I headed for an airport  hotel and by midnight managed to check in so we could grab a few hours shut eye before our 545am flight the next morning.

After four short hours of sleep, we were headed back to the airport. Upon check-in, Yves got a bad surprise. His Russian visa had expired at midnight. Now, not only would he have to fill out paperwork and head to the Russian immigration office at the airport, the office wouldn’t open until 6am, after our flight was to leave. Yves would have to book another flight and would arrive in Dresden, tired and sick this afternoon.

I meanwhile, boarded my flight to Munich where, after a very tight connection, I managed to meet up with the team. They had spent the night in the airport trying to sleep on army cots that the airport provides to travellers with missed connections that have to stay overnight. I felt like a zombie and so did they. We boarded the flight to Dresden and finally had a flight go off without delay or mishap.

But our day wasn’t over yet! Our practice time, and only chance to skate today was at 10am. Having landed just after 8am, we grabbed our bags, and headed straight to the arena. Because I had lost my bag with all of my skating equipment, minus a clean skin suit, a pair of spare blades, and my boots (which I always carry on the plane to avoid situations like this), I had to borrow a helmet, gloves, glasses and guards from various members of our team. After a quick 1 hour ice session, we finally headed to the hotel for some much needed lunch and rest. A routine travel day that turned into a marathon was finally over!

Sochi pictures

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!

Another shot of the main stadium under construction.

The main stadium under construction.

The iceberg is huge!

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

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

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

The temporary dirt road that we use to access the rink

Contruction of something Olympics related

Contruction of something Olympics related

Flat roofed building is the Long track oval.

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

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

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.

The biggest rink is home to men’s hockey.

Inside our rink.

Inside our rink.

The Iceberg, the arena for Short Track and figure Skating

The Iceberg, the arena for Short Track and figure Skating

LOTS of construction all around the Olympic park

LOTS of construction all around the Olympic park

Weekly Update #22 – Canadian Champion!

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

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

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!


 

 

Weekly Update #20 Photo Blog!

First of all, happy new year and welcome to 2013!

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!

Weekly Update #19 Shanghai Re-cap

On deck this week is a re-cap of my races at World Cup #4 in Shanghai.

After an unsatisfying week of racing in Japan, we did a short travel day over to Shanghai. The week of training went pretty smoothly. The rink in Shanghai is great. They do a great job of maintaining the ice. It grips a ton, holds up well and is quite fast. It keeps you honest though as you must be efficient or that speed will evaporate quickly due to how much grip there is. Because of this, it is a very fair ice.

I again skated a 1500m and 1000m. I had the opportunity to do a 500m after my teammate Olivier Jean suffered a concussion in Japan and couldn’t race in Shanghai, but I opted to stick with the same two distances in back to back weekends so that I could continue to work on the racing tactics that I was practicing in Nagoya.

Friday’s qualification day went well for me. Winning all of my races I tried to build some confidence for the weekend and I think I achieved that. The tactics and race strategies that I did employ, or attempted to employ, seemed to go smoothly. The qualification day is always a marathon of 10-12 hours straight at the rink and I was happy to be done and safely on to the rounds on the weekend.

Saturday was the 1500 for me. I had pretty good feelings in my warm-up. It is always my goal to be on the podium in each distance and I felt that on that day, I certainly had the legs to podium. In my semi final, I used a well timed outside move to get through a rough and tumble race and on to the final.

The final was, hmm how can I put it, interesting. Early in the race, I was well placed and thought I would be right were I needed to be when the sprint to the end started. Unfortunately, I gave up my 2nd position too easily to a Russian skater and thats when the mess started. That forced me to start working on the outside for the front. Only problem was that just about everybody wanted that route. In the end, I got tangled up in a collision in the straightaway between another Russian and my teammate Guillaume Bastille. This caused me to go down. You can see the video of this race in the post below.

I was none to happy with this race for a couple of reasons. First of all, I felt a bit like I wasted an excellent opportunity to be on the podium. Secondly, I made several tactical mistakes. Oh well, put it behind you and on to Sunday. Oh ya, we made the relay final at the end of the day as well. Moving up from the week before!

Sunday was 1000m day for me. Final chance at a podium? I think so. A couple of good races and I was on to the final. Once again, for the third or fourth time this year, I was in a final against the formidable trio of Kwak Yoon-Gy, Noh Jinkyu and Victor (Ahn Hyun-Soo) An. Also joining us in the final was Freek Van der Vart of the Netherlands. Again, it would prove to be a frustrating race for me. A slip on a well timed outside pass early in the race put me at the back of the pack. A couple of missed oppourtunities later and I was playing the last ditch card for bronze. Never a good card to have to play. It cost me, I collided with Freek and down we went, a Penalty for me.

So that was that. I guess the positives I can take from World Cup #4 is that my consistently is continuing to improve. I am hitting A finals often, and you have to make A finals to medal. Next step is transforming an A final in a win. Its coming.

After the competition, we were treated to an awesome show by the Organizing committee. We (the world cup skaters, staff etc) attended a circus/acrobatic/mind boggling show. My jaw was on the floor the entire time and my hands were sore from clapping. I also met up with my Chinese fan/friend Kyle on the bus ride back to the hotel. He was at the competition working as a journalist and got to check out the show as well. The organizers in Shanghai do an amazing job at putting on a show. I’m happy that the World Cup is supposed to stop there for the next 8 years!

So if you made it this far, congratulations! That was a long one. Check back in a few days. I have a bunch of photos from Shanghai, including a sort of photo essay on what a day of competition on the world cup looks like to share with you guys, so trust me, less reading is coming!

Weekly Update #13 World Cups in Canada!

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!