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Training on and off the ice

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Thursday, August 30, 2007

FORT SIMPSON - Fort Simpson speed skaters started their season early this year, heading out of town on the quest for ice.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Madison Pilling displays her skates at the NWT Speed Skating Summer Camp in Yellowknife. - Natalie Dunleavy/NNSL photo

Four members of the Bompas and Fort Simpson Speed Skating Team attended camps to prepare for the winter season. Ian Keefe, Alex Keefe, Tyler Pilling and Madison Pilling participated in the Olympic Oval Summer Speed Camp held in Calgary from July 9-13.

"It was a great camp," said Val Gendron, the team's coach.

The camp focused on improving technique and having fun, Gendron said. In addition, Madison Pilling recently returned from attending the NWT Speed Skating Summer Camp in Yellowknife.

"I'm getting to be good at speed skating but these camps really help me out a lot. My times have been getting faster," said Pilling.

Pilling, 10, has been skating for a number of years. She became interested in the sport after her brother started competing.

"I thought going fast on ice sounds like fun," she said.

For Pilling her season's goal is to skate 500-metres in under one minute.

"I'm not old enough for the Arctic Winter Games yet, but I want to try and beat my records for the 500-metre," she said.

From August 22-26, Pilling was one of 52 speed skaters from across the territory who attended the camp in Yellowknife. Technique was the focus of the camp with skaters learning about the proper basic position, crossovers and other skills, said Gendron.

"If you improve your technique your speed gets faster," Gendron said.

While Pilling was practising on ice, Gendron took a coaching clinic.

"It was really good technical stuff," she said.

Gendron said she came away from the clinic with a lot of information about what to look for to help skaters improve their technique.

Back in Fort Simpson with the skaters starting school, plans are already in the works for the team. Hopefully most of the skaters will participate in cross-country running to improve their fitness level, said Gendron.

Early season out-of-town camps are important for Fort Simpson skaters because the natural ice arena in the community means waiting until November or December for ice times. To get the skaters on ice sooner, a training camp might be held in Hay River in October. Some of the team members have indicated they're interested in trying out for the Arctic Winter Games so the camp will be important, said Gendron.

The team has also received funding from Speed Skating Canada to help this season.

A $4,000 grant will be used to buy mats to cover more of the boards around the arena, something that has become necessary as the skaters have improved.

"The faster you go, the harder you fall," said Gendron.

The team also has a $1,000 seedling grant to bring a coach from the Olympic Oval in Calgary to teach a camp in the village in January.