Canadian long track team trains at Richmond Oval

By Jolanda Abbes - Over the last two weeks, the Canadian long track speed skating team was in Richmond, BC for a training camp. The Richmond Oval has not been completely finished yet, but thanks to the hard work of all the people involved, the Canadian team was already able to test the ice and get an idea of what the Olympic Oval will be like in 2010. Among them were Lucas Makowsky, Philippe Riopel and Brittany Schussler, who were all impressed with what they saw.

In February 2010, Richmond will be the centre of the speed skating world, when the Richmond Oval will be the venue of all the Olympic long track speed skating events.

SSC Long Track Team at the Richmond Oval, Photo: Jeff Bough
Even though the Olympic Games are still two speed skating seasons away, the Richmond Oval is already close to being finished, and almost ready for the Canadian speed skating competitions that are scheduled to take place there this upcoming season. Besides the Canadian Single Distances Championships this December, another important competition in Richmond will be the World Single Distances Championships, that will close the season in March 2009.

Even though the Richmond Oval is not completely finished yet and not open for public skating, the Canadian long track speed skating team was in Richmond last week to get a first impression of the atmosphere and the ice of the new oval. Among them were Brittany Schussler, Lucas Makowsky and Philippe Riopel, who were all impressed with the way the interior of the oval is designed. Schussler, silver medalist in the Team Pursuit at the World Single Distances Championships in Nagano last March: “The oval is amazing, it is full of huge windows with spectacular views!” The interior of the new oval also made a great impression on Makowsky, who debuted as a senior at the World All-round Championships in Berlin last season: “The interior isn't fully finished but it is shaping up to be one of the nicest ovals. It has a nice high roof with large wooden support beams, and a neat wooden pattern that completes the roof. The large north-facing windows allow for lots of natural light to come in, and they also give for a spectacular view of the mountains in the distance.”

Where the interior is not completely finished yet, but finished enough for the Canadian team to be able to skate there, the exterior is still a bit further away from completion, although everyone involved is working very hard to get the entire oval finished as soon as possible. Makowsky: “There is lots of work still being done on the exterior but the trend of the wooden beams is continued at the entrance to the building. Large panes of glass cover the building sides which will look amazing when finished.” Riopel, gold medalist in the 500m at last season’s World Junior Championships, was impressed with both the interior and exterior as well: “The interior of the building is beautiful, just like the outside of it. The building is huge! It’s definitely the biggest oval I've seen so far. It is all made of wood, kind of like in Erfurt or Hamar.”

Of course the interior and exterior of the oval are important, but what is even more important, is the ice. Riopel reflects: “The ice was really good! I wasn't too sure what to expect since the oval is still under construction, but they worked really hard to

SSC skaters training at the Richmond Oval for the first time, Photo: Jeff Vinnick
make sure that the ice would be ready and clean for us to skate on. I think the ice will only get faster from now until the Olympic Games start, since they will understand more how the building is reacting and also how the ice is reacting to the weather there.”

Richmond is a small town very close to Vancouver that is slowly getting ready to welcome the world in 2010. Although the Olympics are still a year and a half away, the people of Richmond are getting used to the idea of having this big event in their backyard and seem to be excited that soon their town will be the centre of the speed skating world. Makowsky: “There is a lot of excitement felt by the workers on site, the city of Richmond, and the community.” Schussler agrees that the people of Richmond seem to be excited about the new oval: “The people in the city of Richmond all seem thrilled to have the 2010 Olympic skating venue in their city and are extremely friendly.” And Riopel adds: “The first time we got on the ice and all the construction workers were there, I think it was really special for them to finally see us skate after they had been working there for 18 months. The city of Richmond is also very excited for the Olympic Games. They really wanted to make us feel at home when we got there. We had a lunch at the City Hall with the mayor of Richmond and it seemed like everybody is really excited with less than a year and a half to go.”

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