Speed Skating Canada Rewards Deserving Athletes & Volunteers

This year’s most deserving athletes and volunteers were recognized by Speed Skating Canada at tonight’s Annual General Meeting Banquet in Québec City. The banquet is held yearly to celebrate the successes of the past season and thank those who made a difference To the Relentless Pursuit of Excellence, from coast to coast to coast.

National Team members Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne de Lauzon, QC), Jeremy Wotherspoon (Red Deer, AB), Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) and Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) were all named Skaters of the Year, respectively for Short Track and Long Track, Male and Female. Hamelin was second in the 500m at the World Championships and he won 13 medals on the World Cup Circuit this past season. Roberge is still dominating the women’s side in Canada, and she has been winning gold in every distance at all national competitions for the last two complete seasons.

Occasoinally this year, two male athletes surpassed all expectations in long track speed skating. Wotherspoon established a new 500m World Record at his first competition of the season, coming back from a year off the circuit. He won 9 of his 10 World Cup races in the 500m, is the current World Champion in that distance and finished second at the World Sprint Championships. Morrison also established a new World Record this season, in the 1500m, on top of winning numerous World Cup medals. He is World Champion in the 1500m.

Groves, an 11 year veteran on the Canadian team, also had an outstanding season. Not only did she win five medals at the World Single Distances Championships, including the title in the 3000m, but she also finished third at the World Allround Championships and took the World Cup Title in the 1500m. It seemed like nothing eluded her this year.

Two rising stars were also recognized at the event. François Hamelin (Ste-Julie, Québec) is coming off his first year on the National Short Track Team, and skated to a new 500m World Record time in the Fall, went on to take the Canadian Championship Title in January, and then skated in his first World Cups and World Championships. He is definitely one to watch in the years leading to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Justine L’Heureux (Ste-Tite, QC) is a very promising athlete on the Long Track side. She skated in her fourth World Junior Championships this year and finished second overall. Hers is another name to keep in mind in the next years.

The dedicated work of many volunteers was also recognized at this 121st SSC AGM Banquet. The Jean Grenier Appreciation Award is presented to an individual that’s assisted Canadian speed skating outside clubs and branches. This year’s recipient was Roger Fradette (Saguenay, QC), a dedicated volunteer who helped attract many world class events to his region, even presiding two World Cups held there. He helped transform many arenas in international ice surfaces so they could host major short track speed skating events, and is currently part of the group developing the project of covering the Ste-Foy Oval.

Other people recognized were:

Female Coach of the Year – Xiuli Wang, Calgary: Under her leadership, Kristina Groves achieved her best ever season. Arne Dankers, Shannon Rempel and Clara Hughes, all coached by Xiuli, also had great results this year, and one of her young skaters, Nicole Garrido, won a bronze medal at the World Junior Championships and skated in her first World Cups this year. A six-year National Team Coach, she brings discipline and commitment to the athletes and empowers them to believe in themselves.

Coaching Excellence Awards: recipients of the award this year were Bette Roberts of British Columbia, Paula McConvey of Ontario and Derrick MacLeod of New Brunswick.

Outstanding Administrator Award – Chantal Brideau, New Brunswick: She has been involved in speed skating for over 15 years, both at the club and provincial level. She was President of her club from 1993 to 1998 and then served as chair of Speed Skating New Brunswick for two years. She was instrumental in hosting numerous competitions in New Brunswick and by devoting countless hours to speed skating, she has contributed greatly to the development of the sport.

René Marleau Official of the Year Award – Roch Loignon, Québec: He is retiring this year after 35 years of involvement as a speed skating official. He is much appreciated by athletes, other officials and meet organizers. Year after year, he officiates at numerous speed skating competitions and his abilities are acknowledged at the international level.

The Gagné Family Award went to the Lamarche family of Québec. It is awarded to a family that has made an outstanding contribution to the development of the sport of speed skating. The Lamarche – Benoît, Marie-Pierre, Pierre, Louise (Cofsky) and Michel, have all been involved in the sport in various capacity for numerous years, and their tremendous contribution to our sport is to be commended.

The province of Québec earned both the Pat Underhill Shield and Doreen Ryan Shield, as the top short track and long track province at the various national events.

The recipients of the Peter Williamson Bursary, a bursary for promising skaters who best combine athletic and scholastic achievements, were short trackers Mathieu Giroux (Montreal, QC), Andréa Do-Duc (Montreal, QC), and long trackers Lucas Makowsky (Regina, SK) and Jay Morrison (Fort St. John, BC).