Up to speed after 65 years old ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


1 mars 2017

Up to speed after 65 years old

Story: Julie Doyon
Photos: Anika Bédard and André Pouliot
Since a few years, I have been skating around some unusual people on Quebec city’s ice rinks, three of them have especially caught my attention, either they are gliding on the never-ending straight-aways of the 400 meters on Gaétan-Boucher oval or steering in the tight corners of the 111 meters inside rinks – all three of them are above 65 years of age.
Curious, and I admit it, quite charmed, I started wondering about the particular challenges that would be brought by doing speed skating for such noble athletes. So I arranged to meet with Jules Lefebvre, 66, Gaétan Rochette, 69, and Yves Garneau, 75, to talk about speed skating and the search for excellence, but also to learn more about their motivations, their history, and the challenges they love to take up again and again.

In the beginning, there was long track

Jules Lefebvre started long track speed skating in 2012. One of his friends from cycling, Gilles Champagne, who was involved in the Quebec City masters speed skating club (CPVQM), suggested he tried long track speed skating as a complementary activity for cycling during the long winter months. “Speed skating had always been on my mind. In my life, it had always interested me, but I did not think it was available to anybody,” he says. At first, speed skating was only a sport of secondary importance, however it quickly acquires an intrinsic value and becomes for Jules a sport to which he wants to commit fully. Jules is now always eager to skate long distances, and for that matter, he is sorry that the 50 km is not offered anymore as part of Quebec City’s marathon.
Gaétan Rochette, who is a real pioneer on the speed skating scene in Quebec City, puts on speed skates for the first time in 1982. He then hops on the 400 meters to come along during his son’s training sessions on the outdoor oval. Gaétan’s journey on the ice witnesses the debuts of masters’ speed skating in Quebec City. In 1987, Pierre Gagné creates and coaches the Quebec's Master Club. “Pierre Gagné was my first coach. He told me: ‘Follow me and do what I do,’” laughs Gaétan. From then on, Gaétan gets involved in many speed skating organisations, such as the CPVMQ, the IMSSC (International Masters’ Speed Skating Committee), and the MSI (Marathon Skating International), in addition to taking part in numerous regional, provincial, national and international events and competitions.
As for Yves Garneau, who wears speed slates for the first time at 59 years old, he is extraordinarily driven by competition. The thing that attracts him to this sport is the beauty of the long strides and elegance of the movements. He remembers vividly his first time on Gaétan-Boucher ice rink. Even though it was pouring rain, on evening in fall, Yves immediately falls in love with the sport, and goes to buy his first pair of clap skates a few days later. He has now won no less than 75 medals, and is motivated by competition and winning. He wants to be one of the best masters in the world and win medals in his category. His passion for marathons comes from the sensation of freedom he gets when skating on vast spreads of natural ice.
And then there was short track
For skaters that were up until then being hampered by the elements having to train on an outdoor rink, the appeal of short track is first and foremost regarding the predictable and consistent aspects of training conditions. Even when winters are mild, it can be tough on the outdoor ice rink in Sainte-Foy. Sometimes, snow and rain can be responsible for the temporary closing of the oval, and sometimes, gusty winds and freezing cold can dishearten many skaters to step on the ice. So before they joined the CREM-PVQ, a Quebec speed skating club created in 2014 dedicated especially to short track for seniors and masters, our three ice warriors were managing to skate indoors once a week with other masters in Saint-Étienne, on Quebec city’s south shore, to skate laps without any fuss, without a coach or training plan, and placing protection mats rather precariously.
Yves is the first one to grasp the opportunity to train more seriously in short track, not hesitating to enrol in the CREM-PVQ on the club’s first day. The year after, he convinces his friend Gaétan to join in, followed by Jules in the beginning of this season.
Their arrival in short track brings about a whole lot of unexpected new skills and knowledge they need to learn, which broadens their experience and stir their passion for speed skating. They encounter new challenges, such as controlling their speed, searching for stability, or taming their own fears. In short track, everything happens quickly, adrenaline is streaming, and a lot of skaters are moving real fast on a pretty limited surface. They had to learn new safety rules, manage a new space, learn how to take and give relays, how to pass, where to skate on the track, and refine their technique, because the tight turns on the 111 meters do not forgive a rough technique.
In a short time, they realise that the new skills they are coming to grips with are transferable in long track speed skating. For Gaétan, who never really had a coach before, his short track experience brings him to substantially improve his basic technique. “I learned to skate with Pat [Patrick Bélanger, CREM-PVQ’s head coach]. I’ve been skating for 35 years, and I learned to skate this year!” Besides all of that, these three buddies particularly enjoy the spirit of camaraderie that naturally prevails in short track.
Performance issues
It was surprising to me that all three were eager to talk about their sports performance in relation to their age. Gaétan told me he had reached his peak in his early fifties. It was at that moment that he had the most fun and that he was able to get the most intensity from speed skating. Jules says he feels as though he was twenty years old as far as skills and attitude are concerned. However, if his physical abilities have been changing, the effort he puts in stays the same, and Jules continues to give everything he can on the ice, no matter what his capacities are.
As for Yves, his performances have been consistent up until now. According to him, it is a little due to short track, partly because the season starts earlier. He admits that age has affected his agility, but says that short track has helped him improve his concentration, his technique and his endurance.
The intensity and frequency of their sports activity are surprising to the people around them. For example, they have to get up as early as 5:30 in the morning to go skating short track at the arena since the masters do not benefit from sports subsidies. And while most people their age “are sitting in a rocking chair doing crossword puzzles,” they are skating short track, long track, and marathons. “For us, it’s normal to go and skate 25 km one morning, it’s our lifestyle. But when you speak to ordinary people of our age, we’re not normal,” says Jules laughing. Then he adds forthright that “sometimes, it can be fun to do extraordinary things.”
And there is no doubt about it, this unusual trio really do carry out remarkable achievements!

1 commentaire:

  1. Keep up the short track skating and congratulations! It probably helps your memory and certainly your coordination. Weight bearing exercise helps your bones. Obviously the aerobic exercise helps your heart. And dryland helps you keep some muscle tone which also helps stave off diabetes (or at least control it better).