Editorial - Exit stage left ~ Passion/Patin/Vitesse - Passion/Speed/Skating


9 septembre 2018

Editorial - Exit stage left

With fall comes the competition used to select the skaters who will represent Canada on the World cup circuit in short track speed skating. The format is new this year and it's sadly becoming quite clear now that when it comes to short track in Canada, politic gets in the way.

By Carl Savard

I don’t recall the last time a short track speed skating national calendar came out causing that much head-scratching. Coaches and even federations aren't even quite sure of what's to come and the season starts in 12 days. When you look at the opening competition, you may be tempted to say: "Wow, it’s cool! Normally only 16 skaters on both the men’s and women’s side have the chance to qualify for the fall World cup events. This year it’s 24!” The fact is normally this competition is only a selection, but not this year. This year it’s called the Canadian championships. The national championships are normally later in the season and the 32 best male and female canadian skaters face each other. That is what a national championship should be, the best ranked skaters in your country. This year, it’s not 32, it’s 24 and it’s not even the best 24. You're reading this and and you’re already scratching your head? Welcome to the world of short track in Canada.

When you look at the list of skaters who will take part in the Canadian championships, you see right away that some are marked as Next Generation. I think it’s great that Canada nurtures and takes good care of the skaters they believe will be the next generation of champions. I’m all for it, but there is a time and a place to do so and even though the world of sport is a tough one, there is always a way to do things in a respectful manner. Junior skaters have their own Canadian Junior championships and in the old format they had the opportunity to prove that they deserved the right to skate at the senior championships by competing against senior skaters first. Not this year. Some young skaters who have never participated in a senior competition or proved that they can beat senior skaters will get on the starting line beside Charles Hamelin or Kim Boutin. Meanwhile, better senior skaters won’t have the opportunity to compete in their national championships. It’s pretty clear when you look at the way things are, the governing body of speed skating in Canada is telling some great skaters: don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Speed Skating Canada has decided that the 24 skaters who will take part in the Canadian championships will be the 16 actually in the national team and development team, followed by skaters they think will be the next generation of athlete representing the country, while the last few spots will be given to the next seniors in line. That’s not what national championships are. When you look at the men’s list of participants, you can see that the 24th and last spot is occupied by Alexis Marceau. Marceau should be 17th on the list. Ranking 17th should normally means if a change is made in the top 16, the 17th ranked skater should be next in line. In the new format of the Canadian championships, your next in line almost didn’t get selected for your national championships. That is only one of many incongruities that jump right at you when you take just a few minutes to analyse the selection. Some of the young skaters who’s selection resulted in older skaters being kicked out, could hardly hold a candle to some of their older compatriots who will be sitting at home.

I remember a discussion I had with Olivier Jean last year. Jean was a late bloomer. A late bloomer who joined the national team when some of his friends had already competed on the World cup circuit. A late bloomer who became world champion at 28. During our discussion, Jean told me that at some time, he had decided he would not focus on the politic of sport. He kept focusing on the fact that his results would speak for themselves. Well it seems now that in Canada, it doesn’t really matter if your results are good enough to compete in your national championships. If Speed Skating Canada thinks you’re too old to ever make it big, your career is done even though your performances are still strong enough to have you skate with the best in your country. It’s called agism and it doesn’t have its place in any sphere of society.

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