The next wave

Matthew Gourlie
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Six local skaters earn a trip to Age Class long track speed skating nationals

Local speed skaters have had a great start to their season and the best may be yet to come.

Local speed skaters Sam Moyse, left, Gabrielle Sanson, third from right, and Olivia Moyse and their Saskatchewan provincial teammates pose with 2010 Winter Olympic gold medalist Lucas Makowsky, centre, who will compete in Sochi next month.

Six local members of the Moose Jaw Kiwanis Speed Skating Club will attend the Canadian Age Class long track speed skating championships in Quebec City

Feburary 8-9.

This weekend four of those athletes — Gabrielle Sanson, Olivia Moyse, Graeme Fish and Alex Fish — are competing at the Canada Cup 3 in Saskatoon that also features the Canadian junior championships. Those four all have experience at the Age Class nationals, while Jane Morris and Marc André Doyon from Moose Jaw will make their debut.

“One of the reason these kids do so well is because they are well-coached. They have a cool thing going on down in Moose Jaw,” said Tim Comfort, the Saskatchewan Amateur Speed Skating Association’s technical director and provincial coach.

Comfort praised local coaches Verna Kergan, Lee Moyse and Ashley Boyes for developing a great crop of young skaters.

Moyse, Sanson and Alex Fish are all too young to actually officially take part at the Canada Cup. Instead they’re racing “out of competition.” Graeme Fish, who is 15, is old enough to take part and after he posted some qualifying times earlier in the season.

“Graeme is a phenomenal distance skater,” said Comfort. “He has the seventh-fastest 5,000-metre time in Canada for juniors this year. That’s for skaters who are 14-20 and he’s 15.

While they can’t earn points or medals, Sanson and Moyse are holding their own against the older field.

“They’re in the mix,” said Comfort. “Gabby and Liv are around 10th place out of 25 even though they’re too young to even compete in the meet. They’re being given this opportunity for experience and development.”

The national meet in Quebec City will be good experience for all of the athletes, but especially for Doyon and Morris as they make their first trip to the competition. It is only Doyon’s second season as a speed skater.

“They’re both younger skaters, but they’re pretty talented. Marc André is brand new. He’s going primarily for experience, but he’s come a long way this year,” said Comfort. “Jane is a really great all-around athlete. She qualified and she’s going to competitive.”

Alex Fish is still growing, but Comfort expects the 14-year-old to be competitive at nationals.

“He’s very, very competitive and in every race he’s in, he gives his best effort. He’s hard to beat because he never gives up. He’s achieved a pretty high level,” said Comfort.

It’s Graeme’s last year of eligibility to compete at Age Class nationals and Comfort expects he will have a strong chance of doing well.

Kergan said Graeme is “enjoying great season by cutting his times and is really showing his abilities in long distance races.”

Sanson and Moyse both compete as 13-year-olds and Comfort expects they will be each other’s best competition.

“They should come first and second,” he said. “They are phenomenal skaters and they’re pretty young.

“Last year Olivia won the national championship for 12-year-old girls and she won the Canada West short-track for 12-year-old girls. Gabby could have won either one of those, but she had a couple of unfortunate falls.”

In Quebec they will race 100-metres, 300m, 500m and 3,000m distance races.

“Gabby is a natural sprinter,” said Comfort. “There’s four races and three of them are sprints and one is distance, so Gabby has a very good chance at winning the meet.”

The extreme cold that has been a feature of the winter caused a recent in Regina to be cancelled and made their three-times-per-week training sessions at the Wakamow Oval unpleasant some days, but that hasn’t stood in the way of their success so far.

“These guys are the next wave,” said Comfort. “We have someone from Saskatoon who is going to junior worlds this year and they’re 16-years-old. In two years this is where these guys will be. Gabby and Liv — if they keep doing it — that’s the next step for them: contending for a spot on the junior worlds team. It’s a ways away, but it’s possible.”

Organizations: Moose Jaw Kiwanis Speed Skating Club, Canada Cup 3, Saskatchewan Amateur Speed Skating Association

Geographic location: Quebec City, Saskatoon, Canada West Moose Jaw Regina

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