By Sean Rooney on February 8, 2019.
The top speedskater from Medicine Hat lined up in a fun short track race, started around the first corner and went down, skidding into the pads at the Family Leisure Centre.
More proof that Josh Hathaway was smart to switch to long track.
The 19-year-old who moved to Calgary a few years ago was back in town Wednesday, gearing up for the Canada Winter Games but also there to support a club that seems to produce a national-level talent every few years.
“I’m happy with where I’m at,” said Hathaway, as a dozen skaters practised their starts and turns. “Short-term goal is I’m on the edge of making Next Gen national team.”
Hathaway didn’t actually win much when he was in short track, but figured out he was better at the endurance events than the quick sprints.
Now training full-time, he won the national junior long track 5,000-metre title last month. The long-term goal is a spot in the Olympics, but he doesn’t yet have the overall results at shorter distances to be on a national team.
“I was just growing up here, junior high, a struggling short track skater. You could tell I was developing into a long distance skater, and short track doesn’t offer long distance at all,” he said. “It became clear I was going to be a distance skater, and long track was the way to move forward.”
Proof that speedskating is a small world, the Alberta long track skating coach for the group headed to Red Deer for the Canada Winter Games is none other than Kirsti Lay, the Medicine Hat-born Olympic cycling medallist who was a promising long-track skater before injuries forced her onto a bike and eventually the velodrome, where she helped Canada’s pursuit team win bronze in Rio in 2016.
At a recent Team Alberta event, Hathaway was surprised to find the fellow Hatter seeking him out.
“It was right at the staging event, we’re all just gathered in a group and she’s like ‘who’s from Medicine Hat?’ I was like ‘that’s me!’ It was pretty funny.”
In the same vein, Jacob Krueger is poised to follow in both Lay, ex-national team member Liam McFarlane and Hathaway’s footsteps. Krueger now helps coach with the Medicine Hat club, and will move to Calgary this fall to pursue skating at the next level.
Unlike Hathaway he’s going to stick with short track.
“I’ve been improving a lot this year in short track and been wanting to take it to the next level,” said Krueger, 17. “Since I’m graduating from high school this year I’m going to go up there, train for a year and work for a year, then I’ll go to university.”
Krueger won the head-to-head duel with Hathaway Wednesday thanks to the aforementioned crash on the first lap. But aside from that it was a neat experience for Hathaway, who remembers getting his helmet signed by McFarlane — who has since retired from the sport — years ago. Now he’s the one the kids look up to.
“It’s really good for the kids to get to see a kid that has made it to the elite level program, where their next jump is essentially the Olympics,” said local club president Dallas Duncan.
The Canada Winter Games starts next Friday. Speed skating takes place from Feb. 16-22.
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