May 29th, 2024

Bridge Blades putting on the laps once again

By Dale Woodard on October 28, 2021.

The Bridge Blades are ready to take the (short) track.

The Lethbridge Speed Skating Association Bridge Bolt hits the ice Saturday and Sunday at the ATB Centre from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with roughly 50 athletes on hand to don the blades for another winter around the oval.

The talent will run the spectrum from five-year-olds to members of the Alberta provincial team with skaters from Saskatchewan to B.C. slated to compete.

That includes a healthy local contingent.

“You can probably count on two-thirds of the competitors being the local racers,” said Nathalie Hall, media coordinator for the Bridge Blades.

“It’s a very good representation for Lethbridge. We do have a couple of skaters within our club who are either being looked at for the provincial speed skating team or are currently on the Alberta provincial speed skating team. We have a number of kids who are in development.”

A few members of the Bridge Blades have already gotten in some competition and brought home a bit of hardware in the process.

Five members of the Bridge Blades were in Saskatoon last weekend for the Saskatoon Prairie Opener, another short track meet.

Jonnathan McIntosh won gold in Boys Division II, while Denise Wesseling and Mikka Eaves took home silver in the Girls Division III and the Girls Open Division, respectively.

Zak Adelman (Boys Division II) and Mitchell Wesseling (Boys Open Division) won bronze medals.

“There were a lot of personal bests established that weekend of racing. So that sets the kids up well for what’s to come,” said Hall, adding the Bridge Blades members don’t necessarily travel as a club to competitions.

“It comes down to families deciding to take their athletes. Sometimes coaches will suggest a competition and then we’ll get a group of skaters who show interest to go. Because speed skating is an individual sport and when you’re more competitive and on the upper end of your age (group) you’re looking to have more competitions so you’re seen more often and so you’re also qualifying in order to participate and be seen for the development program at the Oval.”

After losing the 2020 Bridge Bolt to the pandemic, the Bridge Blades members get back on their home ice this weekend.

“Some of the kids were continuing with their practising and trying to stay motivated and this year things open up a little bit more for them. So they’re able to travel and take in other competitions,” said Hall.

“For some of the younger age groups, it’ll be the first time they’re competing.”

With each subsequent race spectators will see the skill level increase.

“For some, it’s going to be getting the rust out of their system or for others, they have trained up to the point where they’re going to perform,” said Hall.

“So as you see the more experienced skaters, the 12, 13 and 14-year-old skaters, that’s when you’ll see the really nice lean angle and they’re really carrying speed beautifully through the corners. Because it’s short track it’s just a constant swirl of bodies.

For some, it’ll be the first time they’re in a competition and for others it’ll be maybe the second or third time this season they’re competing, but not the second or third time in their careers as skaters.”

The usual COVID protocol will be followed for the two-day event with a proof of vaccination needed to enter.

Participants under the age of vaccination will be allowed to participate in the event.

“A number of skaters in our own club are that age and slightly,” said Hall. “We have maybe a handful of the upper end of the age group. Because this is one of those large meets that attracts skaters, a number of clubs in the prairie provinces, we’ve got kids coming from mostly Alberta this time around. But we do have some skaters coming in from Kamloops. They fit into that broad spectrum of ages.”

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