Long Track begins February 16 / Short Track February 17
By Ryan Ohashi
Red Deer, AB - It doesn’t seem to matter if you are a wide eyed rookie or a two time veteran, you never forget your experience at the Canada Winter Games. This special competition occurs only every four years and has grown into a true event; a celebration of Canadian sport. The 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer from February 15 until March 3 will feature 19 sports, over 150 events and a major cultural festival.
“Its great because of the big spectacle of it.” said Oval program skater and Team Alberta member Paul Coderre who will skate his second CWGs “The media is a big part of it, the TSN cameras are on which is awesome and you feel like the whole country is paying attention to your sport and all the other events.”
There are an estimated 3,600 athletes, managers and coaches participating and among them 27 athletes from the Olympic Oval program with 14 long track and 13 short track skaters participating for their respective provinces.
“It’s awesome, you see a lot of the athletes from not just speed skating but other sports too” said Coderre “It’s cool cause it seems like whichever sport you’re in, across the board, if you go to Canada Games and are at that level at this age, you have a chance of doing great things afterwards.”
Forecasted to generate an economic impact of over $132 million, these games are the 14th edition of the Canada Winter Games and serve to provide a stage for Canada’s next generation of national, international and Olympic champions to compete. Coderre is among a handful of skaters who will have the opportunity to skate at a second Canada Winter Games after participating as a short track skater for Team Alberta at the Prince George Canada Winter games in 2015. One such skater is another short track convert, Cassidy Peterson, who medaled at the 2015 CWGs.
“Canada Games are just different because you’re not just skating for yourself, you’re skating for your skating team and for the province.” said Peterson who also echoed Coderre’s sentiment for the wide range of events and a broadening audience. “The fact it’s a multisport event just kind of showcases what you’re doing, it brings more attention to you if you do well and kind of connects you with other athletes that are at the same level as you - its kind of inspiring to be able to compete in that kind of atmosphere.”
Having the chance to return to a second CWGs is an opportunity none of these athletes take lightly.
“I am really lucky for sure, the first time I went I think I was the youngest you could possibly be so it felt like I didn’t get to experience everything it had to offer, I was still just trying to get oriented to the higher level competition,” said Coderre of his 2015 experience as a 15 year old “now going back it’s a lot more like where I feel I have some good chances to medal and that will hopefully make it a little more fun.”
“I think the first time around I was just going to skate and have fun and hopefully medal in the relay for short track, which we did…” said Peterson “But this time I am really going for the individual medals and I think I have a pretty good chance in the 1500m and the 3k – but it’s actually kind of more stressful in that aspect cause I have set those bigger goals for myself this time around.”
With temperatures projected as low as -20 to -25 Celsius plus a wind chill one might assume the frigid temperatures at the long track venue at Great Chief Park would play a huge role in the competition. However, for Peterson the adjustment is more to the outdoor venue and outdoor ice over the reading on the thermometer.
“It’s more the feeling of the ice is different cause here [at the Oval] it’s a bit softer vs outside because of the cold. It affects the feel while you’re skating and definitely things like the wind affects you but the actual cold itself I am able to kind of forget about when I am skating.” said Peterson adding with a laugh “It’s more when you stand up after your race and you realize it’s -25 and you’re not wearing a whole lot of clothing, you find yourself there like… Oh no.”
One group who will not have to deal with the cold will be the short track athletes whose event will take place indoors at the newly constructed Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. The venue will play host to short track speed skating, squash, wheelchair basketball, figure skating and badminton during the CWGs. Two of the Oval program’s bright young stars and Team Alberta standouts will be competing for the home team in their very first Canada Winter Games; 18 year-old Brendan Yamada and 17 year-old Matej Pederson.
“It’s pretty exciting, it’s a great opportunity and it’s going to be fun to represent Alberta for the first time on a big stage like that. It’s going to be nice to have the home crowd in Red Deer too.” said Yamada, a Calgary native “Its also going to be nice to get the media exposure and just to race without all the pressure of the national rankings and stuff - you can just kind of be in the moment, have fun and just compete and try to medal.”
“I think just the experience of racing in front of so many people and with higher stakes, it’s going to be a great learning experience for me” said Pederson who is also looking forward to competing in in the games in his home province “I’m really excited ‘cause I have some family that lives in Red Deer, so they’ll be out there watching too.”
Multi time Olympic gold medalist and world Champion Cindy Klassen said of the Canada Winter Games during her Canada Game Hall of Honour induction:
“The Canada Games provided me with invaluable learning opportunities that have helped me in both sport and life.”
The Games have truly served as a coming out party of sorts for many world class Canadian athletes. Some of the participants of the past include the likes of speed skating legends such as Klassen, Catriona Le May Doan, Charles Hamelin and Marc Gagnon. As well as professionals and Olympians across sports including Sidney Crosby, Danielle Goyette, Mark McMorris and Jennifer Heil.
“So many high level Olympic athletes who have represented Canada over the years went to the games, and a lot of them represented Alberta” said Yamada “It’s pretty cool to kind of be a part of that history and think maybe you could potentially be like one of them one day.”
The 2019 Canada Winter Games kick off with the opening ceremonies on Friday, February 15. The long track competition will begin at Great Chief Park on Saturday, February 16 while the short track event begins on February 17 at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
For more information be sure to visit: https://www.canadagames.ca/2019/
Olympic Oval 2019 Canada Winter Games Athletes
Paul Coderre, (Calgary, AB)
Cassidy Peterson (Canmore, AB)
Eric Orlowsky (Prince George, BC)
Matthew Scutchings (Saskatoon, SK)
Ashley Hannah (Winnipeg, MB)
Alexa Annecca (Barrie, ON)
Noah Bouma (Ottawa, ON)
Max Brant (Niagra on the Lake, ON)
Rachel Freitag (Ottawa, ON)
Gibson Himbeault (Whitby, ON)
Sierra Johnson (Oakville, ON)
Matt Laxton (Hespeler, ON)
Lily Weidemann (Ottawa, ON)
Rose Laliberté-Roy (QC)
Cezara Bere (Edmonton, AB)
Mathias Bathe (Calgary, AB)
Matej Pederson (Calgary, AB)
Caitlin Pelkey (Calgary, AB)
Hee Won Son (Calgary, AB)
Brendan Yamada (Calgary, AB)
Molly Young (Calgary, AB)
Team Alberta Oval Coaches: Cristina Lazarescu & Dustin Miller
Keanan St. Rose (Prince George, BC)
Craig Miller (Prince George, BC)
Marshall Shupe (Maple Ridge, BC)
Hunter Ullett (Winnipeg, MB)
Sebastian Champagne (Brantford, ON)
Connor Rogerson (Ottawa, ON)