By Gord Bowes, News staff
When Canadian speed skaters take to the ice in Sochi over the next two weeks, Joseph Stechey will be watching.
The eight-year-old St. Ann's elementary student is a big fan of the sport. He has been fascinated by it since watching the action during the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
"I love to race," said Joseph.
While he also plays hockey, the young Ancaster resident said he prefers speed skating, even though it took some getting used to because of the difference in styles and blades.
"The blades are thinner and you go faster," said Joseph.
Beyond the small world of speed skaters, the sport doesn't get a lot of attention from the Canadian public outside of Olympic years. But about 50 members of the Hamilton Speed Skating Club practise under the tutelage of certified coaches each week at the Chedoke Twin Pad Arena and Sherman Recreation Centre.
The club is open to athletes 17 or younger who are residents of Hamilton. It gives youth the opportunity to participate in speed skating under the auspices of the Ontario Speed Skating Association, both for recreation and to compete in race meets around the province.
Because of the cost of the specialized skates, there is a skate rental program for members who are not ready to make the plunge and buy their own.
The Hamilton club is hosting a meet on Family Day, Feb. 17, at Mainway Arena in Burlington. Admission is free and everyone is welcome to see what the sport is like.
Not everyone involved in the club wants to compete at the highest level, said Jacob Koenig, a student at Westmount Secondary School.
"It's a very inviting atmosphere," he said. "Speed skating is something you get into for the fun, to meet new friends and for personal fitness."
"It's something you can do for fun all your life."
For more information about the Hamilton Speed Skating Club, see hamiltonspeedskating.ca.