By Gord Bowes, News staff
When Charles Hamelin takes to the ice in Sochi to defend his gold medals, Jacob Koenig will be glued to a TV set.
Speed skater Hamelin won gold in the men’s 500m event and the men’s 5,000 relay event at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. His performance four years ago, along with the rest of Canada’s speed skaters, was a big reason why Koenig is now on the ice four times a week.
One day, perhaps, it will be Koenig hitting the ice for his country at the Winter Olympics.
“That would be a dream,” the 14-year-old Westmount Secondary School student says. “It’s a long road.”
Koenig is in his fourth season with the Hamilton Speed Skating Club. Before making the switch to speed skating, he played hockey.
But the speed of at which Hamelin and Clara Hughes, another of his heroes in the sport, could attain on ice caught his attention.
“I always loved skating and was amazed at how fast they were going,” said Koenig, who now competes provincially.
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 come out and see what the sport is like.
Not everyone involved in the club wants to compete at the highest level, says Koenig.
“It’s a very inviting atmosphere,” he says. “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.