Pj’s young friend Phoebe skating so fast as to only show up as a blur!

This past weekend, I ran from the virtual TV rink on CBC to a real rink where the Toronto Speed Skating Club (www.torontospeedskating.org) practices on Sunday nights.

I love short track speed skating. I was lucky enough to be rinkside at both the 2002 and 2006 Olympics and then in the rafters of the building in 2010 when the Canadian men won gold. It is a thrilling sport that doesn’t convey its total crazy excitement as well on TV as it does in the building.

In other words – if you get the chance – you should go.

If you live in the Toronto area – the Junior nationals are taking place the weekend of December 8th and 9th at the Mastercard Centre.

The championships pulls together the top 32 female and top 32 male Juniors (15 – 19 year olds) in Canada. They compete for 2 full days, racing 12 times over 3 distances (500, 1000, 1500) to be crowned Canadian Junior Champion. The top four of each gender also get named to the Canadian Junior team, to compete at the ISU Junior World Short Track Championships in Warsaw in February 2013.

So how somebody gets involved in short track is what I was doing in Scarborough on Sunday to discover.

A coaching colleague of mine, Dawn, has a daughter Phoebe. Phoebe  is someone I have known almost since her toddler days. She is a huge speed skating fan and is making great inroads as a short track speed skater.

Her parents Dawn and Carl are very involved with the club making it a family affair.

Carl in fact was the one who put two and two together 4 years ago when he noticed how much Phoebe liked skating around and around the Canskate warm-up circle. Why not have Phoebe try short track speed skating he thought?

Dawn helps out on the ice and I asked her the differences between coaching figure skating and short track.  “The biggest surprise coming from figure to speed skating is the racing instinct; that sense of urgency.” Dawn elaborates “If you say slow down, listen to the music, take your time, don’t rush like you would in figure skating it makes no sense at all in preparation for speed skaters in competition.”

The other thing for Dawn is the the fact that training takes place in a group atmosphere with as many as 30 skaters on the ice at the same time.

Phoebe’s practices on a Sunday night include dry land training and then a very strenuous workout on the ice.

“I like going fast. This year I am focusing on PBs (personal bests). We have ranking lists and I want to have the fastest time. Right now I am sitting around 5th.”

As with all sports, coaching is key and Ana Pacanins is a woman who knows what she is talking about: she finished her career ranked as 17th best in the country.

The last word has to belong to the woman of the hour or rather – split second – Phoebe Hill – Short Track Future Star – as she talks about the sport she loves: