Speedskating World Cup stops in Calgary

Such familiar names as Catriona Le May Doan, Susan Auch, Steven Elm and Jeremy Wotherspoon will be on the card this weekend as the world’s best speedskaters congregate on campus for the next stop on the World Cup Speedskating tour.

"This is the most important World Cup stop, because it’s in Calgary," says Elm. "It’ll be the fastest stop this year. The 10 fastest times of the year so far have been set here."

The Oval is renowned for its ice quality, and it’s a rare meet that doesn’t see a new record set. With 150 athletes from more than 20 countries competing, chances are very good that records will fall this weekend.

Elm will be competing in two events, the 1500m and 5000m. When asked which is his better distance, he hesitates to commit.

"It flip-flops," he says. "I won a medal in the 5000m in the 1998 World Cup in Milwaukee, but at the World Championships, my best event was the 1500m. It just depends what’s feeling better. It might be equipment related. I use a flatter skate, so it’s a little more effective in long distance, but it’s harder to start. Some of it might be luck… I don’t know."

This is the last event on the sprint tour, so competitors in the 1500m and 1000m will get bonus points for their results, adding to the excitement.

One of the biggest stories on the World Cup tour has been the return of Auch. Last weekend, in Butte, Montana, Auch won the B division, placing her in the A division for the stop in Calgary.

One athlete of particular interest in the B group is Selena Elm, Steven’s sister. A University of Calgary student, Selena will be racing in the 3000m on Sunday.

"It’s hard to say [how I’ll do]," she says. "I’m looking to go under 4:20. I’d like to be in the top 10 in group B"

Now 19, Selena has been speedskating for 14 years. She moved to Calgary about three years ago when she became more serious about the sport.

It’s interesting," she says. "It’s exciting to travel to Europe. It makes you realize how long it takes to be a champion."

While this weekend’s event may be notable because of the records to be set, it has a personal resonance for Selena.

"It’s really important because it’s my first World Cup in Calgary," she says. "My friends and relatives are going to be here."

Selena names Le May Doan, Wotherspoon and her brother as skaters to watch.

"Catriona and Jeremy look like they could beat some records," she relates. "Steve’s the best long-distance guy in Canada."

Currently, four Canadians–Wotherspoon, Le May Doan, Mike Ireland and Kevin Marshall–are ranked in the top 10 in seven different World Cup events; all will be competing this weekend. Four other Canadian or world record holders–Jason Parker, Steven Elm, Cindy Overland and Kristina Groves–will participate as well.

The World Cup events run both Saturday and Sunday. Division B events begin at 10 a.m. and Division A events begin at noon.

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