Calgarian speedskating talent

By Thomas Carrozzier

Turin 2006 is her goal. It is a realistic goal considering a few months back, Alanna Kraus was able to stand on the podium along with her teammates to receive the bronze medal for the 3000 metre relay in short track speed skating at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Born in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Kraus was introduced to speed skating at the young age of four. Her role models used to be her brothers, who were also speed skaters, but they no longer practice the sport. Surprisingly, the transition from regular skating to speed skating did not occur with Kraus.

"I went straight into speed skating. I think I did figure skating for only two days."

So, 21 years and many competitions later, Kraus sees herself competing for at least four more years, participating at the upcoming Winter Olympics. When asked if she feels more pressure because of the 2002 Olympic medal, she humbly points out that the bronze was a team effort, and that in any case she hasn’t felt pressure because of it yet.

People tend to see the Olympics as the ultimate test for an athlete regardless of their discipline. Competitions such as the World Championships are incorrectly thought of as easier, and therefore not as important as the Olympics. In fact, at least for speed skating, it is quite the contrary.

"When you look at both competitions, it ends up being that–I don’t want to make this sound bad but–the Olympics are actually a little easier. This is because in the Olympics, a country can only send two skaters, whereas in the World Championships, a country can send three. So nations that dominate, such as Korea and China, can send a fewer number of skaters."

However, all the media attention creates a more pressurized atmosphere at the Olympics.

"That’s the reason more people generally watch the Olympics but not the World Championships."

Viewing the profiles of other notorious Canadian speed skaters such as Catriona LeMay Doan or Cindy Klassen, one can see how much of a hub Calgary is for speed skating. The reason that so many professional speed skaters have decided to reside and train in Calgary is mostly because of the Oval, a magnificent structure for speed skating.

"It’s a national training centre for short track and long track. The Oval is a great facility; you have high performance testing, the university, the sports medicine centre and the weight room all in one place. We’re really lucky to have a place like this."

Kraus still likes playing softball, but doesn’t have much time for it. Moreover, her speed skating coach would be more than upset if she got injured while playing another sport.

"I’m really cautious about that," laughs Kraus. "I’ve skied a few times, but not all that much. I know myself, I’m a klutz. I know if I go skiing or snowboarding, I might hurt myself. I try not to do it, or do it after the season’s over."

The Oval Program athlete wishes her sport was more mainstream, because in the end it, does not receive the recognition it deserves. She is hopeful though, and points out that speed skating was a sold-out event at the Salt Lake Olympics.

"I think it’s very exciting to watch in person. Like any other sport, to really get the feel of it, you have to watch it in person."

For Kraus, the Short Track Summer Classic competition last weekend was the first step towards Turin 2006 and heated things up for the upcoming season.

Kraus skated the fastest women’s 500 metre race of the competition with a time of 46.62 seconds. Proving her talent once more, Kraus goes back to training in the Oval for the next season and her long term goal–the next Olympic Games.