Speed Skating Canada rewards deserving athletes & volunteers

This year’s most deserving athletes and volunteers were recognized by Speed Skating Canada at tonight’s Annual General Meeting Banquet in Canmore, Alberta. The banquet is held yearly to celebrate the successes of the past season and thank those who made a difference To the Relentless Pursuit of Excellence, from coast to coast to coast.

National Team members Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Kalyna Roberge (St-Étienne de Lauzon, QC), Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, BC) and Cindy Klassen (Winnipeg, MB) were all named Skaters of the Year, respectively for Short Track and Long Track, Male and Female. Hamelin and Roberge are both current 500m World Champions, and they come off amazing post-Olympic seasons on the World Cup Circuit, where they won 7 and 3 individual medals. They also dominated the Canadian Open Championships that were held in Sudbury last January.

Morrison, an Olympic silver medallist in Team Pursuit, also impressed this season. He shone on the World Cup Circuit, winning his first ever gold medal at the Calgary World Cup Finale in early March, and finishing 3rd overall in the 1500m standings. He also won two individual medals at each of the World Allround Championships and the World Single Distances Championships.

Klassen, whose name was still on everybody’s lips following her performance at the 2006 Olympic Games, managed to win numerous medals at World Cups and World Championships, despite having taken the first half of the season off the competition circuit.

Two rising stars were also recognized at the event. Olivier Jean (Lachenaie, QC) is coming off his first year on the National Short Track Team, and he stepped on the podium at every World Cup in which he skated. He is definitely one to watch in the years leading to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Philippe Riopel (Lachenaie, QC) is a very promising athlete on the Long Track National Development Team. With one year left as a junior skater, he won a silver medal at the World Junior Championships, where he finished 4th overall. His is another name to keep in mind in the next years.

The dedicated work of many volunteers was also recognized at this 120th SSC AGM Banquet. The Jean Grenier Appreciation Award is presented to an individual that’s assisted Canadian speed skating outside clubs and branches. This year’s recipient was Nannette Ho Covernton (Calgary, AB), a dedicated volunteer from the Organizing Committee Calgary. She has been involved with the OCC since 1988, managing all of the opening ceremonies, podium medal and flower presentations, scripting and special awards at various national and international level competitions.

Other people recognized were:

Male Coach of the Year – Robert Tremblay, Québec: His athletes had a strong progression this season, in which François-Olivier Roberge finished just short of the podium at the international level. Three of his athletes took part in the World Junior Championships this season, and two others dominated the Canada Winter Games long track speed skating competition.

Female Coach of the Year – Xiuli Wang, Calgary: Under her leadership, Kristina Groves achieved amazing results, with five World Cup medals and two individual bronze medals at the World Single Distances Championships. Shannon Rempel skated to her first ever World Cup gold medal and twice, Arne Dankers came just short of the podium at the World Championships. A five-year National Team Coach, she brings discipline and commitment to the athletes and empowers them to believe in themselves. In 2006, her hard work and dedication were recognized with the Jack Donohue Coach of the Year Award.

Coaching Excellence Awards: recipients of the award this year were Tom and Penny Elliot of Whitehorse, YT, John Maurice of Iqaluit, NU, and Jack Walters of Calgary, AB.

Outstanding Administrator Award – Lanyin Osborne, Abbotsford, BC: She has been a member of the Matsqui Blades Speed Skating Club for many years now, serving in various capacities including that of club president from 1998 to 2002. She has been involved at the provincial level for numerous years, and she was president of BCSSA from 2004 until just a few weeks ago. While her true passion is officiating, she has proven to be an impressive administrator. By devoting countless hours to speed skating in her club, province and at the national level, she has contributed greatly to the development of the sport.

René Marleau Official of the Year Award – Hans Terstappen, Calgary, AB: A level 5 starter, he has been officiating for close to 20 years at the club, provincial, national and international level… from grassroots to high performance. Year after year, he officiates at numerous speed skating competitions and his technical abilities are acknowledged at the international level.

The Gagné Family Award went to the Gilday family of Yellowknife, NWT. It is awarded to a family that has made an outstanding contribution to the development of the sport of speed skating. The Gildays – David and Pam (Dunbar) and their two children Michael and Jill are all active in the world of speed skating either as coach, administrator or athlete, and their tremendous contribution to our sport is to be commended.

The province of Québec earned the Pat Underhill Shield and Alberta received the Doreen Ryan Shield, as the top short track and long track provinces respectively at the various national events.

The recipients of the Peter Williamson Bursary, a bursary for promising skaters who best combine athletic and scholastic achievements, were short trackers Valérie Lambert (Sherbrooke, QC), Jean-François Monette (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC), and Annik Plamondon (Longueuil, QC), and long track skater Lucas Makowsky of Regina, SK.