Athlete Journal by James Monson

Journal entry courtesy James Monson, member of the national speed skating team.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004


I hope everyone is doing well. The Canadian Long track team has returned from the final Essent ISU World Cup. We just completed the last three world cups of the year. Overall, the trip was a good experience with the team having some good success. Jeremy repeating as 500m world cup champion, Mike finished in the top 5. Cindy was making her return since her injury. Just to name few.

Our trip started in Collalbo, Italy. It is a small mountain village about 3 hours drive from Munich, Germany. It was probably the nicest place I have ever skated outdoors. The Rink is situated right on the side of a mountain in northern Italy. The weather was almost perfect everyday. Sunny and around 0 Celsius, not much wind. Great conditions for an outdoor oval. Our hotel was located about 100m away from the track, a little ways up the mountain. Some of the team had balconies in their rooms and overlooked the oval. Just an awesome view!

The days leading up to competition were fairly normal. We did some on ice workouts and some bike workouts. We did have one afternoon off and we took the train and then a gondola down to the town of Bolzano. A fairly big city located in the valley. It took about 45 minutes to get there. We did some window shopping then went to the town square and a had a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe. The day was unusually warm for that time of year, about 15 Celsius. It was a good afternoon.

The first day of racing we had great conditions. Jeremy ended up winning the 500m and setting an outdoor world record. Mike finished 6th. Jeremy also won the 1000m. Good start to the weekend. I didn't skate quite as well, had a few slips in the first turn. It wasn't my best race. On day 2, Jeremy was 2nd and Mike had an unfortunate fall. Mark Neilson finished 1st in division 2 and Brock and myself were 2nd and 4th. It was a little bit windier on the second day so the results were quite as fast.

After Collalbo, we traveled to Inzell, Germany. It was the shortest travel day of the year. 3 hours by bus. We left after lunch so we had time to sleep in. It was a good setup. Inzell is in the same mountain range as Collalbo, just a few hours northeast. The rink in Inzell is built right next to a mountain, it is a neat setup, sheltered from the wind. They also have a small hotel built right around the track, so it gives it a unique feel. Mountain on one side and stands and hotel on the other. The weather was pretty good throughout the week, maybe just a little bit colder. This world cup was an all distance weekend, so it means that both long distance and sprint event were being held. Most of the time the world cups are split up and you have either sprints or long distance. You get used to hanging out with the same people, so it was nice to see some other faces from the team around. We had a total of about 26 people on our team including coaches and support staff.

The conditions on day one were quite unusual. Cold in the morning and than in the afternoon there was a Chinook type weather phenomenon. The sky became very orange. Almost like forest fire smoke. It warmed up very quickly and the wind picked up and the ice became very soft. It was artificial ice but the compressors couldn't keep up. We found later it was actually Sahara desert sands that were caught in some high level winds and it carried the sand all the way to southern Germany. It was pretty cool. It did make for some poor ice conditions. The results were a little off. Jeremy and Mike still skated well and had some top 5 finishes. I ended skating ok and was 6th and 3rd in division 2. Brock won div 2 on day. Overall it was a good weekend. The conditions on day 2 were a lot better. Nice temperature and no wind. There is a new event on the world cup circuit called the Team Pursuit. It is similar to cycling but with 3 guys on a team and 8 laps total. The two men’s teams from Canada finished third and fourth.

Our last and final world cup was in Heerenveen, Netherlands. It was also an all distance world cup. So the whole team was there. We were staying in a resort hotel in the woods. It was about 20 minutes from the oval. Steenwijk was the closest town and it was a 10 minute bike. The hotel had bikes we could borrow and some people had brought bikes. A lot of people rode into town for an afternoon getaway. Heerenveen has a covered oval so there was no concern with the weather. Holland is known for there enthusiastic fans and for the division A skaters there was over 10 000 people watching. It is also shown live on tv. For the div B, there was probably close to 1000 people watching. Some fans would come and stay the whole day watching all divisions and races. There was one group of fans, who call themselves the Kneuzen's, were at all of the last three world cups. Very dedicated fans!

Jeremy ended up winning the last 500m of the year. He also won the overall title for the 500m this year. Cindy Klassen made her return to skating and won a bronze in the 1500m and a silver in the 1000m. Pretty good return for being away from skating most of the year. Again I didn't skate that great, not totally sure why, but no big deal. I was trying to focus more on the process then just the results, but it didn't seem to make much difference. I have one more competition this year, so I still have a chance to finish the season on a good note.

That's about it for now. We leave for Seoul, Korea on Thursday, so there's not much time at home. In Korea it will be the World Singles Distance Championships, it’s the final competition on the year and only the top 3 skaters per distance from each country can compete. It will be a much smaller team going on this trip ….about 12 skaters. I will be racing in the 500m and the 1000m. I was able to skate some good times at the first world cup, so that is why I am qualified to compete. Jeremy and Mike will be the other two sprinters going on the trip.

This season so far has been a real roller coaster, emotionally. Lots of ups and downs! I've had some great times some good racing. I've had some bad times and bad races. It's all a learning experience and it helps you build character. The season's not over and I would say generally it has been a great year so far. Thanks to everyone for there encouragement and their support.

Talk to you soon,