Long Track Speed Skaters Nominated to Vancouver 2010 Canadian Olympic Team

At a press conference in Calgary, today, Speed Skating Canada (SSC) nominated 16 long track speed skaters to the Canadian Olympic Committee for participation in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. This nomination followed the Olympic Selection competition held at the Calgary Olympic Oval from December 27 to January 2nd.

“An Olympic selection process doesn’t last only one week, but a full three years,” explained Brian Rahill, High Performance and Olympic Program Director for SSC and long track team leader for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. “It all started right after the 2006 Turin Olympic Winter Games, with a four-year plan designed to optimize our preparation for 2010. Every day, I see talented and dedicated athletes, coaches and support staff members working hard and together with one goal in mind: contributing to the optimal preparation of our Olympic team. Today, with only 32 days to go before the start of the Games, I am proud to introduce you to the sixteen athletes who will be representing us in Vancouver, and I am confident that they will offer great performances and will once again give everything they can on the ice of the Richmond Olympic Oval next month.”

Many nominations have been known for some time now, as athletes first had a chance to pre-qualify based on their results at the 2009 World Single Distance Championships, and then confirm this qualification with their performances on the Fall World Cup Circuit.

The women’s team will show a lot of depth, with veterans such as five time Olympic medallist Clara Hughes (Glenn Sutton, QC) who will try to defend her Olympic title in the 5000m. Canada’s most decorated Olympian of all times, Cindy Klassen (Winnipeg, MB) will also be back, racing the 1500m, 3000m and 5000m. Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) and Christine Nesbitt (London, ON), currently leaders of the World Cup Rankings in the 1500m and 1000m respectively, are among Canada’s top medal hopefuls.

Shannon Rempel (Winnipeg, MB) is heading to Vancouver for her second Olympic experience, Brittany Schussler (Winnipeg, MB), who was the alternate in Turin, will get her first chance to race at the Olympics, while Anastasia Bucsis (Calgary, AB) and Tamara Oudenaarden (St. Albert, AB) will bring youth to the team in the 500m.

The men’s team will be led by Denny Morrison (Fort St. John’s, BC), double medallist at last year’s World Single Distance Championships and one of Canada’s best medal hopes. Jeremy Wotherspoon (Red Deer, AB) will get to race in his fourth and last Olympic Winter Games, hoping to finally get that gold medal around his neck, as it’s the one and only honour that he has yet to grab in speed skating.

Kyle Parrott (Minnedosa, MB), who has improved consistently over the last few years, showed very strong performances at the Olympic selection and he qualified to race three individual events in Vancouver. Jamie Gregg (Edmonton, AB), will join sister Jessica (short track) on Canada’s Olympic team, after achieving his first World Cup podium in the 500m earlier this season. Veteran Mike Ireland (Winnipeg, MB) and François-Olivier Roberge (St-Nicolas, QC) will round out the sprint athletes, while rookies Lucas Makowsky (Regina, SK) and Mathieu Giroux (Pointe-aux-Trembles, QC) will race longer distances and complete the team pursuit with Morrison. Giroux, a former short track skater, decided to switch to long track 13 months ago, a decision that is now paying off.

The athletes will now be training in Calgary, where most of them will take part in their last pre-Olympic event, the Continental Qualifier, on January 23-24. The team will head to Vancouver the first week of February to finalize their preparation for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

For the full list of athletes and the distances they will race at the Olympics, please visit www.speedskating.ca. The list can be found in the Press Room, under the Long Track Event Teams section.