Speed Skating Canada Rewards Deserving Athletes & Volunteers

Speed Skating Canada has rewarded this year’s most deserving athletes and volunteers at the SSC Banquet held at the beautiful Westin Calgary, tonight. The organization holds its award ceremony each year during the course of its Annual General Meeting in order 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.

National Team members Charles Hamelin (Ste-Julie, QC), Marianne St-Gelais (St-Félicien, QC), Lucas Makowsky (Calgary, AB) and Christine Nesbitt (Calgary, AB) were all named Skaters of the Year, respectively for Short Track and Long Track, Male and Female. Hamelin’s second place overall at the World Short Track Championships made him the first official member of Canada’s Men Short Track team fighting for the champion title. He and his teammates reached the podium on every World Cup circuit this year, including 3 gold medals at World Cups for the overall title and the World Championship title. Hamelin has been a strong leader on Canada’s short track team for many years now, winning the Male Athlete of the Year title for the fifth year in a row. Marianne St-Gelais was the queen of the 500m this past year winning 5 gold medals out of the 5 World cup competitions in which she was a participant, and also earning 5 podium finishes with our women’s relay team. She has one of the fastest starts in the world and is one of the pillars of the Canadian Short Track Women’s Team in reaching their best performance in 5 years with 19 medals.

In long track speed skating, Christine Nesbitt has been shining on the international stage once again this season, capturing no less than 12 medals on the World Cup circuit. She took the Overall World Cup title in the 1500m, and finished 2nd in the 1000m. She was the gold medallist at the World Sprint Championships and silver medallist at the World Allrounds Championships. Makowsky started this year’s season with an injury, but recovered quickly to build his way up to a wonderful ending, capturing a bronze medal at the World Single Distance Championships in the 1500m and a silver medal in the Team Pursuit. He is also ranked first in Canada in both the 1500m and 5000/10000m.

Two rising stars are normally recognized at the event, one in long track and one in short track speed skating. This year, only a long track skater was recognized; Laurent Dubreuil (Quebec city, QC). Among his most brillant accomplisments, we must mention his title of World Junior Vice-Champion in the 500m and his 5 medals, from which 3 are gold at the 2011 Canada Games held in Halifax. Dubreuil is definitely a rising star!

The dedicated work of many volunteers was also recognized at this 124th SSC AGM Banquet. Other people recognized were:

Coaching Excellence Awards: recipients of the award this year were Phil Byrne of Prince Edward Island, Bill Gendron of Manitoba and Rachael Quinn of New Brunswick.

Coach of the Year – Derrick Campbell (Cambridge, ON): Each of the athletes under his direction during the 2010-11 season achieved at least one individual podium on the World Cup circuit, with several achieving multiple podiums. His experience, leadership and dedication were critical in developing a strong team evironnement with new coaches coming into the Short Track Program.

Officials Awards of Excellence: recipient of the award this year is Sharon Zorman from Calgary, Alberta.

René Marleau Official of the Year Award – Bob Ireland (Winnipeg, Manitoba): He served as the Manitoba Speed Skating Association (MSSA) Vice President of Coaching for 2 terms, and as President for a subsequent 2 terms. To name only a few of his contributions with the MSSA, he has served on the finance committee, national competition hosting committees and long track oval upgrades. He is a dedicated committee volunteer and assists in the development of officials in the province by mentoring both on and off the ice at competitions, as well as hosting starter clinics.

The Gagné Family Award went to the Holthuis family of Canmore, Alberta. It is awarded to a family that has made an outstanding contribution to the development of the sport of speed skating. The Holthuis family have been providing guidance and support throught the last few years and continue to volunteers at many events. The two youngest are still active skaters.

The Jean Grenier Award, presented to an individual that has assisted the sport of speed skating in Canada as a volunteer, for a long period, went to Gilles Dufour of Québec. Dufour has been an incredible marking figure for Quebec, and it is under his presidency that Quebec achieved its impressive objective of 50 clubs-500 members. Under his leadership, Quebec hosted many international events and he is also very dedicated to the ongoing project of the covered oval in Quebec.

The province of Québec earned the Pat Underhill Shield as the top short track province at the various national events, while British Columbia was awarded the Doreen Ryan Shield, as the top long track province 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 Guillaume Bastille (Rivière-du-Loup, QC) as well as long trackers skaters Jamie Gregg (Edmonton, AB), Gabrielle Waddell (Red Deer, AB) and Danielle Wotherspoon (Red Deer, AB).