The Canadian Sprinting Machine

It is the one world cup all year that hosts all distances (typically all-around, the 1500 m/3000 m/5000 m/10,000 m and sprint, the 100 m/500 m/1000 m are separate in the world cup logistics-completely different in logistics and dates) and it's been a refreshing change of atmosphere to have 'sprinter energy' in our Team.

The dynamics of the Sprint Team as compared with the Endurance Team were apparent from the first meal together. Where the sprinters openly ridicule one another, all in good fun of course, the endurance athletes tend to be quieter about poking fun. I suppose it takes us longer, like in a race where we need a longer distance to really get going, to build up the nerve for an outright insult. With the sprinters this is inevitably met with a sly comeback. They have the confidence to say anything, at anytime. Not only do the fast-twitch fibers in their legs fire, their brains work the same way, which allows for immediate retaliation. Not to say that as all-arounders we are not innocent of these jeers, it only takes us longer to get up the nerve. For many of us, a good 'comeback' often registers many hours after. It's great to be around such fast twitch humans, it seems like their entire beings are firing at full cylinders at all times.

Conversations are interesting each time we invade the hotel restaurant. Topics have varied this week from the recollections of one's dreams (this seems to be a favorite of the sprint team as they sheepishly share the most kinkiest details of their subconscious, sometimes involving each other!) to ornithology and the copulation of birds (just how do birds 'do it?' We had to research it on Kristina's i-book, which conveniently had an encyclopedia on the hard drive).

If anyone wakes up with a growth on their face, ridicule and examination are inevitable. They know every detail of one another and it's easy to see how tight their group is; how they feed off one another. They are like the closest of functional families, which as an outsider, could be mistaken as being dysfunctional with their ability to both support and rip into each other.

For months we have seen them, as a team grow tighter while training in Calgary. Their off-ice warm-ups are intense sessions of sprinting, intricate movements on the ladder that lies on the ground, name it and it's not only a warm-up but also a race. All the while they laugh like kids in the schoolyard. For them, as it's been for us, it has been a season of rebuilding in terms of this team spirit, and it is evident that it has brought out the best in them as both team and individuals.

Tonight we race the 1500 m after the sprinters perform their impressive show of speed and technique. It seems unfair to put us after the 500 m races, after the fast-twitch muscle machines we must look like go-carts compared to Michael Schumacher ripping around the track in his Ferrari. Well, maybe not all of us, but for those middle-distance freaks like me who have essentially one speed (that we can hold for at least 5000 m)! It must be quite a contrast.

Though I am a bit embarrassed with this contrast I cannot wait to see the raw speed of our sprinters as they take to the ice. My 1500 m preparation always involves intervals of my warm-up and sprints to the track to see the Canadian 1500 m men rip around the ice. It has inspired me to go faster myself.

With the real Kings and Queens of speed before us perhaps I will find the means (and method!) of producing more power. The inspiration of their ability and, of course, success, in combination with the sold out (13,000 plus crazy Dutch fans that you have to see to believe) I'm sure will push the rest of us beyond what we know as being humanly possible today.