Speedskating can be a somewhat solitary sport, at least from the time the athletes step onto the ice, clear their minds and put forth a burst of energy.
For Peyton Stonehouse-Smith, 13, the test of physical strength and endurance the sport offers drew her to speedskating in the first place.
“I had gone through skating lessons, but I didn’t want to play hockey and I didn’t want to figure skate, so it just kind of fit and I fell in love with it,” the View Royal resident says of her beginnings in the sport a little over four years ago.
Currently training to skate for the Zone 6 (Vancouver Island-Central Coast) team in two weeks at the B.C. Winter Games in Penticton, the Peninsula Speedskating Club member says even in the early days she knew she’d found her athletic niche.
“When I started, I really liked skating and I really liked also that there were always things you could improve on,” she says. “I feel like I’ve come a really long way and I’m skating the fastest I’ve ever skated.”
Peyton will skate in the 200- and 400-metre sprints, the 1,500 and a 3,000-metre relay event at the Games. She had a fourth-place finish at provincials two years ago, and has already qualified for the 2016 B.C.’s in Kamloops, which happen the weekend after the Games.
She looks forward to finding out where she stands against her peers, but also the chance to bond with fellow skaters.
“I’m really excited because I get to go with a team and we get to represent a zone and work together,” she says. “A lot of skating is going out by yourself and skating your race and going for your individual time. This is definitely more of a team event, so it’ll be fun.”
The Island squad may well have an advantage when it comes to the relays, which Peyton will skate as a member of the under-14 team. Relays are not generally a part of regular meets, since skaters are individually focused on attaining qualifying times for such events as the provincials or the Winter Games.
“You could waste half a day trying to get through a relay like that. They just generally don’t do it,” says Peyton’s father, Dwayne Smith.
With that in mind, the Games team skaters, who hail from the Island’s only two clubs, have been practising relays for the past seven weeks during their workouts at Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt.
“I think we have a good advantage,” said Zone 6 coach Kurt Innes, a Langford resident and former Olympian who also coaches at the Esquimalt club. “Short-track relay is a very technical event, but I think we’re going to execute really well.”
He says the Games experience should be a positive one for Peyton. “She’s a really hard-working young athlete,” he says, adding he’s enjoyed being able to see her growth as a skater.