Nick Goplen made it on to the podium for the first time at speed skating’s Canadian Single Distance Championships.
Competing with the country’s best, the 22-year-old Kelowna product skated to a bronze medal in the 16-lap mass start event last weekend at Calgary’s Olympic Oval.
The mass start combines speed, endurance and an element of strategy since there are up to 20 skaters in the race vying for Prime points and the final placement.
“It was a nail biter for the spectators and coaches since they are skating at high speeds and diving into the turns en masse,” said Okanagan Regional Training Centre coach, Nancy Goplen. “Normally, the skaters race in separate lanes so this is quite different for many of them. Agility, good race sense and the physical and technical attributes are paramount! Nick grew up in Kelowna racing short track and playing hockey so he has the skills to be very good at this event in addition to the traditional skating events.”
Nick currently trains in Calgary while attending U of C under the tutelage of the national team coaches. Goplen also excelled in other events by placing 10th in the 1500m, 9th in the 5000m and 18th in the 500m with a personal best time of 36.90.
Meanwhile, Abigail McCluskey tore up the track in the Canada Cup portion of the weekend. She set a personal best time in the 500m, 1500m and 3000m. She glided to 3rd and 4th place finishes in the 500m events, 4th in the 3000m, 5th in the 1500m and 7th and 8th in the 1000m races. This served as a good tune-up for the Canadian Junior Championship/Junior World Selections to be held later this month in Quebec City.
McCluskey is also in contention for medals at the 2015 Canada Winter Games. Emilie Medland-Marchen was also competing and skated to a season best in the 500m. Emilie will join Abigail as part of Team B.C. at the CWG and will also travel to Quebec City.
Locally, a contingent of club skaters will travel to Calgary this weekend for the Alberta Long Track Championships. It will be the first long track experience for many of them—a place where the likes of Nick Goplen, Keara Maguire and Alison Banwell first got their taste of long track. Abigail, Emilie and Nick will be there to give a few pointers to their younger club mates between their own training sessions.