Lo­cal speed skater earns World Cup berths

Moose Jaw Express.com - - Sports -

Moose Jaw’s Graeme Fish is ready to com­pete against the best speed skaters in the world in De­cem­ber.

The 21-year-old mem­ber of the Moose Jaw Kins­men Speed Skat­ing Club won’t be over­awed. Af­ter all, he skates next to the best dis­tance skater in the world ev­ery day.

In Oc­to­ber, Fish fin­ished sec­ond in the 10,000-me­tres at the Cana­dian Cham­pi­onships and was third in the 5,000m at the event which was held at the Olympic Oval in Cal­gary. This qual­i­fied him to skate at World Cup 3 in To­mas­zow Ma­zowiecki, Poland on Dec. 9 and World Cup 4 in Heeren­veen, Nether­lands on Dec. 16.

“It’s go­ing well this year, for sure,” said Fish.

In Cal­gary, Fish trains with Ted-Jan Bloe­men, the 10,000m Olympic gold medal­ist and 5,000m sil­ver medal­ist from the 2018 Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympics, and Jor­dan Bel­chos, who was fifth in the 10,000m in Pyeongchang.

“Skat­ing with them has re­ally mo­ti­vated me and made me im­prove im­mensely and it’s led to me qual­i­fy­ing to go to World Cups. It’s pretty ex­cit­ing,” Fish said.

Fish has been train­ing at the Na­tional Train­ing Cen­tre in Cal­gary for three years and is a mem­ber of the na­tional team as a Nex­tGen ath­lete. He made his World Cup de­but in Novem­ber 2017 at World Cup 3 in Sta­vanger, Nor­way where he com­peted in the 10,000m.

Bloe­men was born in the Nether­lands but failed to achieve a break­through in their na­tional team pro­gram. He be­gan train­ing in Canada, where his fa­ther was born, in 2014, as part of the Cana­dian pro­gram and be­gan to make huge strides un­der the tute­lage of Dutch-born Cana­dian na­tional team coach Bart Schouten. In four years, Bloe­men went from an also-ran in his home coun­try to Moose Jaw’s Elaine Os­machenko was con­sis­tent when it came to results at the Trav­eler’s Club Cham­pi­onship in Mi­ramichi, N.B. this past week. Os­machenko and her Moose Jaw Ford Curl­ing Cen­tre rink of third Can­dace Newkirk, sec­ond Malysha John­stone and lead Sheri Lo­gan posted a win and a loss through each day of com­pe­ti­tion at the na­tional tour­na­ment, finishing the round robin with a 3-3 record and win­ning a tiebreaker be­fore fall­ing in the cham­pi­onship round quar­ter-fi­nal.

The Trav­eler’s Club for­mat is de­signed as a na­tional tour­na­ment for play­ers who fo­cus more on club play than chas­ing ma­jor cham­pi­onships -- each team is al­lowed only one player who has played in a provin­cial men’s, women’s or se­nior cham­pi­onship in the cur­rent or previous four curl­ing sea­sons, or par­tic­i­pated in a Grand Slam event in same span of time. As well, no player on the teams can have played in one of the four na­tional cham­pi­onships in the previous four years. setting an Olympic record, and beat Dutch leg­end Sven Kramer in a to win gold.

“It’s cool to skate with the best in the world in what you’re good at,” Fish said. “For me, it shows me that I can be just as good as he is and that I can skate with peo­ple who are re­ally good in speed skat­ing and be com­pet­i­tive with them.”

Not only is the 31-year-old Bloe­men a great men­tor given his sta­tus in the sport, but his early ca­reer strug­gles and late break­through pro­vide am­ple in­spi­ra­tion for younger skaters like Fish.

“I never re­ally im­proved in skat­ing un­til I moved out here,” Fish said. “I wasn’t the fastest when I was grow­ing up or when I was in Moose Jaw, but hope­fully I’m fol­low­ing in his foot­steps and I’m ex­cited to see what hap­pens in the fu­ture.” Os­machenko opened the event with a 5-2 loss to Al­berta’s Mor­gan Muise be­fore steal­ing points in the fi­nal two ends to de­feat B.C.’s Lori Olsen 7-4 for her first win. The lo­cal four­some got off to a pos­i­tive start on day two, scor­ing six in the third end on their way to a 12-5 win over Nu­navet’s Chantelle Mas­son, only to lose 7-4 to North­west Ter­ri­to­ries’ Sarah Stroeder and sit at 2-2 af­ter ac­tion on Nov. 21. That set up a cru­cial pair of games on Nov. 22, and it couldn’t have gone bet­ter for Os­machenko in the morn­ing draw with a 4-3 win over North­ern On­tario’s Kathie Jack­son. An­other win would have avoided the tiebreaker al­to­gether, but a steal of one in the eighth gave Que­bec’s Laura Thomas a 5-4 vic­tory and left Os­machenko with her 3-3 mark af­ter the round robin.

That sent Saskatchewan into the tiebreaker against B.C. on Fri­day morn­ing, with Os­machenko able to make a 5-1 lead at the break stick on her way to a 5-3 win. Things didn’t go as well in Os­machenko’s play­off opener against On­tario’s Stacey Ho­gan; the back-and-forth con- Fish set two new per­sonal bests early in the sea­son. His time of six min­utes, 23.71 sec­onds in the 5,000m was three sec­onds faster than his previous per­sonal best in what he de­scribed as tech­ni­cally the best race he has ever skated. He also shaved six sec­onds off his per­sonal best in the 10,000m with a time of 13:16. That time is the fourthbest per­sonal best in Cana­dian his­tory.

“My tech­nique this year is the best it’s ever been,” Fish said. “It’s lead­ing into some good di­rec­tions in the sport. “I used to skate just kind of awk­wardly as I got more tired. It’s re­ally im­por­tant in the longer dis­tances to stay with the tech­nique and it’s re­ally helped me. As I get older, tech­nique is more im­por­tant than over­all fit­ness.” Fish said that he has learned a lot work­ing with Schouten this sea­son and is ex­cited to see how much he can im­prove as he con­tin­ues to train un­der the na­tional team coach.

At the World Cup stops, Fish will be­gin in Group B. He would love to be one of the top three or four fin­ish­ers and move up to Group A for his next World Cup trip, but oth­er­wise he’s fo­cused on putting to­gether two strong skates to build on the pos­i­tive mo­men­tum of the sea­son so far. “I would like to fin­ish in the A group, but we’ll see,” Fish said. “I would just like to skate good times, skate tech­ni­cally well and keep on im­prov­ing.”

Later this sea­son, Fish will com­pete in Canada Cup 2 in Cal­gary from Jan. 3-6 to try to qual­ify for World Cups 5 & 6 in Fe­bru­ary and pos­si­bly earn a spot at the ISU World All-round Speed Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships which are in Cal­gary to con­clude the sea­son.

Fish’s races on Dec. 6 and 13 will be we­b­cast live on cbc. ca or at ISU.org/speed­skat­ing. test saw Team Sask. lead­ing 2-1 through five ends, but On­tario ral­lied with three in the sixth and an­other deuce in seven for a 7-1 vic­tory to end Saskatchewan’s run.

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