Buis­son the hero in winning the Goat

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - Sports - By Kathryn Willms

Five min­utes be­fore mak­ing her in­line speed skat­ing come­back, Meaghan Buis­son was wor­ried.

1 It had been 2 ⁄ years since the Sas

2 ka­toon skater had com­peted in the sport in which she holds the world record for a solo marathon time trial. Now, less than a week af­ter she had moved to Oegest­geest in the Nether­lands to com­pete, she found her­self in Waarde, a me­dieval town that clearly har­boured a fas­ci­na­tion with goats, pre­par­ing to take the line for a 40-kilo­me­tre marathon.

She planned to play it safe, stay­ing back in the pack. She tried not to think about the cob­ble­stone roads that lay ahead or the years of in­juries. The only thing that kept the come­back anx­i­ety at bay was a more im­me­di­ate, more per­plex­ing con­cern: The name of the race. The Bat­tle for the Goat.

Buis­son and her Oomss­port team­mates had be­gun to ex­pect that winning this thing might land you with more than you had bar­gained for.

“You might want to come in sec­ond,” Buis­son said of the race.

The first wave of re­lief came in the form of one of her team­mates, who ar­rived at the start line laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cally. Ap­par­ently, the RSPCA had banned the goat, which was the tra­di­tional prize. A bou­quet of flow­ers and a large tro­phy fea­tur­ing — what else? — a goat pos­ing on a mound of cob­ble­stone was all the win­ner had to sneak through cus­toms.

The sec­ond wave of re­lief hit 40 km later. Dur­ing the course of the race, Buis­son had lost a wheel, flashed the Bel­gium crowd af­ter fall­ing on the cob­ble­stone and rip­ping her skin suit and to­tally aban­doned her po­lite race plan. Her feet were ripped to shreads and her lungs were sting­ing.

“I won!” said the 29-year-old owner of a sexy, new goat tro­phy via phone from the Nether­lands.

For Buis­son, the only Cana­dian in­line skater com­pet­ing over­seas, that victory came at the end of a long and bumpy road.

The five-time over­all Cana­dian cham­pion was re­cruited as a cross- over ath­lete by the Own the Podium pro­gram in 2005. She moved to Cal­gary and made the switch to speed skat­ing on ice. Years of in­jury and frus­tra­tion fol­lowed. Fi­nally, a her­ni­ated back “mer­ci­fully” ended her speed skat­ing ca­reer. She re­habbed all win­ter with the help of coach Bruce Craven, be­fore de­cid­ing to make the trip to Europe and back to her first pas­sion, in­line skat­ing. When she saw video of her first prac­tice with her Nether­lands team, she knew she had made the right de­ci­sion.

“Ev­ery­body’s re­ally in­tense,” she said, “and I’ve got this huge grin on my face the en­tire prac­tice.”

De­spite her plea­sure at be­ing back on skates, the Bat­tle of the Goat was an ornery beast.

The Dutch skaters

called

the course the worst road they’d ever skated on. Two hun­dred me­tres into the race, Buis­son re­al­ized she wasn’t go­ing to be play­ing it nice and made her at­tack, end­ing up skat­ing ahead with a men’s group.

Late in the race, she heard the dreaded click-click of her wheel com­ing off. Hav­ing de­cided not to cart around her allen wrench at the last sec­ond, Buis­son kept skat­ing. She lost the wheel and her bal­ance on the next sec­tion of cob­ble­stone. She got up and kept go­ing. Fi­nally, when she hit the edge of town, the race starter rushed to her as­sis­tance, per­form­ing what she likens to “a pit stop in a Mol­son Indy.” She didn’t lose her lead once. In fact, she may have just come back stronger, per­haps an un­ex­pected ben­e­fit of her years speed skat­ing.

“I didn’t know what level I’d be com­ing back at,” she says. “But my top-end speed right now is faster than I’ve ever been.”

Buis­son is hop­ing to trans­late that promis­ing start and un­ex­pected speed into more re­sults this week­end, when she com­petes in the World of Wheels in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Hol­land. She’ll be racing five races in six days. In July, she’ll make a trip back to Canada for na­tion­als, which run July 3-5 in On­tario. Then, she’ll sit down and make the de­ci­sion of whether to aim for the world cham­pi­onships or an­other world record, this one in the 60-minute time trial. For now, feet dipped in al­co­hol to har­den the blis­ters and re­lieved of the bur­den of car­ing for a goat, she couldn’t sound hap­pier.

“All win­ter, it was train­ing to feel happy again on skates,” she said. “That’s what I lost on ice. To be back, do­ing what I love as an in­line speed skater, it’s such an awe­some gift.”

—Photo cour­tesy Chris Davis

Saskatoon’s Meaghan Buis­son is back to her first pas­sion, in­line skat­ing

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