It takes pressure to make diamonds, and Matsqui Blades coach Bette Roberts believes that concept applies to speed skaters as well.
That’s why she’s particularly pleased that five of her short-track athletes have qualified for the BC Winter Games, which run Feb. 23-26 in Vernon.
“This is a great opportunity for our kids, every couple of years, to have a higher-level competition,” Roberts explained. “The pressure of getting into a race in the medal round is valuable.
“The more that you can experience pressure, when you finally get to that final race where it’s be-all end-all to get the gold medal at the Olympics, if it doesn’t work out, you’re not going to explode. It’s all a learning curve.”
Roberts knows a thing or two about developing raw youngsters into elite speed skaters – former Blades Alanna Kraus and Bryce Holbech went on to earn spots on the national team, and Kraus won a pair of relay medals at the Olympics (bronze in 2002, silver in 2006).
The club’s current crop of promising up-and-comers includes Trenton Chard, Madison Karpes, Jordan Fournier and siblings Derek and Alexander Chizawsky. They comprise the Blades’ contingent on the Fraser Valley zone squad which will compete at the BC Games.
Chard, who will race in the boys 15-16 age group, is the veteran of the bunch – he’s already participated in two previous BC Games. But he’s never climbed the podium before – his best individual finish is fourth – and he’s determined to rectify that hole in his resumé.
“Lots of my friends have medals, and they’ve held it over me for a while,” he said with a chuckle.
Qualifying for the Games is particularly gratifying for Derek Chizawsky, who came up one spot short of making the team at the zone trials two years ago.
“It means a lot, knowing I finally get to go to such a meaningful meet,” he enthused.
However her charges fare in Vernon, Roberts is simply pleased they have an opportunity to participate.
“Having to group together with a different (zone) coach and different chaperones, it’s a great experience for them – it helps them mature,” she said.
“It keeps kids in the sports. They might just get turned on by something like this and work even harder to get to the next level.”
ABBOTSFORD WELL-REPRESENTED AT BC GAMES
The Blades speed skaters are among 34 Abbotsford athletes competing at the Winter Games. The complete list is as follows.
Judo: Simren Brar, Bethany Cannon, Brayden Cryer, Connor Jones, Jesse Merrick, Melina Potvin, Noemie Potvin, Austyn Rabinovitch
Gymnastics: Brendan Ansell, Dawson Friesen, Elijah Horner, Cohen Kiers, Emily Moorthy, Olivier Curtis
Karate: Josh Dhillon, Jada Mangat, Sukreen Samra, Ravneet Sidhu
Biathlon: Jarod Algra, Narin Kim, Ji-Sup Kim
Ringette: Caitlyn Payne, Jailene Smit
Girls curling: Brianna Hanni, Taylor White
Archery: Mareissa Pinto
Alpine skiing: Megan Kardoes
Figure skating: Madison Johnson
Girls hockey: Chanel Tvergyak