Japanese speed skaters to train in Abbotsford

The Japanese Olympic speed skating team has confirmed that it will be training out of Abbotsford Recreation Centre for a week leading up to the 2010 Games.

Thursday morning Abbotsford city council held a special meeting to approve free ice for the team at ARC from Jan. 26 to Feb. 3, for two daily sessions, 8 to 9: 45 a.m. and 2:45 to 5:45 p.m.

Thursday afternoon, Allison Longshore of Tourism Abbotsford took Japanese team delegates on a tour of the arena, a nearby hotel and the city, and they confirmed their intent to stay here.

The Russian figure skating team will be at ARC from Feb. 1-17.

Lonshore appreciated council’s decision, saying the high profile visitors give Abbotsford an opportunity to share the Olympic spotlight, and will lead to nearly $80,000 in local spending by the Russian team and $40,000 by the Japanese.

A coach with the team, Ayako Tsubaki-Francis, and staff member Jun Yuda, were impressed with local facilities.

Tsubaki has an Abbotsford connection. After she retired as a skater in 1998 and was on the path to becoming a short track coach, she learned her new trade at the National Training Centre in Calgary. While there, she worked with one of Abbotsford’s favourite Olympians, former medalist Alanna Kraus.

Ayako said the Japanese team is happy to be training at the same elevation and time zone well before the Games begin.

“I know this ice rink is really good, because I was here for the Olympic trials,” she said. “I know the maintenance people know how to make good ice.”