OLIVIER TREMBLAY
ES Macdonald-Cartier
(May 2022)

At times, rare pockets of Sudbury speedskating talent have proven to be competitive on a provincial scale.

When it comes to the long-track version of the sport, the numbers are even more scarce.

All of which is not about to stop 13 year old grade eight student Olivier Tremblay.

An original native of the Ottawa region, the talented member of the Sudbury Sprinters participated, last month, in the 2022 Canadian Youth Long Track Championships in Québec City, a proud member of the Team Ontario contingent.

But where Tremblay first enjoyed an initiation to the largley outdoor version of speedskating, a decent facility in the nation's capital available thanks 'to the presence of the Brewer Oval, Sudbury falls under more of a "make due with what you have" long track environment.

"At Queen's Athletic Field, you can't do a full corner of crossovers," explained Tremblay, currently attending Ecole Secondaire Macdonald-Cartier. "You have to do a couple of strides, then crossovers."

"And the ice was also a lot better (in Québec), just because it's indoors."

And not just any indoor venue. The Centre de Glaces Intact Assurance is the only setting of its kind in Eastern Canada, equipped with a full oval that runs on the outside of two interior ice surfaces.

It certainly caught the attention of the local skater.

"At the races in Ottawa, most of them were at arenas made for hockey," said Tremblay. "For this one, the whole facility was set up fopr speedskating. We were racing in an environment where most effort was towards speedskating."

Now you're talking his language.

The only Ontario skater in the boys 12 division, Tremblay would finish 5th in the 500m and 6th in the 1500m, all while competing against athletes from Québec, British Columbia and Alberta, all provinces far better equipped to train elite skaters than is northern Ontario.

Not that Tremblay was about to complain, not after trying to maintain his training regimen throughout a pandemic.

"It was super to compete, but also just to get some experience and see what has changed," he said. "It's been a couple of years since I've been in a competition and this was also my first national races."

"It went well, considering what I came in with," he added. "It was more about the experience, for me. I wanted to see what provinces are stronger in skating."

While the event gathered youngsters from across Canada, there wasn't a whole lot of new friendships that could be forged at this particular meet. "We didn't have a lot of social time," said Tremblay.

"You went to the track, you arm-up, you race - then you go back to the hotel and sleep."

Though the 2021-2022 season is now complete, Tremblay did find a few ways to alter his weekly practice sessions at the Countryside Sports Complex, integrating something of a long-track feel to a short-track venue.

"For one thing, I do like to do long distances," he said. "And because the straightaway in long track is a lot longer, when I practice my starts, I like to go from one side of the rink to the other."

It's not perfect, but it will do as Olivier Tremblay looks to continue to make some noise in a sport that is far too quiet far too often in these parts.

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