FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Energetic City was treated to greatness last night as residents joined the Canadian Olympic Speed Skating Team for a meet and greet and free skate at the Pomeroy Sport Centre.
The night started with Councillor Gord Klassen honouring the Olympians and thanking them for coming to Fort St. John. Klassen gave the mic to Canadian Olympic Team Long Track Coach Bart Schouten who introduced the men’s and women’s squads. Between the 20 athletes at the event, there was a total of eight Olympic medals.
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Four-time Olympic medalist Denny Morrison as well as Saguenay, Quebec born Valerie Maltais spoke to the crowd about the importance of fans and how crucial these events are.
“The kids love it, they love skating, they love skating fast and they love meeting myself and my Olympic teammates,” said Morrison. “If people are trying it for their first time they just love being out on the ice with a smile on their face and you never know if that 4-year-old kid, 8-year-old kid or 12-year-old kid is going to become a future Olympian and we’ll be watching them on TV today one day.”
Morrison praised the Pomeroy Sport Centre, calling it a great venue for kids to learn to skate.
“This is a sport that you might see at the Olympics but it’s not accessible to so many cities in the world, so how cool is that here in Fort St. John we have the opportunity to put our kids in a sport like speed skating.”
With Morrison for most of the event was 2018 Olympic 10,000-meter gold medalist Ted-Jan Bloeman as well as 2010 Olympic 500-meter relay gold medalist Olivier Jean. Bloeman and Jean both expressed the key to success in sport is never giving up and always having fun.
“Dream big, don’t give up, never give up and believe in yourself,” said Bloeman “Those are the three things that I think got me to where I am.”
“It was always do it to have fun, it’s not about the medal, it’s not about the podium,” said Jean. “It’s about enjoying what you do and trying to improve yourself. If every day you improve, one day you’ll be World Champion.”
When asked if the trio would return for the 2022 Winter Olympics, all three shared the same answer, which was they were “taking it year by year.”
“I’m unsure still, taking it year by year let’s put it that way,” said Morrison. “If my recovery goes super well and I want to then maybe I’ll continue for another year and see how that goes. Either I go to the next Olympics or go to medical school.”
“After Vancouver, I said I want to go to next Olympic games and I want to win,” said Jean “In Sochi, I woke up after closing ceremonies and said I want to go to next Olympic games. After Pyeongchang being 34-years-old after the games I still wanna skate, still love what I do, but don’t know if I’ll make it to 38-years-old… There’s still a chance, I’m super healthy and I love what I do.”
“It’s a weird feeling, you dream of it all your life and it’s not like I’m 20-years-old,” said Bloeman. “I’ve been trying for a long time and you become Olympic champion at 31-years-old so it’s hard to process. I took a long vacation with my wife because it is a tough life, the focus always has to be on me.”