ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships 2015
A couple weekends ago, Calgary hosted an international speed skating tournament. World class competitors - I think all of them were at Sochi 2014 - competed in 4 different races each and scored points. The champions were the ones with the least points. You can find the results here.
Blaise and I decided to attend to see what the sport was all about. It was hosted at the Olympic Oval on the University of Calgary campus where the 1988 Winter Games speed skating events were held. The facility still looks wonderful and there is a nice torch reminding visitors of the site's heritage.
We were late arriving, so we missed the opening women and men's races of 500 m. I heard from a coworker who was also there that these were the most exciting races. In fact, the Canadian athletes performed best in these. So we ended up watching all the long 3000 m women's races and the 5000 m men's races. While it was certainly fun to cheer on the athletes, see how they paced their various laps, and witness a couple athletes catch up to their single opponent - it wasn't too gripping to see people skate round and round in ovals.
I was particularly impressed with two things: skill and power.
Generally, we cheered. I took photos. We had a snack. Blaise and I sat in three different locations as there were lots of empty seats. Blaise remarked that we got to sit in some really good seats and that if it were the olympics we would have had to pay way more money! He's right. We only paid $25 total - olympic tickets could have been in the hundreds of dollars to see the same skaters skate.
The fans were often more interesting than the races. Not surprisingly the majority of the crowd was identifiably Dutch because of the blinding orange jackets, hats, scarves, dresses, pants, and jumpsuits. They were loud, but the old Norwegian men were way louder. These guys sported lovely traditionl knitted sweaters and funny caps covered in pins.
The one cultural group I thought was a bit odd were the quiet Russians. I thought how odd it was to be waving a Russian flag despite the current Russian aggression in Ukraine. But hey, there were a couple Americans there too. With flags.
24 men and 24 women raced in pairs in 4 rounds over 2 days.
We cheered on Canadians Denny Morrison (7th), Ted-Jan Bloemen (16th), Ivanie Blondin (6th), and Kali Crist (8th).
This guy won for the men: Dutch skater Sven Kramer. I guess he has some serious cred.