Two local speed skaters are on the right track to one of the most prestigious competitions in the province.
Twelve-year-old Colin Matthews and 13-year-old Finn Fairbairn, both with the Esquimalt Speed Skating Club, will make their first appearance at the B.C. Winter Games in Penticton in February.
Matthews qualified for the U14 boys team, skating four laps in 50 seconds against other Island skaters, while Fairbairn qualified as his backup in case of injury or illness to represent Vancouver Island along with five other skaters.
Matthews began speed skating five years ago. He was at a Scouts meeting when he saw a team of speed skaters in action.
“The coaches are really nice, going fast is one of my things, that’s one of the reasons I joined,” he said.
Fairbairn laced up his first skates five years ago as well. He was in skating lessons at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre before he took up speed skating.
“I just like to skate really fast so my parents suggested I join speed skating, so I did,” said Fairbairn. “It’s just fun.”
Over the last five years, the duo have been honing their skills on the ice, attending several tournaments in the Lower Mainland to gain competition experience.
Despite their age, the boys show the utmost dedication to the sport, practicing three times a week at the Archie Browning Sports Centre, including a 6 a.m. practice on Saturdays and dry land exercises.
Ian Phillips, president of the Esquimalt Speed Skating Club, said the boys are easy to coach and have progressed significantly within the last year.
Matthews’ strength are his crisp cross overs and leaning in when taking corners, while Fairbairn’s straightaways are powerful.
“They really love the sport. They’re always keen on learning,” said Phillips, who has coached the boys since they took up the sport.
“They’re progressed very well over the last year. They’re getting very fast. It will be a real challenge for them to compete for medals against skaters from the mainland, but I’m sure they’re going to do very well.”
Fairbairn’s goal for the winter games is simple — to get faster.
“Just try to work on my technique and bending over more,” he said. “I’m pretty excited.”
Matthews added he hopes to do his best and keep up with the other skaters.
“If I get first, that’s good,” Matthews said. “I want to keep doing it forever.”
The B.C. Winter Games run from Feb. 25 to 28 in Penticton. Other sports include archery, badminton, biathlon, curling, diving, figure skating, ringette and skiing cross-country, judo and netball.