Good international debut for young Canadian speed skaters
Meet Kaylin Irvine and Kali Christ, two youngsters on the Canadian team who both made their debut on the international stage last season. Not only did they earn a spot on the World Cup team for the first time in their careers, but they both qualified for World Championships as well. On top of that, Christ, whose best distances are the 1000m and 1500m, was named Long Track Rising Star by Speed Skating Canada last June. Irvine considers the 1000m to be her best distance, followed by the 500m. Already training hard for the 2012-1013 season, Irvine and Christ look back one more time on the past season, which was a breakthrough one for them.
By Jolanda Abbes
This is your first season on the World Cup circuit (as off the winter portion). How do you look back in general on your first World Cup experiences and what would you consider to be the most important thing you’ve learned from these Winter World Cups?
Kaylin Irvine: “I reflect fondly on my first World Cup experiences. Fortunately my first World Cup was in Salt Lake City, where my team spent several weeks training during the summer. I am familiar with the facility and remember putting a lot of hours of training in that building, which contributed to some extra confidence in my races. It was also nice because there was not a huge crowd (when I raced!), so I was eased into the World Cup racing environment without major stage fright. The most important thing I learned this season is acceptance. Regardless of what condition my body is in, even if skating feels awful, I learned if I could accept this, not panic, and continue with my routine, that I could still have good performances under less than ideal circumstances.”
Kali Christ: "I am really happy with my first World Cup experiences. It was really exciting; I have never skated in front of so many people. I think the most important thing that I have learned from these Winter World Cups is that you need to treat them like any other event, don't change the way you think about your racing, just be focused on that and not where you are."
Can you share a story on your first World Cup experiences?
Irvine: “On every international trip this year I roomed with Anastasia Bucsis. Our first time rooming together was during our summer training camp in Salt Lake, our team stayed at condos, Anastasia and I were placed in a room with nursery decor. The walls had baby animal pictures scattered across them, and our beds were the size of cribs. From that camp forward we started referring to our shared rooming situation, at every competition, as ‘the nursery’. Often at the end of a hard training program or race returning to ‘the nursery’ was comforting and for me it was always a place where I could goof-off, pretend to be an infant, laugh HARD, and forget about performance pressure.”
Christ: “The weekend before World Single Distances Championships, on the Saturday I was able to visit with my Great Uncle who lives in the Netherlands. We spent the whole day together and I got to see my cousins that I haven’t seen since I was 8. It was a really nice day of catching up and spending time with family that I haven’t seen in a long while.”
How do you look back in general on the past season in terms of your accomplishments, and what would you consider to be the highlight and greatest disappointment?
Irvine: “My greatest disappointment this season was my performances at Fall World Cup Trials. Being the only new addition to my group last year, I was also the only one who had not raced a World Cup before. I felt so much pressure to prove myself. I felt I had to qualify to really be a part of the team. Inevitably my inexperience and the pressure I put on myself resulted in some terrible races, and an overall disappointing competition. After some reflection I learned to control that pressure and to focus on race execution rather than results. So when Winter Trials rolled around, I was just excited to race. I didn't think about results, or that I had to earn a World Cup spot. I skated personal best times in my 500m and the 1000m, qualified for World Sprints and the Salt Lake City World Cup in the 1000m, and finally figured out that there is only pressure if I put it on myself. Ultimately, I stopped thinking about meeting other's expectations and just did my best. When I reflect on the 2011/12 season, I am most proud of my mental approach and race execution at Winter World Cup Trials.”
Christ: "The highlight of my season would definitely be placing 9th in the 1000m at World Single Distances Championships, because going into the year I never even expected to make it to World Single Distances Championships, let alone place in the top ten. My greatest disappointment would be not racing as well as I could have at Fall World Cup Trials in October because of a back injury that occured early September."
Kaylin, how do you look back on World Sprints; what was it like to make your World Championships debut at your home oval, and were you happy with your accomplishments there?
Irvine: “World Sprints was crazy. I have watched so many World Cups in Calgary, it was very bizarre to be on the other side of the mats. I had just raced the SLC World Cup the weekend before, which was some of my best skating, but coming back to Calgary a few days before WSC threw me off a little bit. Every race I had was better than the one before, but they were not particularly good performances compared to the races I had in SLC. I will probably remember that meet more for the 500m and 1000m women's world records that were broken than for my own performances, but it was a dreamy experience anyways.”
Can you share a story on your first World Cup experiences?
How do you look back on WSD? What would you consider to be your best race there, and can you give an analysis of that race?
Irvine: “Well... I only raced one 1000m. It was one of those times when my body felt terrible and I had to deal with it the best I could. The race felt sloppy to me, technically weak, but I tried my best under those circumstances and I was able to have a faster time than my 1000m from the World Cup I skated there a few weeks earlier. So considering everything, I wouldn't say I am satisfied with the race, but happy with my effort and mental execution.”
Christ: “Overall, WSD was a great experience. My best race there would be the 1000m, I don’t know how much I can say about it. I was able to calm myself long enough to hear the gun go and from there I did everything the way I planned it out the night before. My start for that race was the best start I have ever done and then the rest of the race from there was carrying that speed and working hard through the last lap to not drop too much.”
Can you elaborate somewhat on your strengths and weaknesses as a speed skater?
Irvine: “It was hard for me to transition into a new training group last year, and it took me some time to be comfortable with the change, but I entered the group with the mentality that I could learn from everyone in it. I think if I continue to approach skating with this mindset, and watch and learn from the more experienced skaters, then it will be another great season. As for weaknesses, that last corner in the 1000m could use some help.”
Christ: "I'd have to say my biggest weakness is my start, I definitely have a lot of work to do on that in terms of my drive off the line. My biggest strength is my last lap, in either the 1500m or 1000m I know how to work through that last lap to finish strong."
How is summer training going? What will be important points for you to focus on?
Irvine: “I’m in a new group with new coaches again this year, so I am anticipating some adjustments. I know it is a great group with phenomenal athletes and coaches so I will just keep doing what works for me, and I look forward to making some new friends and teammates. This summer I will be focusing on recovery techniques to help combat fatigue/injury.”
Christ: "I am excited to start a new season. Ending a year on a good note just makes you look forward to what else you might be capable of. The important points for my summer training are addressing strength issues such as my back and working to resolve them so I don't have problems like Í did in the past."
How do you look forward to next season, keeping Sochi 2014 in mind? What will be important things for you to focus on?
Irvine: “I don't think about Sochi that much. It is a goal that I have in the back of my mind, but I have not made alterations dependant on Sochi to how I approach training. Like any competition, if I qualify, I will be trying my best. I hope to have some more World Cup experience before Sochi, and improve my closing lap in the 1000m.”
Christ: "Looking to next season I really hope to start my year strong with minimale setbacks in training and competing. I don't like to think too much into the future, all I really want is to focus on what I'm doing now and how I can get better. Things for me to focus on are getting my technique better so I am able to carry more speed throughout my races."
Photo 1 and 3: Erik Pasman
Photo 2 and 4: DESGphoto/Lars Hagen