We’re on the downswing of summer and heading into fall and that can only mean one thing in the sports world: ice is coming back.

NWT Speed Skating got the ball rolling on its 2018-2019 season as it hosted its annual summer camp in Yellowknife, which wrapped up on Aug. 26, with skaters from Yellowknife, Inuvik and Fort Simpson among the attendees. They were put through their paces with both on-ice and dry land training over the course of the five-day camp.

Ava Erasmus, left, and Daniel Menalo, both from Fort Simpson, work on a drill as part of NWT Speed Skating’s summer camp in Yellowknife on Aug. 25. James McCarthy/NNSL photo

The coaching staff included Debby Fisher of Calgary, a regular visitor to Yellowknife who was at the camp for the first time in several years, along with Todd Landon of Halifax, who was back for a second year to help out as a guest instructor.

Hannah Clark, who once toiled in the camp as a participant when she lived in Yellowknife, was back for another year as a coach. She’s based out of Calgary, where she attends the University of Calgary.

“It’s always a good excuse to come home,” she said about the camp. “As a coach, I’m thinking way more steps ahead than I did as a skater, when I thought of the one technical focus. Now, I’m trying to think of technical tips for five skaters at once so there’s a lot more going on.”

On the ice, the skaters were given instruction on things such as drafting, attacking and skating technique while the dry land worked on general fitness and aerobics.

“Technique was first and foremost this weekend because it is the start of a new season,” said Clark. “That gives them a good base for the rest of the year but having competed down south, I learned a lot about the tactics of short track with a variety of athletes from all over so I’m trying to prepare these guys to skate with a higher calibre.”

Working on tactics is always fun, especially when skaters see and try things for the first time, she added.

“It’s fun to see them try passing in a way they hadn’t thought about before,” she said. “Instead of passing to get to the front of the pack, you can pass to get into second or into a strategic place in a race or learn to pass at the right moment.”

The Fort Simpson contingent consisted of just two skaters – Ava Erasmus and Daniel Menalo – but they were excited to be on the ice getting ready for their seasons.

Erasmus said the camp was something she planned on doing all along.

“There’s been a lot of new learning experiences and we’ve learned new things every day,” she said on Aug. 25. “We don’t have ice yet in the arena back home so this is our first time on skates since we finished last season. We worked on little things like balance and agility.”

2014 Olympian Michael Gilday was also on hand as a guest coach and Erasmus said learning from an Olympian is always cool.

Menalo was attending the camp for the first time and he said while everything was new to him, he had a lot of fun.

“It’s a lot of work, though,” he said. “My legs are killing me but I learned about how to balance myself and controlling myself out on the ice. It was a good first camp for me.”

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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