If you were the only speedskater from your club at a camp, how would you approach it?
In the case of Jaxin Coombs, you simply go out and go fast.
The nine-year-old was the lone representative from the Hay River Speed Skating Club who attended NWT Speed Skating’s summer camp in Yellowknife, which wrapped up this past Sunday, Aug. 22. Coombs was one of nearly three dozen skaters taking part in this year’s edition, which included participants from Yellowknife, Fort Simpson and Inuvik.
“I don’t see any other skins out there like mine so I’m the only one,” said Coombs following an on-ice session on Aug. 18.
The skaters were split into two groups based on registered times from their 500-metre races the previous season as well by the number of registrations. Those in group one, the faster of the two groups, went for a full day with two on-ice sessions and dryland training. Group two was a half-day with dryland and one on-ice session each day.
Coombs said he wanted to make the most of his week.
“My mom signed me up because I hadn’t been speed skating in a long time,” he said. “I’m happy because I remembered how to do it and I really enjoyed getting back out on the ice.”
Jody Pellissey, NWT Speed Skating’s sport director, said the excitement among the skaters on day one — Aug. 18 — was obvious.
“The kids were super excited to hit the ice for the first day and we were excited to have them,” she said.
The camp usually features guest coaches from down south, and this year, it included a pair of instructors from the Calgary Speed Skating Association in the form of Sam Pollock and Marika Nadal. Both Pollock and Nadal are former competitive skaters who have transitioned into the coaching ranks.
Having guest coaches working with the young athletes gives them new perspective, said Pellissey.
“It’s always nice to get that different perspective on things and hear it from a voice they don’t always hear from,” she said.
The camp is one of NWT Speed Skating’s big events of the season and returned following a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
As for Coombs, he’s entering his third year as a member of the speedskating club and he already has his sights set on loftier goals.
“Just trying to get better, get faster, get some more practice in,” he said. “I’d like to skate at the Arctic Winter Games in the future.”