Yellowknife’s Wren Acorn is back home for a well-deserved holiday break but before returning to the homestead, she was busy at a rather important competition.
And it’s one which will see her wear the maple leaf on the international stage next month.
On Tuesday, the 19-year-old speedskater was named as one of 10 Canadian athletes who will compete at the Winter World University Games, better known as Universiade, in Lake Placid, New York. Speed Skating Canada and USports, the governing body of university sports in Canada, made the announcement. Acorn qualified thanks to her finish at the Canadian Short Track Invitational in Montreal earlier this month.
It’s the second consecutive year she’s been a member of the team, but her first time was cancelled thanks to an Omicron outbreak gutting Universiade in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“My focus last year was re-qualifying for the NextGen team and getting my card back,” said Acorn on Tuesday. “I had other opportunities last season as a junior — the travel was secondary.”
In Montreal, Acorn finished third overall with 17,923 points from her six races, but when it came to athletes who were eligible for Universiade, she was second overall. The results were tabulated based on the four best finishes from the 500-metre, 1,000-metre and 1,500-metre distances, all of which were raced twice over the course of the competition.
That second place finish was only because she lost in a tiebreaker in the final results. She and Karina Montminy, who also made the team, had the same point total in their four best events. When that happens, all six events are taken into account and because Montminy had better results in those other two races, she nudged ahead of Acorn.
But Acorn is still pleased with her performance.
“I would say it’s the best I’ve ever done at a national competition,” she said. “I was tactically sound all weekend. I was making good decisions. I was being aggressive and my mindset was perfect.”
The first of the 1,500-metre races opened things up — Acorn’s bread-and-butter distance — and she would end up third overall in that race.
“I knew I wanted the podium in that one,” said Acorn. “The next two races were the 500-metre back-to-back and they aren’t my best distances, so I wanted to go out and get a good result.”
But those 500-metre races ended up being kind to Acorn as she nailed down a fifth place and seventh place result in each.
That outcome came as a surprise to the Yellowknife competitor.
“I had done a lot of work on the 500-metre leading up to the event and that all came to fruition,” she said. “I felt fast, I felt aggressive and I felt I was making something happen.”
The 1,000-metre races were Acorn’s best results of the event as she finished second in each of them.
With the spot for Lake Placid nailed down, the focus for Acorn at this point is to rest. That’s because the heavy work begins early in 2023 as she’ll be racing in the Canada Cup in Laval, Que., beginning on Jan. 13. Immediately after that, she’ll be off to Lake Placid with her teammates.
“Right now, it’s all about sleeping well, eating right, hydrating well,” said Acorn. “One of the things we’ll be working on when we get back on the ice is the relay because that’s a big aspect of the competition. Individual performances are important, but a lot of teams put a lot of work into relays. It’s Canada versus the world at events like this, so it’s a lot of practice on chemistry and communication. But I’m just real proud of myself right now.”