The Netherlands is considered to be the birthplace of speedskating — at least the long-track version — and it’s still a hot bed for the sport, even at the short-track level.

Yellowknife’s Wren Acorn got the chance to head across the pond to take part in a big international event, the first of her career, and she considers it a great experience.

The 18-year-old Acorn and her 11 teammates on Speed Skating Canada’s NextGen squad were in the city of Heerenveen earlier this month for the International Invitation Cup from Oct. 1 to 3. The NextGen team is considered the junior high-performance squad and Acorn qualified for the team following her performance at the Canadian Short Track Championships in Montreal back in August.

Acorn left for the Netherlands on Sept. 18 and took part in a two-week training camp before the meet began.

She said that was a beneficial portion of the trip.

“We’re going to be seeing those skaters a lot over the next few years to come,” she said. “Our coaches took a lot from that as well and they were able to compare us to the Dutch skaters by showing us what they’re doing and what we’re better at.”

In addition to Canada and the Netherlands, there were skaters from France, Germany, Latvia, Italy, Belgium and Hungary but no teams from Asia in attendance. For the competition itself, everyone was split into either the A or B groups with Acorn placed into B.

She said she would have been good with either group.

“The A group had the some of the most incredible skaters and I would have been ecstatic with the results, no matter what,” she said. “The B group still had plenty of experienced athletes and provided a real good test.”

Acorn raced in the 500-metre, 1,000-metre and 1,500-metre events over the three days of action with her best result coming in the 1,500-metre on opening day, where she finished fourth overall, a little more than a second out of third. The 1,000-metre race saw her penalized for impeding in the semifinal, meaning she didn’t move on, while the 500-metre race saw her fail to advance out of her semifinal race.

Acorn said she was very happy with the result in the 1,500-metre event but overall, it wasn’t the best she’s ever done though there was a reason.

“We didn’t really peak for this,” she said. “We were all clawing our way back following the Canadian Championships and that took a lot out of us. This was also the first international meet for a lot of us and so we were adapting to new surroundings and new things. It wasn’t my greatest performance but definitely very valuable experience for me.

“I had no expectations going in because I know how to race in Canada and I know what Canadian skaters can do. I’ve never skated against these athletes before so I was going in blind.”

One of those things she had to adapt to was the style of skating, especially the physical side of it, she added.

“It’s much more aggressive over there,” she said. “The racing was very tough and the racing styles are much different. It was tough to adjust my style to that but it was beneficial for me going forward.”

Being that this was her first major foray into international short-track, Acorn said she felt out of her element at times but she did her best to stay focused on the task at hand.

“I was star-struck at times because there were Olympic-calibre skaters but you can’t be a fan,” she said. “They’re professional and stick to the job at hand. There’s always that mutual respect between athletes so I admired them because of their level but I had to keep focused.”

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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