Not to put too fine a point on it but this is exactly how Michael Gilday advanced through the ranks on his way to a spot at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
For Wren Acorn, it’s the next step in what she hopes will be a foot in the door for international competition.
The 16-year-old speedskating star from the capital is now firmly entrenched in the national scope as she was named to the Canadian short-track development team on Oct. 29 by Speed Skating Canada. That means she is just one step below from being part of the full national team set-up, the group which gets to compete at World Cups and the World Short Track Championships each year.
Being named to the team was a complete surprise to Acorn.
“I didn’t even think it would happen this season and that’s why it’s such a shock,” she said. “I never even considered it so I’m super thankful to the coaching staff and selection committee. I’ve achieved my objective to wear the maple leaf and I’m so excited.”
The top 16 in Speed Skating Canada’s senior rankings make up the two squads; Acorn originally qualified for the development squad as the 15th-ranked women’s skater in the country but with two retirements, she’s now 13th in Canada.
Making the development team will most likely mean a move to Montreal at some point, the home base for the national team program.
It’s a move Acorn said she’s not looking forward to right now, especially with all that’s happening.
“The training centre is right in the middle of a red zone in Quebec (due to Covid-19) so right now probably isn’t the best time to think about packing up,” she said. “If things improve, I’ll probably think about it for next season.”
Acorn will have to keep her spot on the team by staying in the top-16 but there aren’t any points to earn right now because there haven’t been any races yet. Speed Skating Canada has either cancelled or postponed all national events in October and November.
“I probably would have had at least four events in by now,” said Acorn. “All I’ve been doing I practice races. I’m still working hard and Covid-19 has been the motivation for me to work hard because the next competition could be right around the corner. I want to be in shape for it, no matter when it is. I don’t want to be catching up to everyone else.”
The Canadian Junior Short Track Championships in Calgary is next on the calendar at the end of this month but Acorn said she was still waiting to hear if that’s even happening.
If that’s not happening, she doesn’t see how the World Junior Short Track Championships would go ahead.
“I don’t see them happening,” she said. “If we aren’t holding events here, then it would only make sense that other countries would be holding off as well.”
Speaking of keeping in shape, that’s been an exercise in and among itself. The Calgary Olympic Oval, Acorn’s usual home base, has been shut since August after the building went mechanical. Ice is expected to be back in by the end of January so until then, Acorn and her training mates have been schlepping around Calgary to other rinks in order to get work in.
Acorn said the Oval bought a bunch of ice time around the city in order to make sure skaters get in as much time as possible on ice of some sort.
“I’m just settling into a new routine,” she said. “It’s taking a bit longer to get around the city on transit but that’s life. You can’t be angry about it, you just take it and keep working.”