On Saturday evening, Speed Skating Canada honoured over 20 of the sport’s dedicated stakeholders – including athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and partners – during its 2019 Awards Banquet, which was held in conjunction with the organization’s Annual General Meeting and Congress in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In keeping with our new 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, which strives for sport and organizational excellence, Speed Skating Canada’s annual program was recalibrated in 2019 with the aim of streamlining the nomination and selection processes; ensuring that recognition is distributed equitably among stakeholder groups; and increasing the diversity and breadth of the eligible nominees.
This year’s impressive list of award recipients included:
Hall of Fame
- Pat Leech (MB): Pat Leech (née Durnin) was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a builder for her long-term involvement and exceptional contributions to the development of speed skating as a coach, administrator and volunteer. She competed at the 1975 Canada Winter Games, bringing home a gold medal in the 1000m and silver in the 400m. She joined the Canadian national team at age 16 and went on to captured three bronze medals at the World Junior Championships level, before moving onto the senior ranks where she took part in a number of events including the 1977 Women’s World Speed Skating Championships and 1979 World Sprint Championships. The highlight of her athletic career came when she represented Canada at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, where she placed 23rd in the 3,000m. In the late 1980s, following her retirement from skating, she helped create the Westman Speed Skating Club in Brandon, Manitoba. As the club celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, she proudly continues to serve as both Head Coach and Board Member. In addition to her extensive work at the club level, she has served many roles at the provincial level, including coach for Team Manitoba and member of the province’s High Performance Committee and Disciplinary Panels.
Female Short Track Athlete of the Year (Nathalie Lambert Award)
- Alex Lepage Farrell (QC): This year, Alex Lepage Farrell achieved the best results of her career, ranking 12th overall at the Canadian Senior Selections. It was her best competition to date, both in terms of race times and rankings. The most impressive part is that she achieved these personal bests in a unique way – she is currently completing a full-time residency in pediatrics at the Ste-Justine Hospital in Montreal, which means she can’t put in the same hours on the ice as her peers. This does not deter Alex, who was able to combine a demanding career with an effective practice schedule that includes Pilates in her living room when she does not have time to go to the arena. In addition to her skating, she is also an active volunteer on the medical team at local speed skating events and at this season’s World Junior Championships in Montreal. She is a true model of the perseverance, dedication and passion that define an Athlete of the Year.
Male Short Track Athlete of the Year (Marc Gagnon Award)
- Samuel Girard (QC): Coming off an Olympic gold medal, expectations were high for Samuel Girard this past season. Taking these lofty goals head-on, he continued to excel on the international stage and was one of Canada’s most successful male short track skaters. He won an individual gold medal on the World Cup circuit, along with a silver medal at the World Championships, helping him finish ranked fourth overall. Off the ice, he was an ambassador for the 2019 World Junior Short Track Championships in Montreal and also took on the role of athlete representative for the short track team, acting as the voice for his teammates at Speed Skating Canada. He continued to use his voice for good following his recent retirement announcement, bravely speaking of the challenges faced by elite athletes and advocating for a better balance between the demands of high performance and the other important aspects of life – like family and community work. In retirement, he and his partner Kasandra Bradette have committed to giving back to the sport by sharing their passion with young skaters from clubs across.
Male Long Track Athlete of the Year (Jeremy Wotherspoon Award)
- Hubert Marcotte (QC): Hubert Marcotte had a year defined by excellence on the ice. He placed second overall at the Canadian Junior Long Track Championships, winning two gold medals and earning his spot on the junior national team. Competing at the World Junior Championships in Italy, he finished 12th overall in the world, including a top-ten finish in the mass start. He also placed eighth overall at the Canadian Junior Short Track Championships earlier in the season. His accomplishments in skating and in school are even more impressive knowing that he attained them while surmounting learning disabilities. Despite these challenges and his hectic schedule, he is often the first to help train master’s skaters and volunteer at competitions in his home province of Quebec.
Female Long Track Athlete of the Year (Catriona Le May Doan Award)
- Isabelle Weidemann (ON): After her first Olympics in 2018, Isabelle Weidemann had a strong desire to push herself further than the two top-ten results she earned on the world’s highest stage.She committed to putting in the effort and determination in the off-season that would allow her to become an even better skater. This dedication helped her make her mark on the World Cup circuit this season, capturing a gold and two silver medals and ending the season ranked fourth overall. Making her debut at the World Allround Championships on home soil in Calgary, she set personal bests in all four distances and earned the top finish for a Canadian female, placing sixth overall. Known as an athlete with a great team spirit, she also helped the ladies’ pursuit bring home two medals during the World Cup season. She also lends this supportive energy to her younger siblings who skate in Calgary. And, to top it all off, she is working toward her undergraduate degree in geology, making her schedule all the more hectic.
Coach of the Year (Jack Walters Award)
- Karine Proteau (QC): Karine Proteau has had a tremendous impact over the course of her 27 years as a coach. After helping establish a regional training centre in Quebec City in the early 2000’s, she returned Sherbrooke as head coach, a role she has occupied since 2009. In this role, she has grown the club to 130 members, while training and supervising 25 new coaches. She has also helped professionalize the club with the addition of kinesiologist, nutritionist and sports psychology services.
Coaching Awards of Excellence
- Ryan Hickman (AB), Fanny Michaud (QC) and Scott Van Horne (MB) were presented with Coaching Excellence Awards for their meaningful contributions to our sport over the past year in their role as coach.
Official of the Year (René Marleau Award)
- Rick Hunt (ON): Rick Hunt began his involvement in speed skating as a volunteer, coach and track steward when his children started skating at a young age. Over the years, he took on progressively senior roles, eventually becoming an ISU Long Track and Level 3A Short Track referee. His resume includes numerous World Cups and World Championships, as well as the Olympic Games. He is also dedicated to giving back to the sport, serving as an active member of SSC’s Officials Development Committee and teaching numerous clinics and courses.
Officials Awards of Excellence
- Tina Peters (BC), Sylvain Pigeon (QC) and Richard Thériault (QC) were presented with Officials Awards of Excellence for their meaningful contributions to our sport over the past year in the role of official.
Volunteer of the Year (Jean Grenier Award)
- John Thorpe (AB): Since the 1960s, John Thorpe has always been readily available to help advance the sport of speed skating, taking on just about every volunteer role available. He was a member of the 1988 Olympic Oval Building Committee and also represented Canada as the ISU developed rules for the introduction of short track and inclusion of the University Games. As an official, he took part in the 1998 Nagano Olympics and has been a fixture at the Olympic Oval for decades, volunteering as timer or chief place judge at every event hosted at that venue this past season. He was also chief timer for short track at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, while also acting as a timer for long track on his days off.
Partner of the Year (Sport Champion Award)
- Red Deer Central Lions Club (AB): In 1953, the Red Deer Central Lions became the title sponsor of their local speed skating club and for the last 66 years have continued their financial and in-kind volunteer support, without wavering. This past year, their donation of $5,000 and offer of additional fundraising help were invaluable. Just as importantly, each year the Lions act as the club’s official timers at its two sanctioned meets, a long-standing tradition that has allowed several members of the Lions to achieve Level 2 Timer status. And in 2019, when the Canada Winter Games rolled into Red Deer, the Lions were there, ready to volunteer. The Lions’ have been the backbone of this local club, and families often become involved in speed skating because a parent or grandparent has been a Lions Timer.
Gagné Family Award
- Williamson Derraugh Family (MB): The Williamson Derraugh Family – who have helped shape speed skating in Manitoba and across the country for over 50 years – were presented with the Gagné Family Award, which honours the family legacies that run through the Canadian speed skating community. The members of this well-known speed skating family have impacted countless young athletes through their involvement in coaching, administrative and technical positions with the Manitoba Speed Skating Association (MSSA) and Speed Skating Canada.
Intact Insurance Club Excellence Award
- The Calgary Grizzlies Speed Skating Club (AB) are the winners of the inaugural Intact Insurance Club Excellence Award. They will receive a $10,000 grand prize to support their development project, along with a visit from two national team athletes during the 2019-2020 season.
- The Calgary Grizzlies Speed Skating Club (AB), at just two years old, have ambitious plans to grow membership to 100 skaters by the start of the 2020 season through initiatives dedicated to safe sport, marketing, coach training, athlete evaluation, mentorship and community partnership.
- The following four clubs were finalists for the Club Excellence Award and will each take home a $2,500 prize to help finance initiatives that address an identified need in their community and will generate a positive impact on our sport.
- Annapolis Valley Speed Skating Club (NS) is planning a series of promotional open houses to help recruit new skaters in the region and the purchase of short and long track skates to augment its rental inventory.
- Club de patinage de vitesse Centre-Sud (QC) will invest in a provincial-level program for elite skaters, with double the number of practices, supervised weight room sessions, the implementation of improved on-ice reporting tools, and a focus on mental preparation.
- Kingston Striders Speed Skating Club (ON) will extend its “Project Fast Feet” by purchasing appropriately sized skates for 6 to 11-year-old athletes, thereby creating an easier transition into the sport for this age group.
- Club de patinage de vitesse Sherbrooke (QC) is supporting the conversion of a City-owned arena to an exclusive skating facility. Funds will go toward the purchase of a hybrid mat system that meets ISU standards.