Canada Games Puts Spotlight on Speed Skating

A piece of the Prince Edward Island Canada Winter Games is coming to the Emera Oval in Halifax.

Long-track speed skating will be in the spotlight this February as the 400-metre Oval serves as the venue for more than 80 athletes from across the country.

Facing a $1M-plus cost for a temporary track, P.E.I. organizers instead partnered early on with a passionate group of volunteers in Nova Scotia to prepare the Oval for the Games.

“It wasn’t a very difficult decision for us to make at all, and we’ve had just great co-operation from the folks in Halifax, so we have no regrets,” says Wayne Carew, the board chairman for the host society.

The Emera Oval was originally constructed for the 2011 Canada Games in Halifax.

The plan was to take it down after the Games and repurpose equipment in rinks. But the popularity of the outdoor skating facility led to it becoming a fixture on the Halifax Commons.

The return of Canada Games action is expected to be a big boost for speed skating in Nova Scotia. It’s likely to increase participation and will leave a legacy in both infrastructure and trained officials. There’s momentum for the Oval to become a top-notch regional training hub.

Seeing the action live brings home the fact speed skating exists here, says Paula Arruda, vice-president with Speed Skating Nova Scotia.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to grow the sport and awareness of the sport,” she says.

The Atlantica Hotel on Robie Street will be turned into an athletes village for the Games, meaning the skaters will simply have to walk across the street for competition.

Findlay Tulloch of Halifax is expected to be a key member of Team Nova Scotia and will be racing in the neighbourhood where he lives.

“I will be staying in the hotel right across from the Oval, but I will be able to see my house from the hotel,” says Tulloch, 19, who competed in short track at the 2019 Canada Games.

He’s hoping for home-ice advantage.

“Competing there, I’ll be more comfortable and I really do like the Oval,” he says. “It’s the place I’ve skated at the most.

“I’ll probably feel proud, too, sharing the ice with really good skaters from around the country.”

Grace Sullivan of Hammonds Plains started speed skating around the time the Oval was built.

Now 17, she hopes to follow in her older brother Luke’s footsteps and compete at a Games.

Her father, Mike, will be involved in electronic timing during the action Feb. 18-25 and Luke wants to volunteer as a track steward.

“It’s exciting that it’s on home ground,” Grace says. “All my friends and family can be here to watch. I feel like my entire speed skating career has kind of been leading up to this.”

New safety pads for the track corners and an upgrade in the quality of the electronic timing equipment are improvements tied to the Games.

The safety cushions stay behind, bringing the Halifax Oval up to national standards for hosting more high-level events.

“As we mature as a sport and our skaters get older and their training becomes faster and better, we need to have that as part of the facility, not just a special event perk,” Arruda says.

“That’s a great piece of the legacy.”

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