Skater will star in own Western

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

Go west, young man.

Stefan Waples is set to become the next Winnipeg speed skater to take that little piece of advice and hit the road.

"We lose a couple (skaters) every year or every few years," said Waples, who will train under the Olympic Oval development program in Calgary. "This is my last year of high school so I'm going to Calgary at the start of July and train out there and hopefully that goes well."

Waples will see plenty of familiar faces when he gets there. He'll join former training partners Tyler Derraugh, Matthew McLean, Tim Kury and Terence McConnell.

The Olympic Oval Program gives skaters the opportunity to train in Calgary with high performance coaches. It's a stepping stone for national and junior national teams.

"It's going to be sad (leaving home) but I've been preparing for it for a while," said Waples, a Grade 12 student at Kelvin High School who turns 18 in May.

"It's not for all skaters but it's the thing to do if you want to take your training to the next level," said provincial training co-ordinator Crispin Parkinson.

Speed Skating Canada is establishing provincial training centres to allow skaters to develop without having to move to the national centres in Calgary and Quebec City. While Waples would be eligible for this program, Parkinson agrees he would be better off in Calgary.

Next up for Waples is the Canada Cup No. 2 and Canadian Junior Championship, Jan. 28-30 at the Susan Auch Oval. The competition will decide the Canadian team for the World Junior Championships, Feb. 18-20 in Seinajoki, Finland.

Waples was 19th overall and seventh among the juniors in the 5,000 metres at the Canada Cup No. 1, earlier this month in Ste. Foy, Que.

"I beat all of the guys who moved to Calgary who were at that race," said Waples, whose best events are the 3,000 and 5,000. "That was very inspiring."

In Calgary, Waples will try to make a name for himself as a long track skater. But he is already in the Canadian record book -- in short track.

With McLean and Derraugh setting the pace, Waples broke the intermediate men's short track 3,000 metres record last March.

"We knew what the record was and we thought that we could break it if we just took it out fast enough," recalled Waples, who also holds the provincial junior men's short track 1,000 and 1,500 records. "We took it out at a very good pace and we held on. Matt dropped off and Tyler dropped off and I finished it and got the record."

Waples is one of the few short track record holders not from Quebec, Canada's hot bed for the speed skating discipline.

"There's not too many short trackers on the national team outside of Quebec," said Waples. "It's a sport that's really dominated by Quebec so for (skaters from) other provinces to be able to set records or doing anything (in short track) is quite an accomplishment."

COLD FRONT: The frigid temperatures and high wind chill numbers forced the cancellation of this weekend's Manitoba Olympic Style Championships and yesterday's Silver Skates meet.


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