Le May Doan pitches oval for Ontario

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Catriona Le May Doan could sell an ice box to the Inuit in English, French and, possibly, in a third language.

After all, she hails from Saskatoon.

Canada's Olympic speed-skating queen was in town yesterday to officially accept her appointment as chief spokesperson for a proposed $11-million speed-skating oval in Lakefield, near Peterborough.

The gold medallist in two Olympics --1998 in Nagano and 2002 in Salt Lake City --was very passionate when speaking about the need for a speed-skating oval in Ontario because Canada's largest province just doesn't have one.

"I don't agree that a province that has 27 speed-skating clubs and 3,000 speed skaters doesn't have an oval," Le May Doan said. "Neither do I agree with the fact that young students who dream of making the Olympics one day have to get to Calgary, Lake Placid (N.Y.) or Ste-Foy (Que.) to train.

"First of all, it costs a lot of money and I would prefer if these youngsters stayed in their own environment with their families. We have many talented kids. I retired three years ago and skated the other day against some kids. They hung in all the way. Here in Ontario, an oval would not only help develop dreams for Ontario kids, but also make those dreams a reality."

Le May Doan promised to fully support the construction of a speed-skating oval in Lakefield and was inspired by Allan Heritage, the dynamo leading the Lakefield fundraising team.

"Once we get the finances in order, (they have $5.5 million of the $11 million they figure they need) we will build not only an Ontario speed-skating centre, but it will also become a national and international centre," Heritage said.

"It will benefit not only Ontarians, but Canadians as a whole.

"When we put on a major international event, such as a world championship or World Cup, we'll bring 80,000 spectators to Peterborough and the area. The oval would also serve public school, high school and university students. It will be equipped with medical and fitness facilities.

"In addition to tourist dollars, the area would benefit from the excess heat energy produced by maintaining ice on the oval which would create enough heat for the adjoining oval building, the two local schools and up to 600 houses. The oval, with its heat exchange facilities and ground loops for heat storage, has the potential to be a district alternative energy heat provider, resulting in significant energy savings for the entire community. The community can look forward to more than 25% reduction in current greenhouse gas emissions by both schools."

$18,000 ANNUALLY

It also bothers Heritage that gifted skaters from Ontario have to travel to Calgary to train at a cost of about $18,000 annually. Either that, or travel to Lake Placid or Ste-Foy in Quebec. Not all families can afford that.

Newly elected Conservative MP Dean Demastro promised to support the financial drive. He also talked to Stephen Harper, the prime minister-designate, about the project and hopes to get federal financial support.

Lori Scott, a Conservative MPP, also is behind the project as are other politicians and some 3,000 Ontario speed skaters. Who knows, perhaps, even Premier Dalton McGuinty may lend his ear.


Videos

Photos