The River Heights Speed Skating Club is used to seeing a bump in registrations during the fall after the Olympics, but this year coaches want to see people sign up beforehand.
Coached by Tracy Leipsic and three-time Olympic medallist Susan Auch, the team is one of three in Winnipeg. For as long as Leipsic can remember, the club has had the River Heights area ice every Tuesday and Thursday.
"Not that I’m really old, but I skated there as a kid, in the same time slot" said Leipsic, 42. "That’s just it, the River Heights Speed Skating Club is always there Tuesdays and Thursdays."
With the 2014 Sochi Olympics coming up, Leipsic expects more people will be signing up.
"We often get a bump of kids registering on an Olympic year when they can see it," said Leipsic. "It’s not a high-profile sport shown on TV very often. So during an Olympic year, there are always kids falling in love with it, and want to come out and try."
Auch, 47, is no stranger to Olympic fever, having completed in five games, winning bronze for the 3000-metre relay in 1988 in Calgary, silver for the 500-metre in Lillehammer in 1994, and silver for the 500-metre in the 1998 Nagano Games. She helps to coach the younger kids who, she assumes, don’t know about her accomplishments in the sport.
"I don’t know if they have to understand," said Auch. "They are all really young, and I raced before they were all born."
Though she trained at the Sargent Park Oval — now the Susan Auch Oval — with the Winnipeg Speed Skating Club, she coaches her children and the club’s younger skaters at the River Heights Arena out of convenience.
"I wasn’t a member of it when I was kid but it is such a vibrant, busy arena to be at and our kids love it," said Auch.
Auch agrees that when the Olympics roll around, and the spotlight is put back on the sport she loves, it’s a great boost.
"And you know what? If you think about it, speed skating has so much success. If a parent had a really talented athlete, a hockey player maybe, and thought ‘I would love it if they got to the Olympics,’ then why wouldn’t you switch them to speed skating?" said Auch. "Because the chances of winning a medal in speed skating, if you’re Canadian, are really high compared to hockey."
In addition to a better chance of competing at a high level, Leipsic said speed skating is both an individual and team sport.
"What I love is that this is a sport where you train as a group, you race on your own, except for relay, and you can’t go to a competition and not notice that everybody is cheering for everybody," said Leipsic.
For more information on the River Heights Speed Skating Club, visit http://www.corydoncc.com/speed-skating.html