Two elite Fort speed skaters won gold medals in completely different circumstances on Sunday, January 17.
In Montreal, at the National Senior Short Track Championships, Jamie Macdonald received impressive but non-podium finishes in the 1,500 metre, (6th) 500 metre, (5th) and 1000 metre (5th) races.
Following these races, the top eight skaters raced a final 3,000 metre race. Here Jamie found herself lined up in a field with the best short trackers in Canada including three with Olympic medals and all with World Cup experience.
The 27 lap race started slowly but after about 6 laps Audrey Phaneuf made a huge break and most of the field decided to let her go but not without Macdonald or Marie-Eve Drolet (who has six world championship medals and 2 junior world championships) who gave chase.
The three finally managed to catch up to the lapped skaters ensuring them a “free ride” in the draft of the skaters who were behind them.
But about 6 laps later the pack took off again at a furious pace and Jamie came close to being knocked down by a sharp elbow but she hung on and was able to pass Phaneuf and nip Drolet at the line for first place points.
In Fort St. John Morgon Bennison completed a sweep of 4 distances in the Junior Male category at the Provincial Long Track Championships and won the “overall” competition.
It was Morgon’s first ever gold medal at any level. He had the fastest times in the meet for the 500, 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 metre Olympic style distances.
At the same competition, Sandra Sulyma won an age group gold for her division and Aidan Duncan won the silver medal in the Age 11 division.
Nyah, Connor and Tessa Duncan all competed in the FUNALE events with Nhah winning all her races.
As the event concluded, about 40 skaters competed in the 5,000 metre mass start race where“all comers” challenged for the win. This year the event has been renamed the Randy Sulyma Memorial Open 5000.
Randy was a Fort St. James skating coach who lost his life five years ago while travelling to Fort St. John for the championships.
The 5,000 metre race was very exciting with Morgon leading many of the laps and then giving the lead up, getting briefly boxed in and then making a spectacular pass to take the lead in the last straight before having a worst-luck fall.
Everyone was hugely entertained.
Sandra Sulyma (spouse of Randy) got to present the inaugural winner’s plaque to Erik Orlowsky from Prince George.
It was a wildly successful windup to the championships.