Some of the fleetest feet in Canada will be on local ice next winter.
Prince George has been awarded the 2014 Canadian age class short track speed skating championships. The meet will double as a test event for the 2015 Canada Winter Games and will be held inside Kin 1, which is currently under reconstruction and is projected to be fully-operational by October of this year.
The announcement of Prince George's successful bid for the event was made Thursday by 2015 Canada Winter Games organizers. The Winter Games group played a major role in assembling the proposal that was put forward to Speed Skating Canada.
The new Kin 1 will have an Olympic-sized ice surface and seating for 1,000 spectators.
"The awarding of the championships to Prince George is a clear example of events that can come here now based on the capacity and configuration of the new Kin 1 arena, the quality of the people involved in the local sports clubs and the 2015 Games' ability to assist the local sports clubs in attracting major competitions to our region," said Stuart Ballantyne, chief executive officer of the 2015 Canada Winter Games. "We look forward to hosting more national-level events and championships in Prince George and northern British Columbia as we lead up to the 2015 Canada Winter Games, and beyond."
The nationals, set for March 14-16, will bring together approximately 128 skaters, ranging from 15 to 23 in age. Athletes will not be Team Canada members, but skating in the championships will be an important step in securing positions in national team development programs.
As a test event for the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the 2014 short track nationals will help ensure the new Kin 1 ice surface is competition-ready. The championships will also serve as a dry run for things like event logistics, officiating, medical services and food services.
The Prince George Blizzard Speed Skating Club will take on the hosting responsibilities for nationals. Meet coordinator Ariadne Hiller of the Blizzard indicated that the championships are coming to Prince George largely because of the work done by the Games staff.
"They gave us their unconditional support in putting together the bid package," Hiller said. "In fact, Speed Skating Canada noted it was one of the best proposals they have ever received."
Many of the skaters who compete in the 2014 nationals will be back in Prince George the following year for the Winter Games. Short track speed skating is one of 19 sports that will be represented in 2015.
"We want every athlete, coach and visitor to leave Prince George saying, 'This was an incredible event and the 2015 Canada Winter Games will be even better,'" Hiller said.
Prince George hosted the short track nationals in 2001. That year, they were held at the Coliseum.
This year's championships are March 8-10 in Montreal.