Local official honoured by Speed Skating Canada

Ariadne Holness de Hiller remembers the first time she saw speed skating.

As a geologist who grew up in Panama, she was working in Peru while the 1988 Winter Olympics were underway in Calgary.

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"I saw a 10-second snapshot of speed skating on TV and I thought if I ever have kids, that's something they should do," she said Monday.

It was love at first sight.

Little did she know that, during her travels in the 1990s, she'd meet a man named Bruce Hiller from Prince George, move to northern B.C. and raise three children who would wind up excelling in the sport with the Prince George Blizzard Speed Skating Club.

Friday night in Winnipeg, Holness de Hiller, a longtime Blizzard volunteer, was recognized nationally for her dedication to the sport, receiving an Officials Award of Excellence from Speed Skating Canada that was presented to her at an awards ceremony.

"I really wasn't expecting it, I just (volunteer) because I like to do it," she said. "(Speed Skating Canada) called and asked if I'd like to come to Winnipeg because I won an award. I wasn't going to go, but my kids convinced me that I should go. It was a big surprise. Every volunteer will say the same thing."

The officials award is given based on the demonstrated ability to assist in the development of officials in the sport, including grassroots to high-performance officials.

Holness de Hiller was nominated for the national award based on her outstanding contribution as a meet coordinator for her club, the Prince George Blizzard, and for the Canada Games.

In 2014-15, she coordinated three meets at once including the presentation of a regional meet - the Nanguz Cup - and the selection for the B.C. Team for the Canada Winter Games. She also played a major role leading up to the event and was the sport lead for short track speed skating.

"Of course, some of the success is due to the efforts of many other people, but she provided the framework and built the relationships necessary for success, and was tireless in her work to ensure a legacy remained from the Games," stated the nomination.

"Her high quality of work, commitment, and attention to detail has made a name for the ability of her club to put on high quality meets. She is all about spreading the knowledge and helping others enact the high standards she personifies. All meets she contributes to benefit from her learning and experience. Our province (B.C.) is blessed by her reliability and her contributions. From these meets, her guiding principle was nothing but the best."

Holness de Hiller, who sits as a director on the Blizzard executive, said it was a busy three years leading up to the Winter Games as she recognized the need for six speed skating clubs - Prince George, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James, Mackenzie, Dawson Creek and Fort St. John from northern B.C. - to work together to make the long track and short track events a resounding success.

"The officiating gave the speed skaters an opportunity to compete on a level field of play and make it fair for everybody. In three years, we upgraded and certified more than 100 officials and trained another 200 volunteers," said Holness de Hiller, who works as a geologist consultant. "The level of expertise (in northern B.C.) went from a provincial level to a national level. Every official can go back to their club with that expertise. At Kin 1, the people who worked in the building to make the ice comparable to Calgary (the Olympic Oval), and the zamboni drivers and the ice makers gave us that support. They were phenomenal. We had fast ice at Kin 1 for the Games."

The reviews went beyond expectations.

In addition to building stronger relationships among the speed skating clubs, Holness de Hiller reached out to other Canada Games sports such as figure skating, hockey and curling to share volunteers and resources.

She insists she can't take all the credit for earning the Officials Award of Excellence. It was team effort.

"The bigger picture here is northern B.C. and that we all came together. The beauty of this is that we were able to do a lot together. The team of people worked very hard and what I did was bring everything together... for a flawless meet. It was a very exciting time."

Holness de Hiller has been involved with the sport for more than 10 years since her three children - sons Nicolas and Lucas and daughter Carolina - first laced up their skates.

Twin siblings Nicolas and Carolina both competed and excelled in long track events at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in February. They are now moving to Calgary this fall where they'll be part of the national development long track speed skating team.

Over the years being involved in the sport, Holness de Hiller has talked to speed skaters ranging from Olympic medallists and national team members to 12-year-olds about why they do it and realized for them it's not about winning all the time.

"It's how they're feeling during a skate, the wind in their face and how they've become better people," she said. "It's that bliss moment of happiness they have during a skate and we're providing that venue for the kids to have that skate."

Because of the success of the 2015 Games, Holness de Hiller believes Prince George is capable of hosting bigger and better events.

"When I was in Winnipeg, I had the opportunity to present Prince George and put it back on the national stage," she said. "We have the expertise and the venue and the people. The legacy is about the venue. It's the people that we have here. The asset is the people of northern B.C."

Robin Greig of Yellowknife and Shirley Hons of Calgary also received Officials Awards of Excellence on Friday from Speed Skating Canada.

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