Speed skater heading north

It was a whirlwind weekend for speed skater Kieran Hanson.

A day after saying goodbye to his Grade 11 classmates at College Heights Secondary School, Hanson was back racing on familiar turf on the Olympic-sized rink at Kin 1.

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While it felt strange living out of hotel for the weekend with his family's belongings already moved to their new home in to Fort St. John, Hanson had a little unfinished business competing in Saturday's BC Cup short track meet.

The 16-year-old provincial long track team member has opened up a new chapter in his speed skating career, one he hopes will lead to a national team spot a couple years down the road in Calgary. Until then, the indoor 400-metre oval at the Pomeroy Sport Centre in Fort St. John and the year-round training opportunities it allows will be Hanson's home and he can hardly wait.

"I'm really excited, I've been wishing for this for like two years now and it's finally coming true, which means I'll be able to pursue my dream of long-track speed skating more than I am now," said Hanson."It will be nice to not have that kind of iffy period where you're trying to remind your brain how to do something it knows how to do. It'll be nice to start skating months earlier than I do here."

The move was made possible by Hanson's father Tony, an RCMP officer, who accepted transfer to Fort St. John as a means to fast-track Hanson's development on the ice. He and his 14-year-old brother Jack plan to take advantage of the covered ice oval training with coach Richard Stickle and the Fort St. John Elks Speed Skating Club.

The Hanson family has been heavily involved with the Prince George Blizzard Speed Skating Club for five of the eight years since Kieran began skating. His mom, Kari Rae, is a former Blizzard club president and the current president of the BC Speed Skating Association and his 12-year-old sister Sarah also races short track.

Having lived in Invermere, Ottawa, Tumbler Ridge, Vanderhoof and Chetwynd, Hanson was relatively new to the Blizzard in 2015 when Prince George hosted the Canada Winter Games. He watched the races on the outdoor oval at Exhibition Park before warm weather forced organizers to move the event to Fort St. John and also saw some of the top short-track racers in the country take their spins around the Kin 1 ice and that was enough to convince him to get serious about skating. His perseverance paid off when he qualified for Team BC and competed at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer.

"I came here not real serious about skating and then skating became my dream with this club," said Hanson. "I watched the Canada Games here and two years ago I was told I could make the next one and that was like wow, and it happened. It was this club's doing that got me to where I am.

"Speed skating has taught me hard work and persistence and discipline. I didn't give up on Canada Games and went from being seeded almost dead-last in the qualifier to making it. It's helped me with my schoolwork just knowing if I work hard I'll get through it and it will pay off. No slacking off."

Hanson is getting back to competing in short-track races knowing the two disciplines complement each other. Before Saturday's races he'd stepped away from short track long enough to invalidate all his previous qualifying times.

He plans to make the move to Calgary after he graduates high school where he can take in the benefits of being close to the national team training centre at the Olympic Oval, now the home base of former Blizzard club skaters Nico and Lina Hiller, Eric Orolowsky and Craig Miller.

Hanson plans to be at BC Cup No. 2 in Richmond, Dec. 14-15 and he'll be back in Prince George racing on the outdoor oval at Exhibition Park at a BC Cup long track meet, Jan. 11. He's also looking forward to a Grand Prix long track event in Calgary on March 13-15.

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