Northern speed skaters set records, personal bests at Canada Winter Games

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Hayden Hickey skates for Nunavut in the 1500 men’s relay at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, AB. Team NWT beat the territory’s previous record for the event. (Peter Fuzessery/2019 Canada Winter Games)
A 15-year-old speed skater from Yellowknife placed eighth in the 1500m short track event at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., Monday, the N.W.T.’s best score since 2007, when Jill Gilday placed 6th.

Yellowknife’s Wren Acorn says she was proud of herself for making the finals after facing tough competition in the qualifying race.

Wren Acorn, skating for Team NT, recovers from a tumble during the final 1500m female race at the Canada Winter Games. Acorn placed eighth in the race, the N.W.T.’s best result since 2007. (Nick Murray/CBC)

“My teammates were screaming, and my mom was screaming,” she told Trailbreaker host Loren McGinnis.

“We had a little moment of celebration, and then it was back down to refocusing because i couldn’t allow myself to get distracted, I still had one race to go.”

There was not a weak link in that whole race.

Wren Acorn, Speed Skater, Team NWT

Acorn says the confidence-boosting race helped set her up for what to expect in the finals.

“There was not a weak link in that whole race,” she said.

At one point in the final race Acorn moved into second position. That’s when she and another medal contender were taken out in a dramatic tumble by Ontario’s Claudia Heaney, a skater who took a bronze medal at the Canadian Juniors last month.

“I was looking to make a pass so I was in a pretty good position when it happened,” says Acorn.

Acorn says she was disappointed, but she’s still thrilled with her performance against World Cup qualifying skaters.

“Honestly I made an ‘A’ final at the CWG [Canada Winter Games]. No matter how it went I would have been happy with it.”

Wren Acorn was happy to make the finals in the women’s 1500m short track event, because she was racing against World Cup level athletes. (Ollie Williams/Team NWT)

Acorn’s coach, Shane Clark, said Acorn’s performance was “significant.”

“It puts her in the conversation about international skating and she’s been attending all the national competitions here for two years now.”

Other records and personal bests

It was also a record-breaking day for the N.W.T.’s men’s team and skaters from Nunavut and the Yukon.

The N.W.T.’s men’s relay team beat the territory’s best record in the relay by about two seconds, says Clark. “We tried a little bit of a new strategy with some of the laps and they followed it to a tee and I think it was a success.”

The result places Team N.W.T. in the B final, which means there’s still a chance of a medal, said Clark.

Meanwhile, Hayden Hickey broke Nunavut’s 1,500m record, and Taryn Lavallée did in the same at that distance in the women’s race Monday.

Team NT Speed Skating Coach Shane Clark says Acorn’s performance was “significant” for the 15-year-old from Yellowknife. (Nick Murray/CBC)

Hickey, Lavallée, and teammates Emma Carpenter and Akutaq Williamson-Bathory, all hit personal bests in their 500m and 1,500m races.

“We actually had the quickest race out of all the finals in my division,” said Hickey, referring to the relay.

“Coming out of it with amazing [personal bests], broken records, it’s amazing.”

Two brothers from Yukon, Micah and Caius Taggart-Cox also set personal bests; Micah in the 500m on Sunday and Caius in the 1500m.

Correction: Wren Acorn’s eighth place finish in the 1500m was the N.W.T.’s best result since Jill Gilday placed sixth in the same event at the 2007 Canada Winter Games. A previous version of this story said Wren Acorn broke the territory’s 11 year record for the event. This article has been corrected.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Nunavut caps ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ week with historic win at Canada Winter Games, CBC News

Finland: Ice fishing World Championships latest in Finnish series of odd sports events, Yle News

United States: Iditarod adds four new board members amid criticism, Alaska Public Media

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