Long-track team announced for 2014 games in Russia
In front of a packed crowd of media, family, officials and elementary-school kids, Speed Skating Canada announced its roster for the long-track team bound for the Sochi Olympic games, which are set to begin on Feb. 7.
Among the nine women and eight men selected, are three Calgarians – Anastasia Bucsis, Gilmore Junio and Kaylin Irvine.
Junio — who received the greatest uproar of support from the hometown crowd when his name was called — flashed his trademark smile, which has taken him from a little-known athlete to a fan favourite in the lead-up to the naming of the team.
"This will go down as one of the most memorable days of my life," said a proud Junio after receiving his jacket from Speed Skating Canada's chief executive officer Ian Moss.
"I have seen a lot of athletes get the jackets and I was just waiting for the day I could get mine."
Joining Junio in Russia will be Olympic rookie Kaylin Irvine and Anastasia Bucsis, who went public about being gay in response to Russia's controversial law banning gay "propaganda."
The mood at the press conference was one of excitement as event emcee Kristina Groves — former Olympian and four-time Olympic medalist — directed the crowd's attention to a big screen that played a montage of Canadian athletes competing in their respective sports accompanied by a thumping electronica track. The words, "We're just getting started," capped off the video.
Prior to the naming of the team, France St-Louis, the assistant chef de mission, coaxed a jubilant chant of "go Canada go" out of a group of students from Calgary's Keeler Elementary School. This chant was fired up once again during the press conference, this time with the rest of the crowd joining in once the squad had been announced.
Canada's long-track speed skating program has enjoyed a good deal of success recently at the Olympic Games.
Speed Skating Canada has 33 long-track Olympic medals, 22 of which were won at the last four Winter Games. Of those 22, 13 were won in the last two Olympic Games in Torino and Vancouver.
Other dignitaries in attendance included Calgary-Varsity MLA Donna Kennedy-Glans, Gene Edworthy of the Canadian Olympic Committee Board and Calgary Centre-North MP Michelle Rempel, who assured the skaters that when they step on the ice in Sochi they "will have the whole country at [their] back" willing them on.
The long-track speed skating events will take place from Feb. 8 to Feb. 22, which is the final day of competition before the closing ceremonies.
For a recap of some of the best moments from the Sochi Winter Games visit the Calgary Journal's Storify page.
How do you think our speed skating athletes will do in Sochi?
- By GEOFF CRANE