Donatelli’s years of coaching recognized by Speed Skating Canada

The Mission speedskating coach was instrumental in helping his daughter achieve Olympic glory

Mission's George Donatelli was given Speed Skating Canada's Coaches Award of Excellence for 2012.

A local pioneer of speedskating in this region was recently honoured by the national association for his 46 years of service to the sport as a coach.

George Donatelli hadn’t even learned to skate until he was 30 years old, but that didn’t stop him from getting his oldest child, James, into the sport shortly after the Mission Leisure Centre was first constructed in the 1970s.

Donatelli’s next child, Eden, was almost two years younger than her brother, and took to the sport immediately.

“She put herself in [speedskating],” he recalled with a gentle chuckle, and everyone could see she had the makings of an exceptional athlete and was setting Canadian records in short order.

Donatelli eventually took over coaching the 17 kids who were showing up to learn in the 1971-72 season, and he hasn’t stopped.

Eden went on to compete in the world championships in Montreal at 16 years old, winning a gold medal in the 500 m. She moved to Montreal to train as a member of the Calgary Olympic relay team, and went on to win silver and bronze medals at the 1988 Olympics, plus a host of honours at numerous international and national competitions. She was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.

Donatelli has helped a number of people achieve success in the sport, including Langley’s Courtney Shymr, who represented Canada at the Junior Short Track Speed Skating World Championships, Alec Jansens, from Sardis, who skated his way onto the national long track development team, and Maple Ridge’s Michelle MacKay, who became the Canadian short track champion for her age class.

He also set up the speedskating program for the B.C. Winter Games in 1977-78.

The sport has always struggled to attract athletes, mostly due to the overwhelming influence of hockey in Canada. Donatelli said there were 850 speedskaters when he first began in the sport, and that number is the same today.

All these successes, and the nearly five decades of volunteer work saw Donatelli earn Speed Skating Canada’s Coaches Award of Excellence for 2012.

“I just love working with kids. It’s very gratifying,” he said.

Donatelli has about 35 children he’s coaching out of Sardis currently, and says he’s unsure when he’ll retire.

“I’m just going year by year,” he said.

Just Posted

Ridge chamber announces finalists for best-in-business awards

Winners will be announced at annual gala in February.

Four ‘neglected’ dogs surrendered to SPCA by Maple Ridge backyard breeder

Shepherd-breed dogs were living in ‘deplorable conditions.’

Wires down along 112th Avenue in Maple Ridge

There are 244 customers without power in the area

Ridge RCMP arrest man who tried to escape on skateboard

Dustin William Randall Evans, 30, was wanted on outstanding warrants.

‘Not a decision I came to lightly:’ Scheer to resign as Conservative leader

Decision comes after weeks of Conservative infighting following the October election

Haney junior boys win Carney basketball tourney

Maple Ridge team beats Abbotsford Christian 53-49 in the final

Sawatsky undefeated in post-season play

Dominant effort in Haney Masters Curling

‘British Columbians are paying too much’: Eby directs ICBC to delay rate application

Attorney General David Eby calls for delay in order to see how two reforms play out

VIDEO: Octopus, bald eagle battle after bird ‘bites off more than it can chew’ in B.C. waters

B.C. crew films fight between the two feisty animals in Quatsino off north Vancouver Island

Couple who bought $120k banana duct-taped to wall say artwork will be ‘iconic’

Pair compared it to Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans,’ which was initially ‘met with mockery’

Race to replace Andrew Scheer could be a crowded one

Many familiar faces, such as Maxime Bernier, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford and Kevin O’Leary, have said no

National cold case hunters take on search for missing man last seen in B.C.

Kristofer Couture’s car was found at Chilliwack trailhead in January but there’s been no sign since

Most Read