MacKay chasing World Cup spot

Pitt Meadows speed skater Michelle MacKay has been training with the best short track speed skaters in Canada, and this weekend ...

Michelle MacKay of Pitt Meadows is  one of 16 skaters competing for a spot on the team that will represent Canada in the World Cup this fall.

Michelle MacKay of Pitt Meadows is one of 16 skaters competing for a spot on the team that will represent Canada in the World Cup this fall.

Pitt Meadows speed skater Michelle MacKay has been training with the best short track speed skaters in Canada, and this weekend she will compete against them for a spot on the Canadian team.

It’s the start of a new Olympic cycle in speed skating, and this weekend is a big event on the calendar, as Speed Skating Canada hosts the fall short track ISU World Cup Selections.

The racing runs today (Friday) through Sunday.

The fastest six men and women will represent Canada in World Cup races this fall. The top two men and women will be picked based on the weekend results, and the rest at the discretion of the national team coaches.

MacKay arrived in Calgary last weekend, travelling with the national team. She lives in Montreal and trains there full-time.

“If you want to get to the next level, you have to go to a centre,” she explained.

There is more opportunity to train, the best coaching, and great intensity in the practices. There is a centre of excellence in Calgary, but she chose Quebec’s. The province is the hotbed of speed skating in Canada, and it is home of the biggest names in the sport, with rare exceptions.

On the men’s side, of the 16 competitors only three are not from Quebec, and on the women’s side just four.

She said the athletes have become good friends, but in Calgary, they will be out to beat each other this weekend..

They will skate the 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m events, and will be chosen for their placement.

Fast times are not really important. In short track speed skating, with its roller derby reputation and too-frequent crashes, it is placement that counts. Racing experience is as important as having tremendous speed.

MacKay has never competed at the ISU World Cup Selections before, so just skating in the weekend’s events will be an important step in her development.

There are some openings on the team, but there are other fast up-and-coming skaters who could take those spots.

Mackay is a sprinter, the 500m her best event, and her best shot to skate in the World Cup would be in that event. The top two skaters from the weekend selections will skate all events at the World Cup races, and the remaining four will be entered in events they are strongest at.

She enjoys the city of Montreal, the coaches with the centre, and attends school at Concordia University. She is studying athletic therapy, with the goal of becoming a physiotherapist.

MacKay has seen progress since training in Quebec. She originally trained with a regional team, and last year was invited to train with the members of the national team.

This weekend, she will get an idea of how far she has come.