They have an extraordinary coaching staff, two prime ice times a week and plenty of room for new members.
Former Canadian Olympian Michael Hall enters his third season as head coach of the Vernon Speed Skating Club Vortex and urges athletes of all ages to try on the long blades.
“It’s a family-oriented club,” said Hall, 44. “The idea is to get the kids out on the ice, get some exercise and have fun. We can take them as far as they want to go. For anybody who wants to take is serious, we have the resources to help.”
Hall was ranked ninth and finished 22nd in the 5,000-metre event at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games in Norway.
“I was sent over without a coach and I made some tactical errors, some rookie mistakes,” chuckled Hall, born in Kamsack, Sask. and raised in Regina.
Hall was named to Team Saskatchewan as a teenager and claimed a bronze medal in the 3,000 and 5,000 races at the Canadian Junior. He made Team Canada in 1993.
A year later, he set national records in the 5,000 and 10,000, while skating the 12th fastest world time in the 5,000.
He previously coached in Salmon Arm, where he works as an investment specialist, and is excited about the future of the Vernon club. First registration and skate goes Tuesday, 5:15 p.m. at Priest Valley Arena. The Vortex also train Thursdays at 7 p.m. Skate rentals are $100 for the season.
“It works out to about $2 an hour to be a member so it’s quite affordable,” said Hall. “Anybody who has a little bit of balance can pick it up.”
Trevor Rasmussen is club president and also coaches along with club founder Peter Blokker, who still competes in Masters. Tony Benn has come on board as an assistant coach.
Rasmussen has 26 years of competitive experience, including seven national-age class championship appearances with a bronze medal in the 3,000. He spent five years training at the Calgary Olympic Oval, where former club skater Connie Kapak will be working out this year.
“The national team is wide open so there is a great opportunity for anybody serious about speed skating,” said Hall.
Blokker, born and raised in Holland, started the club in 1992 after moving here from Prince George.
“I was determined to start a club,” said Blokker. “With some help, we got going. Our first ice time was one hour Monday morning at 6 a.m. and we are still here with decent ice times and a great bunch of young skaters.”
Blokker has skated in the Master division all over Canada and Europe. He was second in his 75-79 age class in a 2011 race.
“We are a parent-run club so we get lots of help,” said Hall. “We had 15 skaters last year. Our youngest is nine and oldest is Peter. We get a cross section, from skaters who are quite serious and want to pursue the Olympics to some who use it as cross training and a little bit of fitness.”
The Vortex season runs until mid March with four or five competitive meets. The Vernon meet goes Oct. 18 at Kal Tire Place.
Visit the club’s web site at: www.vernonspeedskatingclub.com or check them out on Facebook.