Attentive to every skate given during the weekend, Gaétan Boucher did not hide his desire to see the long track speed skaters in action at the World Cup in Quebec.
“I have a lot of memories!” I envy them so much. I would have liked to have conditions like these,” underlines the quadruple Olympic medalist at Sportcom, met near the stands of the Intact Assurance Ice Center.
“I lived in years where we had a few (covered) rings, but perfect conditions like here are something! I’m still skating, I’d like it to go quickly, but it’s no longer possible. I want them to go faster and faster and perfect their way of skating. »
The long track speed skating World Cup circuit visited Quebec for the first time since 1992. The races were then presented on the outer Gaétan-Boucher oval. This great return was obviously eagerly awaited by the athletes, but also by many people present at this competition weekend.
Like the majority of people met there, Rosaire Bélanger displays a broad smile when asked what the event represents in her eyes. A volunteer at the 1992 World Cup, this former official was keen to get involved again, 32 years later.
“I was on the ice in 1992, we were freezing so bad! The ice often had to be scraped to remove the snow. There is nothing like it! » he says.
“It is thanks to people who are committed to the development of sport that all this has come to fruition. I won’t name names, because I risk forgetting some and I don’t want to hurt anyone, but it was a lot of teamwork that led to the return of the World Cup to Quebec. »
His favorite moment of the weekend took place Friday afternoon. Elementary school students from Quebec took over the ice and loudly encouraged the athletes. According to him, the competition will have piqued the curiosity of some who will want to try speed skating in the near future.
“That sums up the beauty of holding such an event,” says Mr. Bélanger.
The following ?
The Ice Center had already hosted a few long track events, such as the Canadian and Four Continents Championships. The World Cup stage is added to the list and now, many people dream of holding the World Championships.
“The fact of having a World Cup, at the international level, demonstrates that we have one of the most beautiful rings in the world. People love it! I spoke with a lot of coaches, support staff, and everyone wants to come back. The oval highlights Quebec for speed skating,” says Gaétan Boucher, who has resumed competition since the opening of the Ice Center. Like several former skaters in fact.
“It was just impossible for us to have this in Quebec and for me not to board it at least once in a while! » admits the man who was crowned masters world champion in his age group, there, last winter.
“If it hadn’t been for a covered ring, I wouldn’t have done it again. It was built with athletes in mind, not for shows. There are a lot of activities, there is life and I like the atmosphere when I come to train. (…) Athletes now have the chance to have a certain stability. For us, there could be a gust of wind, dead leaves caught in the ice. We often found ourselves unbalanced. »
Gaétan Boucher said he was delighted to attend the event and see the crowd cheering on his favorites, including Laurent Dubreuil and Valérie Maltais, both medalists. He also had the opportunity to see former opponents, now coaches of different national teams.
What is the next step for this sport in Quebec?
In an interview in January 2020, during the Four Continents Short Track Championships in Montreal, Robert Dubreuil predicted the impact that the Ice Center would have for the entire speed skating community in Quebec.
“We set the bar very high, we have reached several milestones since the Four Continents Championships last year and it will be quite a challenge to push it even higher,” says the general director of Speed Skating Quebec, happy to to see the benefits come to fruition and to see the veterans of the national team being rewarded for their patience.
“We must always remain humble, but without becoming a must, we have just put ourselves back on the map, even if we can always improve,” adds Mr. Dubreuil, whose last competition as an athlete was the Cup of the world in 1992, in Quebec.
In other words, this is only the beginning and he is far from being the only one to think so, but above all, to hope so.