Seven-year-old Gabriel Stoddart knows he’s getting really good at speed skating because he just completed his fastest skate yet.
“It was the fastest I’ve ever gone. It was really, really fast,” he says.
Stoddart is a speed skater with the Annapolis Valley Speed Skating Club and was among the skaters who participated in the club’s latest mini-meet event March 16 at the Credit Union Centre in Kingston.
He finished first in his race as he skated alongside Justin Noakes, who recently returned from competing with Team Nova Scotia at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
Noakes gave Stoddart some words of wisdom following the race, and Stoddart listened intently. The young skater says competing and winning is the main reason he started with the sport.
“I started because I wanted to win trophies, and medals, and things,” says Stoddart.
Noakes was among the clubs’ first members when it was founded by current president Steve Raftery and Noakes’ mother, Dawn, who was inspired to start it when Noakes became obsessed with outskating other players, including his teammates, when he played hockey.
She looked around for a speed skating club, and couldn’t find one, so she met with Rafferty and other stakeholders and co-founded the AVSSC.
“Like all kids, he started with hockey, but it just never seemed like the right fit. He was so good at skating but there was no club, so I made some calls and met Steve, and here we are today,” she says.
Stoddart started skating with the club when he was four and says his nearly three years of skating keep making him better because “the more we skate, the more we get strong and fast.”
“I’m good because I’ve been doing speed skating for three years – this is my third year,” he says. “It’s really, really fun to go fast.”
Noakes says skating at the event alongside four of his Team Nova Scotia teammates gave him flashbacks to his own formative years at the club, when he was the young athlete looking up at his own mentors.
“I’d always push to be like them, so now me being the mentor is a completely different thing. It feels good,” he says.