Nathan Hull of Anchorage sprints practice laps for the Team Alaska speed skating team Sunday afternoon at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Teams eager to compete in the Arctic Winter Games weren’t wasting any time this weekend, and many athletes didn’t let jet lag stop them from practicing for events some just 24 hours away.
“I’ve just been hanging around my room, so it was good to get out and do something,” said McKenzie Bentley-Little, a speed skater on Team Northwest Territories.
Bentley-Little and her teammates took to the ice at the Kenai Multipurpose Facility to get in a practice session Sunday afternoon.
Hours earlier several hockey teams used the facility to practice their skills.
After preparing for several days prior to her departure and then spending much of the day Saturday flying into Kenai, Bentley-Little said it felt good to stretch her legs, even if it was on a slightly smaller scale than she was used to.
“This rink is smaller than the rink at home,” she said.
A smaller rink can take a little getting used to, she explained, because if a skater falls at high speed they rely on friction from sliding across the ice to slow them down before they hit the padded walls of the rink.
The smaller the rink, the less the distance fallen skaters have to slide and thus slow down.
Bentley-Little was hoping not to do much falling, though, and as such said the multipurpose facility would be an acceptable venue to race.
“It should be fine,” she said.
While many athletes used Sunday to warm up for competition, some also used the day to size up the competition.
“I like to watch good skaters, but also I’m here to watch what I’m up against,” said Joe Fish, an athlete from Anchorage on Team Alaska, while eyeballing Team Northwest Territories before his team’s turn on the ice.
Fish said, historically, Team Northwest Territories has been the favorite at speed skating.
“They’re powerhouses. They’re fluid, They’re the team to beat,” he said.
In the 2004 Games in Wood Buffalo, Canada, Team Northwest Territories’ speed skaters took the gold ulu in several distances, including 500 meter, 777 meter, 1,000 meter, 1,500 meter, 2,000 meter and 3,000-meter relay.
Knowing that, Fish said he was hoping to learn all he could about their skaters.
“I’m trying to watch times and remember names so I’ll know who to watch for and keep up with,” he said.
Bentley-Little, while modest, said her team is prepared to bring their “A game.”
“We only have a couple of newcomers, so the overall team is pretty experienced. This is my fourth time at the Games and I’m as ready as I’ll ever be,” she said.
While athletes prepare themselves for competition, the staff at the multipurpose facility is equally prepared for the Games.
“Icewise, we’re in great shape,” said Dave Essert, rink manager.
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