Kitimat-born skater Jamie Macdonald is one of the ten Canadian speed skaters that will compete in the Pyeongchang Olympics in February.
Macdonald, who still has family in Kitimat, moved with her parents to Fort St. James where she started skating using hockey skates when she was only two years old. She was six years old when she switched to speed skating, a sport she fell in love with and continued with throughout high school.
As a teenager, Macdonald was often the only nationally competitive short track speed skater in her training group. As a 16-year-old in 2011, she competed at the Canada Games.
Three years later she was named to the national development team. She competed internationally for the first time at the 2013 Winter Universiade. Two years later she won bronze with the 3,000m relay at the Winter Universiade.
“I knew I wanted to represent Canada when I saw members of the long track speed skating team at the Olympic Oval when I travelled to Calgary for a summer training camp,” said Macdonald.
It was only natural then that she ended up moving to Calgary where she trained for five years at the high-performance short track at the Olympic Oval.
To further pursue her career she moved to Montreal two years ago to train with the national team.
“It’s a pretty intense training schedule. We’re on the ice basically twice a day, six days a week. We have ice and weights right after, as well as an afternoon program on ice. We usually have Wednesday and Saturday afternoons off,” said Macdonald.
She said during the season the skaters don’t really get time off to see their family – they get four days off a year over Christmas.
“The offseason is at the end of March for a month, and then we’re back to fulltime training,” said 22-year-old Macdonald.
This is the first time she will be participating in the Olympics, which is remarkable considering it was also the first time she tried out for the Olympic team.
The qualification process is quite involved – the skaters have to qualify for the Canadian team at trials in August in Montreal, which consists of the top 16 skaters in the country battling it out for five spots.
Only the top five skaters are selected for the provisional Olympic team.
The skaters then have to compete at four world cups in the fall, two in September and two in November, which are Olympic-qualifying competitions.
The skaters have to skate each distance three times at the trials, five days of competition over nine days.
“It was a pretty intense week and a half,” said Macdonald.
Her schedule is so intense she had to take a year off school to focus on skating. She is currently enrolled in Calgary but will be transferring to Montreal. She is studying towards an arts degree but hasn’t quite decided what her specialty will be.
Her advice for young athletes wanting to get into professional sports is for them to enjoy all the sports they are involved in.
“Find something you love and keep pursuing it,” said Macdonald.
For those interested in speed skating, Macdonald said short track skating is a very tough sport that requires a lot of mental toughness.
“Don’t let that scare you away – it’s an amazing sport and a whole lot of fun to do. It takes time to take to get to a point where you’re competing at an international level,” said Macdonald.
“It took nearly six years training full time to get on the team, so be patient and trust the process.”
She said sponsorship is something the athlete has to pursue themselves, even though skaters do get a salary from Sport Canada.
“It’s not always enough to live off, so sponsorship is really important,” said Macdonald.
When she’s not skating, Macdonald enjoys knitting and usually has a project on the go.
In the off-season she enjoys hiking and visiting her family in northern B.C. This summer she is also aiming to visit Kitimat to see her aunt, uncle and cousins.
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