Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport
Photo credit: Dave Holland/Canadian Sport Institute Calgary
With the Canadian Olympic long-track speed skating team making their last strides around the final turn in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, three Saskatchewan products are right in the thick of wearing the red and white at the Games.
Regina’s Kali Christ and White City’s Marsha Hudey are each looking to make their third-career appearance at the Olympics, while Moose Jaw’s Graeme Fish is chasing after his first.
Despite already being accustomed to the Olympic experience, it’s a feeling not lost on Hudey, who still reflects on the novelty of competing on the biggest stage in sport.
“It’s pretty amazing. My first Olympic Games, the excitement was like none other, because it’s what I dreamed of ever since I was a little girl,” said Hudey. “Just going there and getting the experience and having made the Olympics was tremendous for setting the stage for basically every year after that to come.
“(2014) was extra special because my dad coached me in those first Olympic Games.”
It was Hudey’s father, Brad, that got her into the sport, after he was a speedskater growing up — ultimately introducing Marsha and her three older siblings into the sport. And after a tenth-place finish in the 500-metre at the 2018 Olympics, Hudey feels pretty confident with where she’s at entering Beijing.
“I think if I can keep making the improvements that I have been doing this year, then it’ll put me in a good position for sure,” said Hudey.
Also figuring to be in a good position is the 24-year-old Fish. Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fish broke the 10,000-metre world record in Feb. 2020. Unsure of what sport would look like when it returned, Fish chose to not compete with Canada in early 2021. He’s returned to the Canadian team and recently won two silver medals at the Canadian championships and has been on the ISU World Cup circuit.
“He’s skating really, really well right now and made some huge jumps and leaps,” noted Hudey, when asked about the youngest of the three Saskatchewan skaters.
“I think he’s definitely excited about the Olympic Games and I think what’s even more exciting for him is the fact that he’s skating pretty well.”
While Fish and Hudey were both a part of Team Canada’s World Cup circuit this fall, the path towards the Games has been a tougher for Christ. She stayed back and trained, attempting to get back into form, but also to a place where she’s able to re-find her love for a sport she’s dedicated her life to.
It would mean everything to me. To be able to deal with everything that’s been going on the last four years and then be able to make it and represent Canada one more time — and Saskatchewan — and to hopefully not only have my mind ready, but go into it with my body and where it needs to be and have that last chance to really show what I’ve got.Regina’s Kali Christ is hoping for one last chance at an Olympic Games.
Christ credited Shannon Rempel with helping her in that journey, who stayed back with her in Calgary.
Christ described her experience in Sochi as “nerve-wracking, but really fun,” but noted she dealt with physical and mental tolls in the lead up to Pyeongchang.
And after what has been a difficult past number of years with injuries in the lead up to Beijing, Christ is hoping for one last chance at an Olympic Games.
“It would mean everything to me. To be able to deal with everything that’s been going on the last four years and then be able to make it and represent Canada one more time — and Saskatchewan — and to hopefully not only have my mind ready, but go into it with my body and where it needs to be and have that last chance to really show what I’ve got.”
While all three of the skaters now reside in Calgary and train out of the Olympic Oval, Saskatchewan is still home — something that still resonates with Hudey and Christ.
“It’s pretty special to be honest. Even now, I’ve been in Alberta for like 13 years, but definitely like growing up in White City, I go home and I’m very proud of where I come from,” said Hudey.“I think that’s obviously the foundation and where I fell in love with it is like back home and where I was raised. And so it’s, it’s pretty special to actually represent Canada and come from Saskatchewan.”
Christ echoes Hudey’s sentiments.
“It’s kind of exciting and you don’t really kind of grasp the feel of it until you get back. I would go back to Regina for my off month and do different talks with schools and get to meet like the kids whose teachers had them do a report on a Saskatchewan Olympian and having kids show you their report on you — it’s kind of a weird feeling to think that I could be a positive influence to young kids.
“I couldn’t be prouder that someone could possibly look up to me or see any of the things that I’ve gone through and understand the hard work it takes, but also that, you know, if they can put the work in and have that kind of determination, that it is possible.”
The trio of athletes would not be the only speed-skating figures representing Saskatchewan on the world stage. Saskatoon’s Catriona Le May Doan will serve as Team Canada’s Chef de Mission at the Olympics — someone Hudey refers to as a role model.
“I remember when I was young and would come to Calgary to do competitions or training camps and watching her skate with the rest of the national team,” said Hudey. “She was another woman in sport and being from Saskatchewan and even skating the same distances as me, she was definitely an inspiration.”
Speedskating Canada must nominate their athletes for the Beijing contingent by January 19.