McCluskey makes Canada

Penticton's Abigail McCluskey speed skates onto Canadian team

PENTICTON’S ABIGAIL MCCLUSKEY of the Kelowna Speed Skating Club performed well in the Regiona Junior World Cup in Calgary.

PENTICTON’S ABIGAIL MCCLUSKEY of the Kelowna Speed Skating Club performed well in the Regiona Junior World Cup in Calgary.

Abigail McCluskey is making quick strides as a speed skater.

McCluskey recently raised the bar for herself with the Canadian team at the Regional Junior World Cup (RJWC) at the Olympic Oval in Calgary over the weekend.

The Pen High grad qualified for the competition, only held in three locations in the world, by finishing fourth in junior nationals last year. In the RJWC she had personal best performances in three of four events, 500-metres, 1,000-m and 1,500-m.

“I thought I performed really well,” said McCluskey, who represents the Kelowna Speed Skating Club.

The competition, featuring skaters from Japan and the U.S., were fast, especially the Japanese, she said.

“The Japanese for sure were intimidating,” said McCluskey, who is taking open courses at the University of Calgary. “It was good to be paired with them because it just pushed you even harder.”

While feeling nervous, McCluskey liked how she responded.

“There was one race I was a little bit too nervous I think. In the other ones I thought the nerves really helped.”

McCluskey has built confidence knowing she performed well while representing Canada.

“It was pretty unexpected,” said McCluskey, who was among six females on the 12-member team. “Just to be able to put on the national team suits and get to have Canada on your back instead of Kelowna, for once … Even that was just a cool experience.”

It’s something that McCluskey didn’t think would happen until next season.

“It was more of a long distance dream, not something I was really focusing on,” she added.

McCluskey’s coach, Nancy Goplen of the Okanagan Regional Training Centre, said her performance is a big deal since she wore the Canadian race suit for the first time. Goplen also said McCluskey, who she has worked with since 2012, handled herself pretty well.

Now McCluskey is in the hunt with the top girls in Canada in the 500-m distance. Since moving to Calgary in September, McCluskey keeps getting better and it is because she trains more, 10 sessions a week.

“She’s only going to get better,” said Goplen, who has noticed the biggest improvement in her technical skills,

“That’s really important,” she said. “To not have energy going anywhere but into the ice.”

Next up are the Canada Winter Games selection trials with Team B.C. in Fort St. John and a Canada Cup ranking meet. Along with collecting more points, Goplen said McCluskey “is pretty much a shoe-in for making the Canada Games long track team. There are four spots available and McCluskey is ranked No. 2.

“If I make the Canada Winter Games team that’s going to be a really fun, big event to go to,” said McCluskey, who broke her skate blade two weeks ago, a $700 bill which she is going to have to dip into her student loans to cover.”I’m feeling pretty confident after this weekend. I’m nervous, but I know if I perform like I did, especially this weekend that I will be good. I will be able to prove myself to the rest of the skaters from B.C.”

McCluskey said is seeking sponsorship. Anyone interested in offering McCluskey one can reach her at abigail.mccluskey@gmail.com.