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Peace. This is how Renée Steenge describes the way that short track makes her feel. “I guess maybe when you’re in a certain mindset your mind slows down, but you’re not really focused on that. You are focused on your body and how it’s moving. It’s peaceful,” says Renee.

For those of us watching the fast-paced, thrilling sport of short track, peaceful might be the last way to describe the excitement on the ice.

We can all agree that Canada’s Short Track team is enriched with Steenge’s talent as evidenced by the addition of her international medals in the Women’s Team discipline this season.

As a young child, Renée got her start at the Brampton Skating Club at about 8 or 9 years old where she progressed through the levels starting at beginners’. As she improved, she eventually augmented her time on the ice at the Toronto Speed Skating Club, where she turned for extra training.

Why short track? “I always liked the feeling of gliding. Once I felt it, I wanted to keep getting it and keep training. I loved hearing the sounds from the ice and the rhythm of skating.” Renée was a child who loved sports and dipped her toe into many of them. Sport is by its very definition filled with intensity and yet the ‘peaceful moments’ she experiences in speed skating are what sets it apart for her.

Copyright Speed Skating Canada 2022

Renée is thoughtful in the three words she uses to describe Short Track: Intense. Fast. Aggressive.

Intense. It is also a word that can be used to describe Renée’s trek from short track ‘keener’ to legit short track star. The journey from Brampton to National Team took about 11 years and has not been without its challenges. This is a young woman who is charting her own path. She moved to Montreal for training after graduating from high school and where she is also studying engineering at McGill University.

It was during high school that Renée spent a couple of summers at The Regional Training Centre in Montreal where she relocated to start her training in earnest. After about a year, she qualified for the National Development Team. In 2019, she moved to Calgary where she stayed until being invited back to Montreal as a training partner for the NextGen Team for 18 months. She made the World Cup team in October 2022 and there has been no looking back since then.

It was Renée’s choice to interrupt her trajectory and move to Calgary which carried lessons with it. As far as comeback lessons in Montreal are concerned, for Renée it was mostly consistency and slowly working her way back up. Renée calls it “just being in the moment taking it one step at a time.”

As is the case with many athletes, Renée has coped with the yin and yang of competing mindsets; both possible and impossible. “I doubted my ability to come back, and I doubted I could make it to the World Cup or National team levels, but it came back to more of an intrinsic feeling of gliding on the ice and being at peace. Obviously, I hadn’t reached my full potential. You’re good you can do more, and you have more to offer.” When the door opened for possibilities, Renée was able to walk through it.

That potential was clear in the medals and accolades Renée has earned since the Fall of 2022 including one of her favourite racing experiences to date. “The 3000m Relay Women’s Final in Montreal at my first World Cup in October 2022. It was on home ice; I was feeling good on my blades, and I thought we had a strong team where I was the anchor. I found out on the morning of the race that I would be one of the four skaters to be chosen to be part of the team where we skated to a silver medal.” Thrilling.

Photo Credit Unknown

Renée is considered in her thoughts about the racing knowledge she is acquiring: “You’re always learning more and part of it is understanding the timing of races, how it works and when to make your move. I am getting better at racing. Not perfect but making progress.”

Renée is grateful for the assistance that she has received along the way from the many people at the different clubs that supported her, the coaches at Brampton and Toronto Speed Skating clubs in Ontario to her teammates and coaches in Calgary and the coaches and athletes in Salt Lake City, where she has also spent time.

Coming from Ontario has had many benefits including the structure of the competitions and competing at Ontario Winter Games with coaches who genuinely loved the sport, among other experiences.

What would Renée advise her younger self or any other younger skater? “Enjoy what you’re doing and don’t get too caught up in the small things. Just remember that skating and being on the ice is going to make you better. “

Renée’s three words to describe herself reflect her overall approach to her life and her skating: Eccentric. Calm. Athletic.

“I always knew I could do it but didn’t know I would get here in this way.” Stay tuned. The Renée Steenge story is just beginning.

Written by Pj Kwong

Copyright Speed Skating Canada 2022

It is with heavy hearts, deep sorrow and much love that we mourn the passing of Robert (Bob) Miller on Sunday, April 30, 2023 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario. Bob fought a courageous and brief battle with anaplastic thyroid cancer, a rare and aggressive disease, which he was diagnosed with on January 30, 2023. Bob had been involved in the speed skating community since 1998 as a parent, coach, manager, referee, and President of the Ontario Speed Skating Association for 2 years.

“When Bob joined the Cambridge coaching crew, he brought with him an enormous sense of fairness, and acceptance of each athlete. He was a most welcome addition, always coming into the dressing room with a smile on his face, ready to get skaters though their programs. Bob was very vested in everyone’s success and well being.

He was very organized, familiar with rules, bulletins and competition flow, ensuring that the athletes he was responsible for had the best possible experience, as either coach or manager. Bob was great at tracking pb’s, and made sure everyone knew when something spectacular was accomplished.

But the best memory of Bob was the year he came out to the club Christmas party, dressed as the Grinch, handing out goodie bags. The gentleman who was our Santa for so many years had recently passed. He was well known to all the youngsters and there was some concern that Santa would not appear. So-Bob to the rescue!! Most of the kids knew it was he, and they understood something had changed. They were so respectful of Bob and the situation, they were a bit subdued at first, but Bob very quickly got them laughing and having fun. That is the measure of a coach who demonstrates integrity and respect, that in good times, or when things are tough, he was regarded as a person who wanted only the best for anyone under his tutelage.

Marg Oliveira – Coach Cambridge Speed Skating Club

“It is with regret and sorrow that we have learnt of the death of Short Track Referee Robert (Bob) Miller.

He started his coaching and refereeing career as his son, Dustin Miller, became involved in Short Track Speed Skating. Firstly, with the Kitchener Waterloo Club and later with the Cambridge Speed Skating Club in Ontario. He worked his way up to a very competent National Level 2 Referee. While always ready to referee at more senior levels, Bob loved to work with the younger skaters and was always first to be on the ice when the cradle skaters appeared. Lining up little skaters seemed to be one of his special skills.

Bob will always be remembered as the referee that was dressed to perfection. He always appeared dressed in his suit jacket and for sure froze on the ice, yet never complained. He was totally prepared at all times. He was the calmest of us all on the ice when the referee's feathers were rustled by the coaches on the bench. He quietly performed his duties, staying focused and alert, an asset to the Short Track refereeing world. The skaters always knew what to expect from him and they interacted with Bob in a respectful way as they appreciated his calm demeanor and professionalism.

Bob often took the time to speak to a skater after a race to explain why a call may, or may not, have been made. He saw the referee’s role as more than simply applying the rules; it was an opportunity for him to educate skaters and to help them understand how to improve. He would do the same with coaches to make sure that every call was a chance to learn and then teach.

Bob will be remembered fondly for his commitment, kind demeanor, and professionalism.”

Jacky Shoebridge – ISU/SSC Referee

Please join us for a Celebration of Life to honour Bob on June 10, 2023, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 30 Fairway Road S., Kitchener, Ontario.

It was Bob’s hope that his experience could help someone in the future. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in honour of Robert Miller to the London Health Sciences Foundation - London Regional Cancer Program in support of Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer research. Click here:

As much as most athletes are ready to drop everything to chase their dreams, there is so much more to what goes into getting ready to compete. Meet Chris Holmstead – Olympic Oval speed skater on the National Stage 3 Sprint Men’s Team from Ontario, diabetic athlete, and ambassador for The Chopped Leaf, a healthy eating company.

Chris was an active kid whose ice journey started with learning to skate at two and then playing hockey from the age of four. By the time Chris was 17, he had suffered his 12th concussion and decided that it was time to segue into officiating. Some years later, Chris started to daydream about what it would be like to wear the maple leaf in international competition. One small snag: Chris wasn’t sure how to make that happen. He also wanted to make sure to consider the skills that he had already acquired, and any limitations imposed by his numerous concussions.

Enter the Milton Speed Skating Club and a conversation with club president Paul Emblin who agreed that Chris could try a learn-to-skate program at the Club; the same program being offered across the country. Although he felt slightly out of place as a 24-year-old in a group of much younger kids, Chris was eager to see where and how he would feel on the ice and where this experience would bring him.

“This is for me, is what I thought,” said Chris. “The first time I stepped on the ice, I was very comfortably uncomfortable, but I could see myself dedicating my time to this sport. Obviously, it’s very different to being on hockey skates but there was something about it that seemed very comfortable and familiar.” He was hooked.

Photo Credit: Tjerk Bartlema

Progress came easily and quickly, and Chris found himself moving to Calgary for training. On a visit home to Ontario to surprise his mom for Mother’s Day in 2021, Chris’ life took an unexpected turn. He had noticed that he was using the bathroom with frequency, eating as many sweets as he could and drinking everything in sight, so much so that he decided to have his uncle, a diabetic, check his blood sugar. The normal rate is between 4 – 7 and Chris’ reading was 33! With a family history of diabetes, Chris had always been aware of ‘lows’ when he played hockey and thought that this problem would simply be handled with exercise.

Chris’ mom stepped in when she realized that he needed more attention and shouldn’t be immediately travelling back to Calgary. Chris got dropped off at the hospital and three days later after lots of testing and evaluation, he was put on insulin. He credits his mom with saving his life. Literally.

Photo Credit: Kaeden Witkowski

Once back in Calgary, Chris’ life got back to (a new) normal and his training resumed. “There is no comparison from before to now. I knew that managing insulin and food was going to be what I needed to do when I got home but I had no idea what that was going to be like,” Chris commented. “To balance insulin and training was tricky and I needed to figure out how much insulin to take because every different food reacts differently in your body and how that weighs into insulin.” He says it’s all intertwined and there are ‘a million question marks’ that he is still trying to answer.

Fortunately, there are tools that he has come to rely on like the Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring system. “It is something you have to live with and you can choose to let diabetes dictate what you do or you can learn to live your life around it,” offered Chris. “Dexcom helps. It’s about freedom. There should be no reason that diabetes holds you back.”

Photo Credit: Chris Holmstead

Helping to move Chris forward is his relationship as an Ambassador for The Chopped Leaf which is a healthy food company that does a lot of salads, wraps, soups, and other foods that are compatible with Chris’ diet. Chris got involved with them through the company website’s link to sponsor athletes.

The foundation of Chris’ past is in Ontario; something that he happily credits with his current success. “I got my start in Ontario, inside a small community of people who are passionate and welcoming. It was so positive to be in a situation where they were all helping you to progress.”

Just like racing, it’s important to stay in the moment, and take every stride as it comes.

Written by Pj Kwong

Photo Credit: LuvCan Photography

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