Canadian Olympic speed skater meets Calgarians at Chapters book launch
Calgary's Olympic Oval celebrated its 25th year in operation with the launch of its anniversary book, The Fastest Ice in the World, at Chapters in Chinook Centre on Saturday.
Justin Warsylewicz, a member of the Canadian silver medal team-pursuit speed skating squad, showed off his medal from the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics and signed autographs for fans on the first day of sales for the coffee-table book.
The Oval's speed is what makes it stand out over all other rinks in the world, said Warsylewicz. He credited its notoriety to Calgary's location, as well as to the facility's dedicated workers.
"The altitude makes a big difference. And also the icemakers here in Calgary are really good. It's really high quality and they really take pride in the work they do. It really shows in the ice, " he said.
Twenty-eight-year-old Warsylewicz, originally from Regina, Sask., was the only Canadian ever to win the World Junior Speed Skating Championships in 2004. Later that year, he suffered a heart disorder, but overcame it with treatment just in time to join the silver medal pursuit team at Turin.
The 25th anniversary book is a legacy of how the Oval came to be, where the funding came from to create the Oval itself and how Calgary won the bid for the 1988 Olympics. Its glossy pages take the reader along a timeline of events, including the long-track and short-track speed skating world records set on the Oval's ice.
Each page captures unforgettable moments with breathtaking photographs featuring athletes who had trained at the Oval and are now Olympians. The book contains the work of many photographers from over the years whose images help to celebrate the monumental ice rink.
The book also includes what is currently offered at the Oval, including skating programs, cycling programs and workout routines for speed skaters, hockey players, ringette players, or those just looking to stay in shape.
At the book launch, Warsylewicz reflected on his early years of making road trips out to Calgary so that he could practice skating.
"I remember just coming to the Oval and loving the whole atmosphere," he said. "Not only are there skaters on the ice but also other people from other sports using the running track and hockey rinks in the middle. I've always thought that, and that's one of the things that's always stuck with me."
Jenin Ahmad, a Grade 6 student and recreational skater at the Oval attended the event and also commented on the benefits of having such a large rink in Calgary
"The Oval is so big so it gives me a lot of room to skate. If I could skate there every week, that would be ideal," Ahmad said.
Alyssa Lyons also purchased an autographed copy of the book. Lyons, who is a Grade 4 student, said she is inspired by world-level athletes.
"It's really cool to see the medal and meet an Olympian," said Lyons.
Warsylewicz said he thinks the anniversary book is a great way to pay tribute.
"I mean the Oval's kind of a heritage site here in Calgary. It's such a fixture in the amateur sporting world. It's a really nice way to cap off all the memories."
The book is available at select bookstores throughout Calgary.
- By AMY TUCKER