QUEBEC?CITY - The Golden Skates Marathon drew 50 skaters from eight different states and four Canadian provinces Dec. 4-6 in Quebec City as the Lake Placid Speed Skating season kicked into gear. Skaters competed at distances of 10 kilometers, 21k and 42k, vying for gold, silver and bronze commemorative skates that were awarded to the overall winners of the event.
The Golden Skates Marathon is hosted annually by Lake Placid's Peak Edge Performance, sanctioned by the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club and directed by Patrick Kelly. The event was originally scheduled to take place in Lake Placid.
Rejean Blais of Canada was crowned as the men's overall winner, while fellow countrywoman Guylaine Larouche claimed the overall women's title. Yves Garneau placed second and John Silker was third in the men's division, while Jennifer Benediktson took silver and Catherine Kwiecien was third in the women's division.
From left, John Silker, Rejean Blais and Yves Garneau collect their Golden Skates Marathon medals Dec. 6 in Quebec City.
The youngest participants in the meet were Isabel and Matthew Crovella, of Syracuse, both of whom are members of the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club and will represent the United States in the Innsbruck 2016 International Children's Games in January 2016.
"It was a great event, there were a lot of Quebecois (skaters from Quebec) who competed due to the event being relocated to Quebec City," Marathon Skating International president Neal Hundt said. "We congratulated Patrick on an event well done."
Kelly conceived of the Golden Skates Marathon idea after remembering a Golden Skates competition in Inzell, Germany that he took part in as a competitive skater. The winners were awarded gold skates. Kelly decided to host a competition with similar prizes in Lake Placid, changing the pre-existing Lake Placid Ice Marathon to the Lake Placid Golden Skates Marathon. He added valuable skate momentos for the overall winners and custom-made medals for the age-group winners.
World level figure skater and World Figure Championships bronze medalist Shepherd Clark, also a jeweler, designed the gold, silver and bronze prizes. Last year, the prizes were made by Jack Devitt, of Jay, who is also a figure skating coach.
Winners were determined by the combined results from all three race distances.
"In addition to the gold, silver and bronze skate prizes, the marathon is different than others because of the combined results," Kelly said.
The Golden Skates Marathon is part of the Marathon Skating International Racing Series. MSI is the advisory organization dedicated to promoting marathon ice speed skating in North America that establishes a yearly series of marathon speed skating races, with the ultimate goal of adding marathon speed skating to the Winter Olympics Games. The Golden Skates Marathon is the first race in their season.
As part of the series, skaters participating in the event receive points; the best seven times recorded count toward the series point total at the end of the season, and the top three from each age group - male and female - are counted as season winners. To be eligible, skaters must compete in all seven races throughout North America. The only United States marathon in the series is the Lake Placid Golden Skates Marathon.
"I didn't really know too many people (marathon speed skaters)," said Silker, who traveled 16 hours from his home in Chicago to attend the race. "I was able to skate with two nice young men during the race and got to know other speed skaters; there was such warmth and a welcoming energy at the event."
Kelly felt the meet went well, gaining some Canadian competitors due to the new location. He was grateful that the Gaetan-Boucher Oval in Quebec City was able to save the marathon by accommodating the event so easily.
"We speak both (French and English) it was good, they are very accommodating and did everything they could to help us" Kelly said. "They provided us with volunteers, a timing system, electronic lap counters and everything went very well."
The next meet in the Lake Placid Speed Skating Racing series is the Charles Jewtraw All-Around Dec. 18-19 in Lake Placid.
For more information on the Lake Placid Speed Skating Racing Series and the Charles Jewtraw Allround, including registration, go to www.lakeplacidspeed.com.