Left out of the World Cup stages last year due to a poor start in the trials, injured a hamstring and sidelined due to the Calgary Ring being closed for a major breakage, the Long track speed skater Christopher Fiola has gone to great lengths to keep his chances of securing his ticket to the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing intact.
Fiola and three other Quebec skaters took off on October 6 to Inzell, Germany, for a three-week training camp.
Due to the pandemic, he had to wait a week before putting on his long blades after passing a test that came back negative. Positive cases among a few international skaters led to the ring being closed, however, but he was finally able to kick his skate on Thursday.
“It’s a thoughtful decision and I have no hesitation in spite of the global pandemic and the fact that I have to cover all my expenses,” he said before his departure. I need to skate and run. Due to my injury, my last race was in January during the selections for the World Championship, where I did not qualify. “
The Speed Skating Canada Development Team skater will take part in his first races on Friday and Saturday.
“The races scheduled for the weekend and next weekend are still on the program,” he said. Teams have left, notably the Poles, where seven or eight skaters have tested positive. The Dutch have also returned home. We are now about 30 skaters instead of 100, but the teams will be back next week. I would have liked the professional teams to be present from the start as planned because the caliber would have been higher, but it’s a bad for a good. We have more hours of ice and it’s safer. I also have things to work on on my side. The last few days have been a carousel of emotions. It’s really well organized. Only 24 hours after our free test, we received our result. “
A season to forget
If everyone will remember 2020 as a special year, Fiola will not soon forget 2019. “It was the worst year of my career, he summarized. This is the first time that I have not classified for the World Cup events since I have been in the senior ranks. Yet I was in the best shape of my life during the selections last fall. It was a big blow not to qualify for the World Cup. It was a slap in the face that however allowed me to wake up.
“Unlike a guy like Laurent Dubreuil who has the experience of major events, I run after time after losing a year, to pursue the 24-year-old skater. I need racing experience before the Olympic trials otherwise the situation would not have been optimal. I understand the risks of such a trip during a pandemic, but it is essential to race in my case. “
If he lags behind his rivals, Fiola strongly believes in his chances of qualifying for the Olympics. “It’s very realistic,” he said. 2019 has been a bad year for a good. I still had a rookie mentality. When things were going badly, I had difficulty finding the resources to help me. I was stagnant between group B in the World Cup and the bottom third in group A. I now work with a mental trainer and a nutritionist. I am not the same athlete anymore. My trainer [Gregor Jelonek] saw him at training camp in August in Calgary. He found me more sensible in my decisions and more mature as an athlete. I realized that I couldn’t do it all alone. “
Members of the Quebec team, Rose Laliberté-Roy and Caroline Gingras are also on the trip, as is Antoine Roger, who took part in the World Junior Championship in 2016 with Fiola.