Guelph speed skater to race for Britain at World Juniors

GUELPH — Guelphite Westley Yates is back in Canada for a speed skating competition for the first time since he headed to England last summer.

Yates will be wearing the speed skating outfit of Great Britain at this weekend’s world junior short track speed skating championships in Montreal.

“This is my first official international competition,” he said on an interview on Skype from Nottingham last weekend. “It’s exciting and I’m a little bit nervous, but everyone says it’s one of the most fun competitions you’ll ever go to.”

Yates has since traveled to Montreal with the rest of the team from Great Britain and has spent a couple of days training.

“We’ll be training on ice every day up until the competition,” he said. “It’ll just be working on the final tuning, the race strategies and the race prep and really getting a feel for the ice and how to skate on it.”

While this will be Yates’s first trip back to Canada for competition, the Lourdes graduate did get back to the Royal City for a bit of a Christmas holiday.

“I came home for about two and a half weeks,” he said. “That was nice. It was a lot better to come home for Christmas and see my family and all that.”

That break was likely well-needed as Yates has faced a few unexpected challenges, mainly financial, since arriving in England last June.

“There have definitely been some challenges since I’ve been here, but I’m getting over that and I’m training and getting used to training full time,” he said.

Shortly after arriving in England, Yates and the other speed skaters were told that their funding was going to get cut and then Yates found out that his tuition to attend the University of Nottingham was going to be considerably more than originally thought.

“It was definitely tough at the beginning,” he said. “It didn’t help that when I first got there U.K. Sport announced that our funding was getting cut. So I went there under the impression that all my training would be covered and paid for.

“It was kind of a setback when I got here. The funding was cut and within the next two months we had to start paying for training. We had to support ourselves.”

However, the speed skating association in Britain set up a new training centre in Nottingham, the Speed Skating Performance Program.

“It’s not too much of a change from what the training was before,” Yates said. “There are just a few coaching shuffles so the head coach of that program is now one of the coaches and he’s actually from Cambridge.”

On the education front, Yates has put his schooling on hold.

“I was going to go to school and I got into the University of Nottingham for civil engineering,” he said. “That was going to go through, but I found out at the last minute that I would have had to pay international fees and that’s very expensive. It’s out of the question so, basically, I’m taking this year off from school. Even if you have a passport and you’re a U.K. citizen, you have to live in the U.K. for three years before you can get the lower university fees.”

He hopes to continue his schooling with online university courses through Canadian universities this spring and summer.

To help pay for the skating and save up for school expenses, Yates has taken a job at a local restaurant and he’ll be starting a job at one of the ice rinks where he trains.

He’s also found his training to be different.

“It’s a big jump from training just three times a week,” he said. “I’ve gone from training just a few times a week with the (Cambridge) club to training every day twice a day with the national team. It’s a big jump.”

Yates has felt his skating has gone well. He was third overall and third in the 400 metres at the Nottingham Open in October. In Starclass competitions in Belgium and the Netherlands against speed skaters from throughout Europe, Yates had a pair of top-25 overall finishes as he was 21st in Hasselt, Belgium, in November and 23rd in Heerenveen, Netherlands, in December.

In Hasselt he was 15th in the 500m, 23rd in the 1,500m and 24th in the 1,000m while he was 16th in the 1,000m, 21st in 1,500m and 26th in the 500m in Heerenveen.

He’s to skate those three distances in the World Juniors.

“I think if I make it through a few rounds, maybe two rounds of advancements, (that’ll be good),” he said of his hopes for his first time competing in the World Juniors. “I’m not sure what the competition is like and how many people will be there, I just want to race well — maybe top 20 or top 30. That’s my goal.

“I want to race to the best of my abilities and just try not to regret anything I do.”


  • Guelph Sports Journal