An ice plant failure led to Virden’s Kennedy Charles being introduced to a different aspect of the sport she loves.
Last August the daughter of Joel and Dori Charles headed to Calgary for her second year of speed skating training at the Olympic Oval. However, after just two on-ice practices for Charles, the facility’s ice plant failed. With it not expected to be fixed for a long time – and her University of Calgary studies being done online, Charles opted to come home to Virden. That move provided the opportunity to return to the Brandon-based Westman Speed Skating Club – where she first learned the sport and developed her passion for it – but this time as a coach rather than a competitor.
“I have enjoyed giving back to the sport that I have loved since I was nine,” Charles said. “I love working with the athletes and seeing their progress.”
Unfortunately, the club’s activities have been paused since November due to COVID-19 restrictions. The club was pleased to have her while it could.
“Having Kennedy return to the club as a coach brought a number of advantages to the club,” said Westman Speed Skating Club coach Pat Leech, who competed for Canada in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.“Firstly, it is very motivating for the younger skaters to see Kennedy and the level she achieved in her skating not only competition wise but also technically as a skater. She was also able to demonstrate some new drills for our skaters and had a keen eye for analyzing the technique of our older skaters. She is a good communicator and our skaters were very receptive to her.”
For skaters like 14-year-old Jada Kasprick, Charles went from being a teammate and example to a coach.
“I saw Kennedy skate my first year and wanted to skate like her,” said Kasprick, who started the sport at age nine. “She is someone I looked up to, and she is a great role model for our club. It was great to have her back with us in the role of a coach. As a coach, she taught me how to become a better skater and is always upbeat and happy to help any skater to improve.”
Even though she could not compete this winter, Charles still has a passion for the sport.
“What I love about speed skating is that it is an individual sport meaning athletes progress at different levels and they improve based on their own motivation and mindset so when working with athletes it’s challenging and rewarding to work with kids with different skill levels and finding the coaching style that works for them,” she said.
While her skating was curtailed, school – online – continued for Charles. She is studying sociology with a minor in psychology.
“I really enjoy learning about people within society and how society can influence behaviour,” Charles said.
Over the years, she has been very successful in long track speed skating. Charles won a gold medal in the 3,000 U18 female event at the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games.She competed at the 2019 Canada Winter Games and, last season, placed 12th in the 3,0000m and 14th in the 1,500m at the Canadian Junior Championships.
Charles has had the strong back of her family on and off the ice.
“My family has always been very supportive of me and my decisions whether through sport or academics,” she said. “This year when I was in Calgary, I had tremendous support when deciding I wanted to step back from competitive training and come home to focus on school as it is online.”
At the moment, Charles is undecided on what her future in the sport will be.
“I am unsure if I will return to competitive skating as I have been enjoying coaching, but it is a very hard decision to make as I have been speed skating since I was nine and have always loved racing and trying to improve my personal best times.”