Olympian Klassen coaches Virden speed skater at Winter Games

Virden speed skater Kennedy Charles embraced what she described as an exciting, supportive atmosphere at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

“What I enjoyed most about the Games is the overall experience and the opportunity to race,” she said. “I also got coached by Olympian Cindy Klassen, which was very exciting for me since she is the reason I started skating and had been my role model since I was nine.” 

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The daughter of Dori and Joel Charles represented her community and province well against the nation’s best at the prestigious multi-sport event in Red Deer. Charles placed 11th overall in the long track mass start event and 15th in the 1,500-metre event.

The highlight of the races was when she teamed with Chloe Beauchesne and Ashley Hannah to finish fourth in the team pursuit although they had never skated the event together before.

“We missed the podium by three tenths of a second, which was disappointing to see how close we were, but we all skated it very well,” Charles said. “I’m proud of how we skated it and the support from the coaches.”

Of Charles’ performance in the team pursuit, provincial team coach Tyler Williamson Derraugh said,“She committed every ounce of energy and effort to give our team the best chance possible to succeed. The team, and Kennedy included, executed this race perfectly and narrowly missed a bronze medal.”

Charles said she had some great races last week, which was the opening part of the Winter Games fortnight. In addition to the three previously mentioned events, she also competed in the 3,000, 1,000 and the 500, which included two races.

“It was busy skating all those races, but we had lots of rest in between and I was prepared for every race,” Charles said.

She got her start in the sport with the Westman Speed Skating Club in Brandon, which she is still proudly a part of. While the rest of the provincial team trains in Winnipeg, Charles often prepares alone. Williamson Derraugh, who described Charles as positive and cheerful, is impressed by her determination.

“Kennedy is required to continually self-motivate while training alone,” he said. “Without having a team to support her, training is significantly more difficult and requires much more internal motivation. Kennedy has been required to manage and motivate herself for several years. These efforts and dedication are very impressive and often go unnoticed.”

Pat Leech, the head coach at the Westman club, said “Kennedy trains without complaint and puts in 100 per cent effort all the time. She is a great club member and serves as a very positive role model for the rest of our club skaters.”

To help her reach this level, Leech said the Charles family put on many miles to practices, camps, and competitions.

“I have huge support from all my family and I am very grateful that they are there for me every step of the way,” said Charles.

Next season she will be training at the indoor speed skating oval in Calgary, the city where she also hopes to go to university. Leech said she can’t wait to see the progress Charles makes with consistent, full-time training.



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