Living up to its reputation as “the fastest ice in the world,” Calgary’s Olympic Oval saw several short-track speed skating world records broken over the weekend in front of sell-out crowds.
Three records had already fallen going into Sunday’s World Cup finals, where another capacity crowd of 1,000 spectators was on hand, said Olympic Oval spokesperson Tracy Stewart.
“There were a lot of people in the crowd that were speed-skating fans that we see at a lot of our long-track events, but there have also been quite a few people who are new to the sport,” she said.
The Oval, built for the 1988 Olympic Games, celebrated its 25th anniversary this fall.
Mark Messer, now the facility’s chief plant manager, has been there from the beginning, making sure the ice stays in tip-top shape.
"When you do have that reputation, people come here and expect it to be fast, so they expect to go fast, and they push it a little bit more." – chief plant manager Mark Messer on why records are often broken at the Olympic Oval
“We’ve got a crew of guys who take great pride in doing it,” Messer said.
Two members of that crew are Matt McLean and Dan Carruthers, who zipped onto the track between events Sunday with water and a cylinder of compressed carbon-dioxide to patch up the ice.
“It just gives us that quick freeze they need in between races,” McLean said. “You only have about a minute, a minute and a half.”
On Sunday, J.R. Celski of the United States became the first man to go under 40 seconds in the 500 metres in 39.973.
The American posted that time in the final to win gold ahead of Canada’s Charles Hamelin in second.
South Korea’s Shim Suk Hee and Kwak Yoon-Gy set world records in the women’s and men’s 1,000 metres respectively in the semifinal rounds.
Michael Gilday of Yellowknife and Marie-Eve Drolet of Laterriere, Que., won silver and the men’s relay team took bronze Sunday.
Canada won four silver medals and two bronze over three days of World Cup competition.
Montreal hosts the next World Cup starting Friday.
– With files from Canadian Press