By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s been a busy 2016 so far for Oshawa speedskater Ben Donnelly.
After securing a second place finish in the 5,000 metres at the Canadian Single Distance Championships in Calgary on Jan. 3 and setting a new personal best in the race, Donnelly went on to grab a third-place finish in the 1,500 metres on Jan. 6 at the same tournament.
Now, Donnelly is off to Norway to compete for one of the few remaining spots on Team Canada that will travel to the World Single Distance Championships Feb. 11 to 14 in Kolomna, Russia.
“So far, I think the season has been going really well for me,” Donnelly said in an emailed response to The Express. “I have never qualified for senior world cups. It was my goal for this season to qualify and skate for the world cup team, which I knew wasn’t going to be a sure shot, but knew if I trained hard and skated at my best I would have a really good chance at making it.”
The circuit leading up to the world championships can be a gruelling one for skaters, who must qualify in separate World Cup events throughout the year.
Nine skaters qualified for the Canadian team during World Cup events last fall. Two others secured their places early in 2016 at the Calgary tournament.
Eleven more spots are available on the team, meaning of the 22 skaters sent to Norway, only half of them will travel to Russia to compete.
For Donnelly, he says he doesn’t feel much pressure as he competes to take the last spot remaining in on the national team for the 5,000 metres.
“I personally feel like there is no pressure on me to make World Single. The only pressure would be what I put on myself,” he says. “I look at it through the mindset of all I can do is skate my race and if I feel like I skated the best race I possibly could for that day and still get beaten, so be it, I did all I could.”
Along with setting a personal best in Calgary early in January, skating the 500 metres in 36.50 seconds, the 19-year-old Donnelly has his focus set on the small improvements to his skating.
“With me being considered young in the skating world and just starting out in the world cup circuit, I feel there are many areas to improve on whether it being working on my skating technique or building a better fitness base, but at this point in time, I have been focusing on improving my starts in the sprint distances,” he says.
The final spots on team Canada will be decided following the tournament in Stavanger, Norway, which runs form Jan. 29 to 31.