Ponoka earns gold and bronze medals at Alberta Winter Games

Two Ponoka athletes have returned jubilant from their strong performance at the Alberta Winter Games (AWG).

Skye Whitford poses with her bronze medal after her free skate performance at the Alberta Winter Games in Banff and Canmore last week.

Skye Whitford poses with her bronze medal after her free skate performance at the Alberta Winter Games in Banff and Canmore last week.

Two Ponoka athletes have returned jubilant from their strong performance at the Alberta Winter Games (AWG).

Speed skater Tess Pearman and figure skater Skye Whitford both returned with medals from the games Feb. 6 to 9 in Banff and Canmore.

Pearman, 15, who won silver in the 2012 AWG, returned with gold this time, which was almost lost her chance at gold. She skated in the 200m, 400m, 1,500m, 3,000m and relay race and came second in her first two races on Feb. 6. Pearman earned gold overall and gold in the relay event.

The biggest challenge was skating on an outdoor rink in minus 20 degrees C temperatures. Speed skaters could be seen wearing mitts, sweatshirts and jackets while they raced against each other.

That did not stop Pearman from placing second in the 400m and 1,500m races. She approached those races more cautiously due to tight corners on the track.

“I had to go wider on the corner and the girl that was right behind me went in and she won it (both 400m and 3000m),” explained Pearman.

A racer from Canmore took advantage of Pearman’s hesitation. “I knew I should have won them both.”

For the 200m and 3,000, races she pushed herself to perform better and win. A good start in the 200m heat and keeping her speed up earned Pearman a win.

During the 3,000m race, Pearman worked closely with another speed skater who took turns leading the pack with the Ponoka speed skater. A misunderstanding over how many laps were left in the race helped Pearman win but created extra work for her.

“I actually thought they said six laps to go, but they actually said 10 laps to go. So I was sprinting,” explained Pearman.

She took the corners tight and kept the lead for 10 long laps. “I just went and I wasn’t really listening to anyone.”

For Whitford, 14, her first winter games competition was a nerve-wracking event but she still enjoyed the challenge. “It was a really amazing experience and different than all the other competitions.”

Whitford was nervous enough that she was unsure if she would be able to compete, but seeing her family and friends in the stands supporting her efforts helped her stay the course.

Despite some worry, Whitford was able to put forward a relatively strong performance. She competed against 16 other girls in her two-minute free skate routine, which she had been practicing since the summer.

The two-minute routine was practiced five days a week.

The performance was nearly flawless except for one moment where Whitford had to drop her hand down to prevent her from falling. Despite the slip, she looks forward to the potential of competing in future winter games.

More Alberta Winter Games coverage coming up in next week’s edition of Ponoka News.