She is asked about her expectations heading into the 2012 BC Winter Games, and Quinn McKay doesn’t hesitate for even a second.
“I want to have lots of fun and hopefully come home with a medal,” she says with a mischievous grin. “I might have to take it off someone’s neck, but they’d better watch out for me on the podium.”
McKay and teammate Dallas Hawkes erupt in laughter because she’s obviously joking.
Or is she?
It’s hard to tell.
When you watch these two members of the Sardis Fliers Speedskating Club, you see 13-year-old girls acting as 13-year-old girls usually act.
They laugh and chatter and don’t appear to take anything all that seriously.
Get them on the ice, however, and they take on different personas. McKay’s face is set in determination as she flies around the corners and tears down the straightaways of the makeshift short-track at Twin Rinks.
You can see the stone-cold concentration in Hawkes as she keeps pace with her teammate.
At that moment, you see the competitor within, and in your mind’s eye you can picture either one of them standing atop the podium, clutching a gold medal.
They are joined on the ice by two others. Dominique Hawkenson and Rebekah Clemons, both 14 years old, are also heading to the BC Winter Games in Vernon.
Though the games are still more than a month away (Feb. 23-26), it is a constant topic of conversation.
On a snowy night in Chilliwack, when most people are doing their best to stay inside where it’s warm, these girls are in an ice cold arena honing their technique and imagining what the Games are going to be like.
Hawkenson and Clemons talk animatedly about the nuances of their sport.
“Most of the time I’m really anxious,” Hawkenson said of those tense final seconds before the start of a race. “The butterflies really set in, and I talk to myself a lot.”
“When the buzzer goes, to me everything kind of slows down, like slow motion,” Clemons chimes in. “And then everything gets all fast again.”
Different races bring different strategy and the Vernon Games will offer the full range.
The short races, the 200 and 400 metres, are all-out sprints from start to finish. In a sport where the margin of victory can literally be the blink of an eye, one misstep can be the difference between winning and losing.
Between Hawkenson and Clemons, both agree that Clemons is stronger in the short distances.
“She’s been skating since she was four years old, so she’s probably faster,” Hawkenson grudgingly admitted. “In short distances it’s all in-the-moment thinking, and she’s good at that.”
“I just think fast, fast, fast and move my legs as fast as I can,” Clemons added.
The longer distances offer more strategy. Those who treat them like a sprint are left gassed at the end. Like the tortoise and the hare, a steady approach works best.
“She is really good at drafting (skating behind someone to reduce wind resistance),” Clemons said of Hawkenson’s long distance excellence. “She’s got everything planned out the whole time. She knows what speed to go at and where to go. She is a strategic genius.”
Hawkenson, Clemons, Hawkes and McKay have all been able to use their various strengths to dust the local competition.
In one month, everything gets bigger.
Their competition in Vernon brings together the best of the best in BC.
“We were all freaking out and screaming when we found out we were going, and people were staring at us like we were a bunch of freaks,” McKay said of the moment the quartet found out they were going. “We’re going to have fun. We’re going to meet a lot of people and make new friends. It’s awesome.”
“To get into the Games is a huge privilege for everybody,” Hawkes added. “This is one of the goals we’ve all been focusing on, and now we’re almost there.”
All four girls say they’ll be happy soaking up the atmosphere and skating well.
If they medal, great. If not, they say they’ll be fine with it as long as they skate a good race.
Still, Games organizers would be well advised to place some extra security around the podium when McKay is around.
Just in case.
Get more info on the 2012 BC Winter Games online at http://www.bcgames.org/dotnetnuke/