Speedy skater flies to Finland

Chilliwack native Alec Janssens’s speedskating talent has him heading to Finland in two weeks for the International Skating Union’s Junior World Cup.

Alec Janssens dreams of travelling the world.

It is the main reason he studies international commerce at the University of Calgary. One day he dreams of doing business in Venice and France — of executive meetings in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

But until a future degree gets him where he want to go, it is left to his legs to carry him overseas.

First stop, Finland.

The 19-year-old Chilliwack native happens to be a pretty good speed-skater, good enough to compete on behalf of his country at the upcoming International Skating Union’s Junior World Cup, taking place Feb. 25-27 in Seinäjoki.

Janssens punched his ticket to Finland in Winnipeg, turning in an impressive performance at the 2011 Canadian Junior Championship.

Over four days on the frigid Susan Auch outdoor oval (Jan. 27-30), Janssens recorded a win in the men’s 3000 metre race, finishing second in the 1500m and third in the 5000m.

“I’ve only lost one 3000m race all year long, so I was expected to win it,” Janssens said proudly. “That race was delayed about three and a half hours, and it was actually dark out when we did it. It was cool racing under the lights, and I won by a couple seconds.”

In the 1500m, he missed top spot by the narrowest of margins, his time of 2:01.11 a fraction of a second behind Quebec’s Laurent Dubreuil (2:01.03).

“When it’s a tenth of a second, you just look at the clock and say, ‘That’s doable. I can fix that next time,’” Janssens explained. “It’s just a slight mental error, a foot going down the wrong way or messing up a corner entry. It’s really not all that much, and you don’t get discouraged by it.”

In the 5000m, Janssens’s time of 7:41.52 placed him close behind Ontario’s Conner McConvery (first at 7:39.12) and Philippe Bergeron (second at 7:40.87).

Put it all together and Janssens finished second all round, taking one of the five available spots (three all-round and two sprinter) on the Canadian team that will head to Finland.

All the more remarkable, he did all this in unfamiliar conditions as one of the few skaters not accustomed to competing on an outdoor oval.

It’s a totally different feel and you have to adjust to that quickly,” he noted.

After Winnipeg, Janssens hopped down to Milwaukee for a Regional ISU World Cup event.

In Wisconsin, he won the 1500 and 3000m races, finishing fourth in the 500m.

Janssens, still a member of the local Sardis Fliers Speedskating Club, switched from short-track to long-track two years ago when it became apparent his lanky six-foot-six frame was more suited to long strides and endurance racing.

“Growing up, everyone told me I’d end up being a long-tracker, but I was in denial about that for a long time,” he laughed. “Short track is something else, so exhilarating. Long-track is an acquired taste, but I like the mental challenge, competing against myself and the clock. With my size I had to switch over, and I’m very proud of how far I’ve gotten in a short time.”

And now, he stands at the edge of greatness, hoping the best is yet to come.

“The only expectations are those that I put on myself,” he said. “Heading to Finland, a lot of the European skaters are really strong in the long distances, which are my specialty. If I can place top eight in any distance, that guarantees a spot on the national team next year, so hopefully I can pull that off.”

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