November 25, 2018 5:03 pm
Updated: November 25, 2018 7:40 pm

West Island speed skating club with Olympian coach in danger of closing down

A speed skating club on the West Island is asking for your help. The many children enjoying the Olympic sport may soon have to find themselves a new game, because enrolment is dwindling. But as Global's Dan Spector reports, the club does have a secret weapon.

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Since 1996, the Dollard-des-Ormeaux (DDO) Speed Skating Club has brought together kids young and old who all love one thing.

“We get to go fast!” said 11-year-old Alek Gervasi, who’s been a part of the club for four years.

“It’s exciting, it’s fast, and there’s always action,” said DDO Speed Skating Club head coach Andres Pacanins. “It’s a niche sport; it’s popular in Quebec but it’s overshadowed by other ice sports.”

The club also boasts a former Olympian as a coach.

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Alanna Kraus won a silver medal for Canada in speed skating at the 2006 Olympics, and a bronze medal in 2002. She’s from British Columbia, but her husband recently got a job in the West Island.

Her 8-year-old son, she said, also loves going fast — just like mom.

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“I knew he would love speed skating, so we found this club and we came out. Since I have some experience, I decided to come out and coach at the club as well,” Kraus told Global News.

But now, the speed skating club, a West Island fixture for 22 years, is in danger of closing down.

“I would be sad,” said 12-year-old Laurie Ann Bond.

“I have a lot of friends here who love speed skating, I would feel bad for them,” said Alek Gervasi.

At the club’s peak, it had 120 kids. Now they only have about 30.

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“We’re a non-profit, we’re not in this to make money,” said Paul Gervasi, Alek’s father and a member of the club’s board of directors. “We’re here to teach our kids, have our kids do a sport and exercise. But maybe next year the club won’t be here because it doesn’t have enough members to support its bills.”

“Everybody sees it at the Olympics and they love it, it’s exciting! So if people knew where to find a club and try it out, that would be helpful,” added Kraus. “There’s a club right here in the West Island.”

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The club says the municipality of Dollard-des-Ormeaux helps them with costs and promotion, but they’re hoping other parts of the West Island lend a hand too. They’re based in DDO, but most of their kids are from other parts of the West Island.

“All the boroughs have bulletins four times a year that talk about sports and activities,” Gervais said. “We haven’t been in any of those except DDO’s. We’re not asking for money, were just asking for help promoting speed skating on the West Island.”

For more information, visit the club’s website at cpvddo.com. 

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