Canada’s top speed skaters have finally been allowed to resume training at the Olympic Oval in Calgary having been kept away from it for nine months by a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and no ice.
Olympic 10,000 metres champion Ted-Jan Bloemen was among those to experience the thrill of returning when he skated on an indoor oval since the World Championships in Heerenveen in The Netherlands in February.
Getting back on the ice as soon as possible was seen as vital for the preparations of Canada’s speed skaters for next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
"I’m really happy to be skating again,” Bloemen told The Globe and Mail.
“It’s been building.
"We were doing dryland training in the Oval and we saw them making the ice for a couple weeks already.
"I’m just really happy they were able to fix the problems and make ice again early for us in the summer."
The Oval, built for the 1988 Winter Olympics at a cost of CAD$40 million (£23 million/$33 million/€27 million), has suffered in recent years with technical problems to the ice plant’s heat exchanges.
More pics from @davehollandpics featuring @ssc_pvc athletes and Coaches Todd McClements and Bart Schouten in the tunnel yesterday. We love Dave’s?pics.— Calgary Olympic Oval (@theolympicoval) June 12, 2021
@ucalgaryknes @ucalgary @ssc_pvc pic.twitter.com/I1lkuJAvgA
A new chiller needed to be installed at the cost of CAD$1 million (£582,000/$820,000/€677,000), forcing the temporary closure of the Oval last September.
"We had to shut the whole place down," Oval director Peter McCrory told The Globe and Mail.
The Oval is scheduled to host a World Cup in December and was recently named by the International Skating Union as the site of the 2024 World Championships.
But the Oval’s operations director Mark Messer warned that, while the chiller issue may have been resolved, more work still needs to be done on the aging arena.
"We’re well past our expiration date, but credit to the people who have worked here and taken care of the building quite well," he told The Globe and Mail.
"We’re getting excessive amounts of time out of it.
"We’ve got pipes that have been in the floor for 34 years.
"It’s usually a 20-year span for the floor.
"We’re running on borrowed time for some things.”