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Full flight - Paisley Perrie rounds a corner in full flight during a race at the 2012 Canadian In-line Speed Skating Championships in Quebec. The 15-year-old placed first in all nine races she entered. photo by Denis Lemay
Taking on the world: Paisley Perrie headed to global competition
by Patrick Raftis
Ask Paisley Perrie what she likes best about speed skating, whether on wheels or blades, and her response is immediate.
“Going fast. I think that’s what makes it exciting for me,” she said. “I am an extremely competitive person.”
So competitive, in fact, that she rolled over all her competition in the junior ladies (age 15 to 20) category at the recent Canadian In-line Speed Skating Championships, held July 14 to 18 in Quebec.
Perrie finished first in the 300, 500 and 1,000 metre sprints, as well as the 10 and 15 kilometre track events in Quebec City, breaking her own Canadian records in the 300m and 500m events in the process. After just one day’s rest, she competed at the national road course championships in Laval, placing first in all four of the distances she entered: 200m, 500m, 10km and 20km.
That performance earned the 15-year-old Minto youth a spot on the three-member Canadian team for the 2012 World In-Line Championships in Italy from Sept. 14 to 18.
Having skated at the national level on both ice skates and roller blades, Perrie does not find the prospect of competing on a global stage intimidating.
“When you know thousands of people are watching you, for some people, that makes them really nervous, but it just pumps me up more,” she said.
Paisley has both the resume and the pedigree to back up her confidence. She has been on skates since she was about two years old, when she donned a set of roller blades for a 10km competition. She didn’t complete the race.
“She went around the track once and said, ‘That’s enough for today’,” her father Alex Perrie recalls.
However, she did develop a love of skating that has led her to high-level competitions in Ontario, Quebec, western Canada, the United States and Europe.
Her father was a member of Canada’s first roller sports team in 1973. To say he’s supportive of Paisley’s skating endeavours would be quite an understatement.
In the Perries’ backyard is a 200-metre in-line skating track, built to international competition standards. In hindsight, Alex says he wouldn’t have banked the original track, so it could be used for ice-skating in the winter. He has recently added a smaller, floodable, flat oval to the backyard complex.
The elder Perrie understands the need to create one’s own opportunities, noting there is no government funding for in-line skating and few training facilities in this country.
The Perries’ backyard track is the only banked facility in Canada. Originally built for the four Perrie children to skate on, it has become the site of the Canadian In-line Training Centre, offering training opportunities to in-line skaters from across the country.
Despite her track record and confidence, Paisley knows she will be a long shot to make the podium in Italy next month. In-line skating is much bigger in Europe, China and Japan than in North America, and major competitions are held almost weekly. She will also be competing against skaters up to five years older.
Still, despite her young age, this won’t be her first exposure to the intense level of competition in Europe. When she was in Grade 3, Paisley skated in a competition in France and between Grades 4 and 7 she skated each year at events in Germany.
“It’s really tough,” she says of the competition overseas. “When I was younger, I did pretty well when I went to Germany. But I had more time back then to practice,” she explained, noting the pressures of high school compel her to spend more time hitting the books than she once did.
Although in-line skating is racing - “not roller derby” - Alex stresses, with fields as large as 40 to 60 skaters on the track vying for position at over 30km/h, contact and injuries do occur. Paisley has taken more than a few elbows from other competitors over the years and is anticipating some hard jockeying at the worlds. The prospect doesn’t seem to bother her.
“I love big pack races, especially sprints. I’m not a dirty skater, but I’m not just going to let people beat up on me either,” she said.
Paisley returned from Quebec on July 19. After a long weekend at home, she headed back to Montreal to spend four weeks at an in-line training camp. Despite the quality of her facilities at home, she knows she needs to train and compete with other skaters to stay sharp.
“The more skaters I can train with the better,” she said.
While in Montreal, she will train on wheels by day and spend evenings working with ice skating coach Steve Robillard to be ready for the next winter season.
As an ice skater, Paisley has Olympic aspirations. Despite the depth at both long and short track disciplines in Canada, it’s not a dream that’s out of reach for this determined youngster.
By the age of 13, she had pretty much re-written the Ontario record book for youth ice skaters in both long and short track speed skating, holding a total of 14 provincial records in various age categories. In 2010 she won her fifth Ontario long track championship in a row and claimed the Canadian long track championship for the second year.
Over the 2011-12 season, she also enjoyed success on both long and short tracks. She won the provincial Long Track Championships for junior females and represented Team Ontario at the Canadian Age Class Long Track Championships, where she finished second overall. She was also named to Team Ontario in short track, but suffered a heart-breaking last-minute setback.
“In the last minute of the last practice before nationals, I slipped just before the line,” she recalls.
Tensing up just before she hit the boards, she ended up with a deep muscle contusion in her back. She couldn’t walk, much less skate, when nationals were held a few days later.
“She had the best season of any girl in Ontario,” said Alex.
However, he noted the depth of experienced skaters in Canada means there is plenty of competition for spots on the Canadian Olympic team. Still, her prospects were high enough that prior to the winter games in Vancouver in 2010, CTV selected Paisley as a legitimate Olympic hopeful, to be part of their “Do you Believe” series of promotional television commercials.
While some coaches discourage, or even forbid, their ice skating prospects from in-line skating, Paisley has no problem changing gears.
“I can switch pretty easily between them.
“It’s easier because they are in different seasons. I have my style for ice and I have my style for in-line.”
Alex adds, “Some of the best ice speed skaters are former in-line skaters,” citing Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen as one example.
Once an ice skater makes the national development team, there is government money to assist with training and competition expenses. However, the same is not true in the in-line world, where the expense of training and travel fall on the skater’s family.
Fortunately, in Paisley’s case, her home community is behind her.
A group of members from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 296 in Harriston has formed the Paisley Perrie Booster Club and are organizing a family day at the Legion on Aug. 25 to raise funds.
The club has set a goal of $8,000 to sponsor Paisley’s trip to the World Championships. Both Branch 296 and the branch 296 Legion Ladies Auxiliary have donated $1,000 to kick-start the fund, which will be administered through an in-trust bank account.
Family day will be a day of fun and games, featuring activities for youngsters, teens and adults. The day will also feature non-competitive in-line races to give youngsters a chance to try out the sport for themselves.
“There will be something for the whole family,” says Norm Brown of Harriston, chair of the organizational committee. Anyone interested in helping out at the family day event is encouraged to call Brown at 519-338-3674.
Ross Wilkie, another member of the booster club, attended a recent Minto council meeting to seek the town’s support. The town came through with a financial donation of $300, a pledge from individual council members to come up with some special items for a silent auction, and the town’s support for closing Mill Street for the family day races.
“I think she is doing an exceptional job. She is an amazing young lady,” said Minto mayor George Bridge. “Whatever we can do to help her get to the worlds we will certainly try and do.”
The auction will be a major part of the fundraising effort. Items up for bid will be on display at the Harriston Legion on Aug. 24, with bidding to close at 5pm on Aug. 25.
The committee is canvassing local businesses for support, but Wilkie notes individuals are also welcome to make donations of cash or auction items. Anyone wishing to contribute may call Wilkie at 519-338-3707.
August 3, 2012
The Wellington Advertiser
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