Vanderhoof speed skater is one of 100 chosen from across Canada to try out at the RBC Training Ground, a nationwide talent search to find potential future Olympians for various sports.
Alison Desmarais is also the only northern B.C. athlete who was chosen from over 2000 competitors across the country.
“I am excited about it for sure! I have been in high performance sports for as long as I can remember,” Desmarais said.
The RBC Training Ground is a talent identification and athlete funding program designed to uncover athletes with Olympic potential, and provide them with the high-performance sport resources they need to achieve their goals, as stated on the RBC Training Ground website.
There are 8 National Sport Organizations involved in the 2019 RBC Training Ground program which will be held Sept. 14 in Calgary — Athletics, Canoe Kayak, Cycling, Freestyle, Rowing, Rugby, Speed Skating and Snowboard.
Athletes go through physical fitness tests which involves both physical and mental strength.
Desmarais, 22-years old, said she started speed skating 15-years ago. Since then the Vanderhoof athlete has trained and competed with Canada’s best short-track speed skaters on the national and international stage.
“I was 12 when I started getting more committed and more intense. I started going for provincial level competitions, and when I was 15, I made my first national level competition and by that point I knew this was something I wanted to pursue,” she said.
By the time she was 16, Desmarais skated part-time and went to the Prince George speed skating club twice a week, as it was more competitive and had more athletes that were her age and had similar skill levels.
Simultaneously she was training in Vanderhoof as well, with the Clippers speed skating club.
“I really love my home club. I think they are perfect for our community. They might not be the most competitive club out there, but I am proof that you can have competitive skaters come out of that club. They support the community really well,” she said.
However, during the RBC Training Ground event, Desmarais is not going to be competing in speed skating. And she says she is excited to try out different sports, especially Rugby.
“I was a short track speed skater, so it is not out of the question that they would ask me to be in long track. It’s not the same sport, a lot of technique does transfer. But I think Rugby will be very exciting too. I have no background in Rugby, I just think it will be a good sport,” she said.
Desmarais graduated from Nechako Valley Secondary School in Vanderhoof and headed to Calgary right after. Here she trained six hours a day, six days a week where she was cross training and speed skating the entire time.
And because she was on the national team, Desmarais had to move to Montreal in the Fall of 2018. That move didn’t suit her well and Desmarais said she decided 2018 would be her last season speed skating.
And then when March of 2019 rolled around, the opportunity to be a part of the 2019 RBC Training Ground came up and Demarais said she was excited to be a part of it.
“I thought I would go in and give it my best shot and see how far I make it. And I managed to make it pretty far!” she added.
Currently, Desmarais is in Calgary doing her degree in Kinesiology, with a major in exercise and health physiology.
“So I moved back home for the summer and now I am back in Calgary for university. I still enjoy high level sports. I can’t ever imagine not being absurdly physically active, whether now its university sports or the RBC Training Ground,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Calgary event will be held Sept. 14 and sports organizations will be given until Oct. 7 to make the decision. There are 30 available spots this year, she said, noting that sporting organizations don’t necessarily need to fill the 30 spots, but will choose athletes on the basis of their performance.
“I am not really nervous getting into it, because I can only do my best. And I know I can push myself but I am a little but unsure of how much I can push myself, because I haven’t pushed my physical limits in a long time for me,” she said.
As for the athletes Desmarais looks up to — Cindy Klassen, a six-time medalist and long track speed skater; Clara Hughes another speed skater who has won multiple Olympic medals and lastly, Jamie MacDonald, an Olympian speed skater from Fort St. James.
“Jamie was someone I looked up to while growing up. I wanted to be as fast as her. I wanted to skate as long as her. And in the more recent years I got to meet her and be her teammate and competitor and got to know her personally. That aspect of knowing someone you have looked up to, is pretty nice. She is a pretty cool person,” she added.
Desmarais said she will be back in Vanderhoof as part of the Clippers Speed Skating Club where she will be training other local skaters. She said she is very thankful to her family and the Vanderhoof community for giving her support throughout her career.