If Vincent de Haitre starts obsessing about the upcoming Winter Olympics, the speed skater says he’ll break out the game Jenga or one of the many Rocky movies.
The 23-year-old from Cumberland, Ont., locked down his Olympic berth in the men’s 1,000 metres by winning it Monday at long track trials.
De Haitre is a medal contender in both that distance and the men’s 1,500 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.
He was a silver medallist in the 1,000 metres and finished fourth in the 1,500 at the 2017 world single distance championship.
With a month to go before the opening ceremonies, de Haitre has a strategy for managing time when he isn’t training.
“You keep busy watching TV and playing board games,” he said Monday. “It’s important to keep a performance-first mindset, but at the same time we are people and being happy makes you skate fast.
“I have Jenga at my house. I definitely watch a lot of Netflix. [Saturday] for my race prep, I watched a Rocky Balboa movie, the fifth one. I thought ‘what should I watch, that’s inspirational?’
“There will definitely be some more Rocky watching. They’re classics.”
Canadian speed skater clinches Olympic spot in the men’s 1000m.1:26
Trials coming to a close
Canada can take up to 10 men and 10 women to Pyeongchang to compete in long track speed skating. The Olympic team will be unveiled Wednesday in Calgary.
Trials conclude Tuesday with the men’s 10,000 metres and women’s 5,000 metres.
World-record holder Ted-Jan Bloemen of Calgary will compete in the 10k and Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin the 5k in Pyeongchang. They have already secured their spots in those distances.
Tuesday’s races will determine a second Canadian skater in each event.
Some skaters were pre-qualified for the 2018 Olympic team in certain distances based on their results in World Cups during the first half of this season, and last year’s world single-distance championship.
Others had to finish in the top three at trials, and also meet or have already met Speed Skating Canada’s time standard in the distance, in order to be considered for the Olympic team.
Going under the time standard has been difficult at trials. De Haitre did it twice and Denny Morrison in the 1,500 was the only other athlete to do so.
Alex St. Jean of Quebec City, who finished second to de Haitre in the 1,000, had the time standard under his belt having achieved it twice during fall World Cups.
Pressure was high
But because the men’s 1,000 metres was so competitive, the 24-year-old was relieved and elated to qualify for his first Olympic Games.
“All the guys who were challenging me for this spot were already qualified in other distances,” St. Jean said. “The pressure was considerably higher on me.
“It was hard for me to manage all this stress in the past four days. The time was not really fast today for me, but considering all the distractions and the pressure, I’m incredibly happy with my second place today.”
Winnipeg’s Heather McLean and Calgary’s Kaylin Irvine had previously gone under the time standard and finished first and second respectively in the women’s 1,000 to book their berths in Pyeongchang.
Regina’s Kali Christ was third, but didn’t race under the required one minute 14.46 seconds. Christ qualified in the women’s 1,500, however. McLean will also race the women’s 500 metres at the Winter Games.
Irvine, 27, suffered a pair of concussions in early 2017 — one from a training crash and a second in a surfing wipeout.
“My surf board smoked me in the head,” Irvine said. “Knowing it was going to be so difficult to make these Olympics . . . at the beginning of the summer it was an almost out-of-reach goal for me coming off the injury.”
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