Meet Little Rapids’ Noah Bolton, NL’s lone speed skater at the Canada Winter Games
At 18, Little Rapids’ Noah Bolton has over a decade of speed skating experience, but he’s headed to his first national competition at the Canada Winter Games.
He’s one of 64 speed skaters from across Canada who have qualified for the Games – but he’s the only one from Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It’s a lot to deal with because you’ve got Newfoundland on your back,” he said. “I feel like I have this. I can handle it.”
The Canada Winter Games begin on Saturday and the athletic competitions begin on Sunday. Bolton will compete in short track speed skating races, including the 500m and 1,500m races, from Monday through Friday’s final.
Bolton will not be heading to the Canadian Winter Games alone, but he will have his coach by his side.
Bolton’s coach Sharon Karn has coached him on the ice since he began speed skating when he was just eight years old.
Karn – president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Speed Skating Association as well as a high-performance coach – is no stranger to the world of competitive speed skating and said it was a huge accomplishment just to meet the time requirements to qualify for the Winter Games.
“It’s huge for him to qualify,” she said.
Ten years of coaching and close mentoring have a meaning Karn doesn’t miss. As Bolton ran his final laps before the games, she stood at the edge of the Corner Brook Civic Center rink and burst into tears.
“It’s extremely emotional,” she said.
The athlete and coach are also joined by his assistant coach – and mother – Nancy Bolton.
Nancy Bolton shares her son’s excitement and some nerves of her own.
“I’m excited, I’m nervous for him,” she said.
She turned to look at the ice as her son did his practice laps, adding, “I’m very proud.”
Away from big meetings and competitions, money is a major obstacle for aspiring speed skaters in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Entering a competition means traveling to another province, just as Noah Bolton traveled to Charlottetown in 2017 to compete in the Atlantic Cup.
Karn says getting involved in speed skating is a barrier for people in Newfoundland and Labrador, along with the cost of equipment like specialty skates.
“It’s an expensive sport,” said Karn.
Despite the small number of local athletes in the Newfoundland and Labrador Speed Skating Association, Karn hopes to attract more people to the sport in the years to come.
“We are blessed to have it,” she said. “Hopefully it keeps growing.”
Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador