A Yellowknife speed skater has made the cut and is on his way to the Olympics this February in Sochi, Russia.
Michael Gilday, 26, announced earlier last week that he’d been named to the Canadian Short Track Speed Skating team.
The news came as a bit of a surprise, as Gilday suffered a violent fall during the Intact Short Track Team Selections in Montreal on Aug. 7, an important qualifier for the Olympics, and could not finish the five-day event. He is still recovering from the concussion and made it back onto the ice for the first time last Wednesday.
“I’m feeling pretty well. It’s tough to be patient…I’m extremely anxious to get back out there; it’s just absolutely killing me taking it slow,” Gilday told The Journal. “For as long as I can remember, people have been asking me when I’m going to the Olympics and now I’m able to say I am…I think it’s still sinking in. It’s phenomenal and inspiring to have so many people across the North and especially in and around Yellowknife rooting for me.”
Gilday, who’s competed in multiple world championships and cup events, made the team roster largely thanks to his performance in 2012, he said.
“I had a good season last year and I was consistent, so I had shown what I was capable of well and I had reason to hope that it would be enough. It was a bit of a shot in the dark and until the word came in that I’d made it, I was nervous, and as I’m trying to recover my brain, that’s not good,” he said. “Now, it’s a weight off my shoulders and maybe that will help in my recovery as well.”
This is the second major concussion Gilday has suffered. In 2009, he missed over two weeks of practice as well, but he said he’s not letting it stop him.
“When you’ve made a world team, an Olympic team, I find there’s this boost and you’re super motivated and you want to do everything you can, train non-stop, and I can’t do that so I’m going stir crazy, but I’m trying to put that same energy into my recovery and doing the right things – not over doing things so I don’t prolong the process,” he said.
He has been working with Neuro Sport Performance out of Montreal, a consulting firm that specializes in mental performance training and works with a number of athletes trying to get back on top of their game after concussions.
“I’ve been doing some light intervals on the bikes for about a week now and doing different exercises to get my intensity levels up, my heart rate up and hopefully get going full speed again soon.”
He’s not out of the rough waters, yet, he said.
“We still have hurdles to jump to get to the games; we have to do the Olympic qualifying world cup in November.”
The reality is, Gilday said, he won’t be in top form by then.
“For me, the goal is to get to 80 – maybe 85 – per cent, show up, race to the best of my physical capacity…The goal isn’t to be the best I can be this fall, but to be at the peak of my fitness and skill level in February.”
Gilday said he plans to continue to relax and train as much as he can handle.
“I’m looking forward to the games and the support I’ve had from all three territories has been amazing. I’m proud to be from the North and I hope to continue to represent everyone as best I can,” he said.