Speed skating to the Games

This weekend’s B.C. Winter Games is not Brenda Hennigar’s first experience as a coach at the sporting event

Brenda Hennigar will be helping coach the speed skating team for the Vancouver Island zone at the B.C. Winter Games.

This weekend’s B.C. Winter Games is not Brenda Hennigar’s first experience as a coach at the sporting event. In fact, the local speed skating coach has been going to the Games since the mid-1980s, following a very successful career as a national-level athlete.

Hennigar comes from a speed skating family. Her dad, Jim Shields, started the Esquimalt club in 1966 and she has been on the ice herself in one form or another ever since.

For the last 25 years, Hennigar has been a coach and for almost 11 of those, has run the Peninsula Speed Skating Club with her husband Ian (himself an accomplished national-level coach).

“The smiles on the kids’ faces,” Hennigar said by way of explaining why she still does it. “ When it finally clicks for them, when they have a good race. To see them improve and to help them feel confident as they progress.”

While she said she started off coaching at a very high level in Canada, Hennigar added she finds the grassroots level a lot more satisfying.

She said skating is an activity that the whole family can do and many who started young continue to this day as older adults.

Among her club’s top skaters  also going to the B.C. Winter Games Feb. 20 to 23, is 12-year-old Casey Garrison. She will be at her first Games, Hennigar said, having qualified in zone competition earlier this year.

“I think Casey is a good endurance skater,” said Hennigar. “This will be a great experience for her to skate with others from across B.C.”

Garrison has also qualified for the B.C. championships in March.

Two other Peninsula club skaters are off to Mission and the B.C. Winter Games. Casey’s brother Remy, 9, and Peyton Stonehouse-Smith, 11. Those two will also be going to the provincials next month.

Skaters from the Island zone come from only the two local clubs — Peninsula and Esquimalt — and Hennigar said the coaches take it in turns to go to the Games. It comes down to who has the most time available to do so, she said.

“We are somewhat isolated on the Island and the main group of speed skaters is on the mainland.”

Hennigar added she has around 30 skaters on the ice at her club these days and having any that make it to big events like these is rewarding. For the young athletes, she said, they get the chance to compete against other kids and see what others are doing in different clubs.

“Each has their own goals,” she said. “They do challenge each other.”

Hennigar said she enjoys sharing her experience as a skater with her students and hopes the zone team does well in Mission this weekend.