Continuing his family's skating tradition - Skyler Kah's Voice

Skyler (third from the right) with his Australian team-mates. Photo: Skyler Kah.

How did you get into skating?

Well I started skating when I was about 6 year old but began to take it a bit more seriously when I got into highschool. Dad went to the Olympics three times for skating, Mum represented Australia a couple of times and skating is how my parents met. Currently, our whole family (Mum, Dad and my younger brother Josh) train together at least two times a week and dad is still the third fastest in our club after my brother and I. It's really a sport that is a permanent part of our family.

How was the trip to Canada and the USA?

So the plan was to get to Canada two weeks before World Cup 1 and get used to the ice. Believe it or not, there is quite a lot of science that goes into what makes the fastest and grippiest ice to skate on. Temperature, impurities of the water, how the ice is resurfaced by the zamboni all contribute to these factors. Upon arriving at Melbourne airport we didn't realise Canada needs an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) just like the US does. Our USA ETA was all fine and dandy but we just hadn't applied for one to Canada. So in the rush of things we quickly filled out the online application and accidentally hit a wrong button somewhere. We missed our flights because of this and it took a week of ringing around to embassies and consulates across time zones to sort it out. Luckily we still had time to get there for the competition so we hopped on the plane a week later. Only to sit on the plane for three hours while a gear warning light was flashing in the cockpit and our flight was cancelled. So for the second time being sent home disappointedly, we weren't sure if we were ever going to make it. The third time visiting the airport meant we actually got through to Canada. Woo!

We stayed 15 minutes away from the ice rink with a friend called Rob who trains with us in Melbourne and lives between Australia and Canada. He also bared the title of Official for the Australian team and helped film some of the races.

The World Cup runs over Friday, Saturday and Sunday and we had training every day of the week coming up to it. We got to train with some of the fastest people in the world and because Australia had only three athletes this competition, we were put in relays with teams from Canada, USA, Japan and the French.

Skyler (left) with his brother and father. Photo: Skyler Kah.

How is a speed-skating competition run? And how did the World Cup go? 

At each WC, there are 4 distances you can skate which include a double distance. For Calgary the distances were 500m x2, 1000m and 1500m. In Salt Lake City, the distances were 500m, 1000m x2 and 1500m. Each skater can pick 2 distances to skate. On the Friday you skate both distances and depending on how you go in your race you will be placed into repechage races in the mornings of the weekend for overall world ranking or into the heats with a chance for gold.

In Calgary and Salt Lake I skated 500m and 1000m.

Calgary ice at the Olympic oval in the University of Calgary is so good. My fastest lap time in Melbourne was about a 9.0 second lap and in Calgary I could do 8.5 second laps. This leap in speed changes quite a lot of things. With more lean in the corners my boot was beginning to touch the ice and cause the blade to lift off and lose grip. In my first 500m seating race I fell on only the third corner because of this and so I decided to move the offset of my blade over on my boot to accommodate for this gain in speed. It was still not enough of a change and so in my second 500m race on Saturday, I stacked it on the 4th corner. In the 1000m races I came last on the Friday race and 4th on Sunday however I came out with a personal best of 1 min 27 sec which also lifted me from partial qualification of the Australian Team to full qualification and basically means that I will be getting complete funding to World Cups 5 and 6 in January.

With two falls out of four races, I had new goals of staying upright next weekend. On Tuesday we flew to Salt Lake City, Utah for WC 2. We had training on Wednesday and I was feeling confident in my feet. On Wednesday night we went out to dinner and tried these ‘cheesesteaks’ which appeared very American. It included shaved steak in bread with some onions. That's it. I'm not sure how they prepared it but I was throwing up all night and all day until about 5pm Thursday night and I had races on Friday morning. Still not having eaten anything apart from sipping on some powerade, I entered my two races on Friday feeling very dizzy. I still wasn't feeling like any food until after my 1000m race on Saturday which was actually a good race, even though I still came last. I'd lost about 4 kg over the 3 days but was prepared to give my last race, 500m on Sunday, my best effort. And I did. With shaky knees and a couple of slips I smashed out a time of 42.434 seconds. To put this in perspective, the world record was made that weekend at a time of 39.505 sec and my previous fastest time was a 44.005 sec 500m. I was satisfied with that.

Photo: Skyler Kah.

Hopes for the future?

Coming away from these World Cups, it has made me realise how much more training I need to do to be competitive and get through some of the heats. My next goal is to get to that stage where my overall ranking is among the middle of athletes, instead of finishing around the bottom of the pack.

In the long term, perhaps the 2022 or 2026 winter Olympics are in sight but I really have to figure out how I'm going to organise my training around my studies of Medicine. This year I have been very busy - skating 4 times a week, training with Monash Cheerleading three times a week, enjoying some gymnastics one day a week, working two days a week and studying during my transit to all these activities. It's made me continually tired but it's also very rewarding.

Keep up the good work Skyler, Monash is right behind you as you juggle your studies and pursuits as an elite athlete #monashpride

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