Kelowna's Nick Goplen has overcome a major injury suffered in October, to earn a berth on a speed skating team representing Canada at the Continental regional qualifier in Salt Lake City this weekend.
Goplen, a graduate of the Kelowna Speed Skating Club, and still coached by his mother, Nancy Goplen, head coach of the KSSC, will be among six skaters on the the Canadian team. He earned his spot with a fourth place overall finish at the Canadian long track championships in Calgary during the past weekend.
The regional qualifier, including skaters from the United States, Australia and New Zealand, will assist the Canadian team in selecting representatives for the world all-round championships in Hamar, Norway Feb. 15-16.
Goplen, a University of Calgary student, was the only non-national team member to crack the top six at the Canadian champion-ships. He set personal bests in both the 1,500-metre and 5,000-metre events at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.
Because of the cut to his ankle last fall, Goplen was unable to put on a pair of skates for several weeks, but a gruelling off-ice program and a lot of patience proved enough for the 21-year-old to make the team going to Salt Lake City.
While Goplen represented Canada in 2009 at the regional Junior World Cup, this is his international debut at the senior level.
"Nick trained extremely hard to overcome a few obstacles and reach this level of success," said Nancy Goplen. "Making the team going to Salt Lake was one of his season goals, so it's great for him to achieve this milestone.
"Nick isn't affiliated with the national or Calgary Oval Program, so this is confirmation that what he is doing is working. He has a great support system in Kelowna and a coaching team - including myself - that guides him on his day-to-day programs," she added. "He is also highly motivated to do the work."
Meanwhile, Josie Spence, 18, of Kamloops and a product of the Okanagan Regional Training Centre that also includes Nancy Goplen as coach, will join Nick Goplen on the Continental team.
Spence, who now trains in Calgary, also qualified for the 2013 junior world team. Last year she represented Canada at the junior worlds and raced to a 10th place finish in the 3,000 metres.
In the Canada Cup portion of the weekend long track competition in Calgary, Kelowna's Abigail McCluskey, 16, and Emilie Medland Marchen, 17, found success.
McCluskey, in her first long track season, placed ninth overall among 40 skaters in the 500 metres and posted a personal best time of 42.17 seconds. Her previous best was 42.89. Medland-Marchen finished in 17th place, also recording a PB time (42.80).
A personal record for McCluskey also came in the 1,000 metres (1:28.27), good for 28th place, while Medland-Marchand was 29th among the 39 competitors.
The 1,500-metre event saw McCluskey take 20th place and Medland Marchen was 23rd. The latter took 22nd place in the 3,000, followed by McCluskey in 26th.
These are great results for our Okanagan skaters," said Nancy Goplen. "They finished ahead of many competitors who train full time in Calgary or Quebec City or who have 400-metre long track ovals in their communities. Our girls spent only a weekend skating at Big White prior to Christmas and then four days at the Calgary Oval prior to the competition.
"They have only two or three ice sessions at the CNC, so they have to rely on their extensive off-ice training to keep pace with their competition."
McCluskey and Medland-Marchen will be joined by Sara and Tori Spence of Kamloops and fellow OTC members Ashley Nelson and Scott Bickerton of Nelson at the Canada Cup No. 3 long track competition in Quebec City early in February.
Sara Spence, 16, skated to 10th place in both the 1,500 and 3,000 metre events and was 11th in the 500. She trains at the OTC every two weeks and last month joined Kelowna's Jesse Keca at the Canadian junior short track championships in Montreal.
Nineteen-year-old Tori Spence, a member of the Canadian Development Team, competed in the Canadian championships on the weekend in Calgary and finished eight overall in the all-around classification.