Why make a film about speed skating?
Danielle Sellwood // 3 August 2017
I’ve been involved in the sports industry for thirty years and a fan of sports for over forty years. To many people, being a ‘sports’ fan means you support a team in a mainstream or traditional sport, but to me, being a ‘sports’ fan means being curious and fascinated, by pretty much any sport.
In fact, sometimes it’s the non-mainstream sports that interest me most. I spent around twenty years training as a canoeist and it never occurred to me that I should have taken up a sport that actually got media coverage. For me, sport has always been about the challenge, the experience, the fun and the friendships – it’s a hobby and a passion, and all the other stuff like ‘being fit’ or ‘famous’ that are so often associated with sport now, are incidental.
I remember when I first saw (short track) speed skating on the TV, it was the late 80’s and Wilf O’Reilly from Birmingham had won two gold medals at the Calgary Winter Olympics when it was a demonstration sport (video footage below - Wilf is in the suit with white top/blue legs).
How incredible that seemed, to win gold in a sport that the UK has very little heritage in and most of us knew nothing about.
The sport was exciting and dynamic and O'Reilly's wins really should have lead to speed skating becoming a massive sport here. Sadly, however, speed skating in the UK has remained in the shadows… until recently.
Three-time world champion, Elise Christie (above right) has done a lot to raise the profile of the sport. As one of the big medal hopes going into the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics she had a lot of coverage. Then, the dramatic disqualification from each of her races lead to less favourable coverage and well documented social media bullying.
Impressively though, where others would have turned their back on the sport, Elise worked even harder and went on to win all three world titles at this years 2017 World Championships. It was during an interview following this momentous moment that Elise mentioned the women’s relay team to me - the story of Elise and a squad of ambitious skaters attempting to become the first GB women’s relay team to qualify for the Winter Olympics stuck and the importance of documenting this moment has niggled me ever since. I wanted to know more about the women in the team, I wanted to know about their training regime, their preparations and just how they put everything together to perform their as a unit, in one of the most unpredictable events out there.
In short, how can a British team succeed in a sport that is so off the radar at home and yet a national obsession in other countries?
Well, we’re about to find out because with the support of GB Short Track and Prosell Learning Ltd we’re starting work on that film. We hope to answer some of these questions, but also to capture the incredible beauty of this sport. Maybe it’s the same for you, but when I watch a sport for the first time, my first thought is generally ‘what does that that feel like?’ I imagine the physical feeling of being able to do that sport. I feel the buzz and often I’m itching to have a go! We hope to pass that on too, because aside from our desire to tell this story, our ultimate aim is to help people find a sport that inspires them enough to get involved.