CALGARY – There's a new top dog in Canada's 1,500-metre speed skating and he's from Canmore.
Connor Howe, a 21-year-old Winter Olympics hopeful, gained extra confidence in his ever-increasing odds to qualify for Beijing with a gold medal performance at the 2021 Canadian Long Track Championships in Calgary last Saturday (Oct. 16).
"It's the first time I've been able to do a top race in the fall and if I can improve more that's a good sign," said Howe, a long track specialist.
"It's my first Canadian championship win so that gives me confidence, for sure. The last two seasons we were able to race, I kind of didn't get into [my flow] more until the winter so it's a good sign that it happened in the fall."
The new national men's champion clocked in at 1:43.50, more than a second faster than silver medallist Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu.
The long track championships took place Oct. 13-17 at the Calgary Olympic Oval, where Howe finished ninth in the 500m and fifth in the 1,000m races over the five-day competition. In the 1,000m, the Canmore native finished with a time of 1:08.02, just milliseconds outside of a podium spot.
The fifth-place gave him more motivation to attack the 1,500m quickly and aggressively.
"I have the speed so I may as well try and use it," said Howe, who figures he skates up to 60 km/h in the 1,500m. "The 1,000 the day before, I had a bit of an issue with another skate in the crossover in the backstretch so I kind of messed my race up and I wanted the 1,500 a bit more."
Howe's gone from a promising prospect to watch over the past few years to a fast and furious medal threat, especially last season, where he won his first world cup and world championship podiums in team pursuit and had a career-best sixth in the 1,500m on the international scene.
The huge win on Canadian soil this past weekend qualified Howe to head overseas again for the International Skating Union world cups starting on Nov. 11 in Poland. Over a month, Howe takes on the world's best and potential Beijing foes to determine on points who the participants are at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
"That's my big goal and I think it's doable ... I think I should be able to [qualify] in the world cups," said Howe, a former pupil of Banff/Canmore Speed Skating.
"We'll be on the road and away quite a bit, so staying focused, like, continuing my plan so I can repeat kind of what I've been doing and what happened this weekend, I can carry that forward."
Other world cup stops include Norway (Nov. 18-20), Salt Lake City, U.S.A (Dec. 2-4) and races wrap up in Calgary from Dec. 9-11.
A final chance to qualify at the Olympic Skate-Off between Dec. 27-31 in Quebec City.