Speed skater dreams of Olympic glory

By in Community, Health & Fitness, People, Places, Events, & History
Paisley Perrie leads the pack around a bend at the 2009 Canadian Championships in Cambridge. Photo Courtesy Alex Perrie

Paisley Perrie leads the pack around a bend at the
2009 Canadian Championships in Cambridge.
 Alex Perrie photo

While the world’s attention is focused on the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver this month, Paisley Perrie will be watching too. However, the 13-year-old Minto youth will also have her eye on a future Olympics, one in which she hopes to be part of the Canadian contingent striving for gold.
At the age of 13, Paisley has pretty much re-written the Ontario record book for youth skaters in both long and short track speed skating. She holds a total of 14 provincial records in various age categories. Earlier this season she won her fifth Ontario
long track championship in a row and claimed the Canadian long track championship for the second year.  Last December, in Madison, Wisconsin, she tied for the North American short track title. She is currently ranked No. 1 in Ontario in the Juvenile girls division for short track and, while this year’s rankings aren’t out yet, was ranked No. 1 in long track the previous season. Last summer CTV asked Paisley, as a legitimate Olympic hopeful, to be part of their “Do you Believe” series of promotional television commercials.
“She is a very driven, self-motivated little girl, notes her father, Alex Perrie.
Paisley has been on skates since she was 14 months old, when she donned a set of roller blades for a 10 kilometre competition. While she didn’t complete the race – “She went around the track a few times,” he father recalls – she did begin a love of skating that has led her to high-level competitions in Ontario, Quebec, Western Canada, the United States and Germany.
“I actually started the ice skating as a cross-trainer for in-line. Now, I do in-line to cross train for ice,” she explains. In fact, she feels the years of in-line skating, which requires a heavier skate, has helped her build up the power needed to excel at the ice version of the sport.
In addition to inline, short and long track speed skating, Paisley started marathon ice racing with the MSI association (Marathon Skaters International) at the age of nine. She skated several marathons each year and won the under-18 ladies division in 2005, 2006 and 2007. She finished sixth at Sylvan Lake when, at the age of 10, she skated the 100-km race in three hours, 47 min and was actually leading at the 50 km mark. She came back the following year in Edmonton and won the overall North American Ladies 50 km title at age 11.
For as long as she can remember, Paisley has dreamed of skating for her country in the Olympics. However, despite her impressive accomplishments, she knows her goal lies at the end of a long road. To begin with, she has to wait until she is 15, and old enough to try out for the Canada’s junior team, which competes in World Cup events, before she can be eligible to try out for the Olympic squad.
Making the grade is also about opportunity, notes Alex, a member of Canada’s first Roller Sports Team in 1973. Perrie, who operates Alex Perrie Mechanical from the family’s home in Minto Township, built an in-line skating track, to international competition standards, in his backyard, so Paisley and her siblings, Elizabeth, A.J. and Evan could skate. In hindsight, he notes, he wouldn’t have banked the track so it could be used for ice-skating. A lack of ovals is a huge stumbling block for Ontario speed skaters, the Perries have found.
“There’s only two ovals in Ontario, but they’re not refrigerated. So it really depends on the weather if they’re good enough to skate on,” says Paisley. As those two ovals are located in Ottawa and Sault Ste. Marie, that means her only chance to skate on them is for competitions.
“For long track, I pretty much don’t train. I just show up, get in a couple of warm-ups, and skate.”
Training for Paisley includes three trips to the arena at Waterloo’s RIM Park each week, plus dry-land training in-between. She also hits the ice at arenas in Harriston, Palmerston and Clifford for public skating whenever possible.
Because of the lack of facilities, Alex says the family will have to either move out of province, or build an oval on their property, in order for Paisley to reach her goal of Olympic competition. Both options, though highly expensive and disruptive, are currently under consideration.
Without access to a refrigerated oval and high level coaching, “You’re not getting there,” states Alex.
While she does have opportunities to hang with her friends and do the type of activities all young teens enjoy, Paisley, a Grade 8 student at Minto Clifford Public School, also often has to say ‘Sorry, I have to go somewhere and skate.”
While attaining the Olympic dream can bring glory, fame and, sometimes, lucrative endorsement deals, for Paisley, the motivation is simple.
“I love to skate. Every time I’m on the ice, I’m happy.”
“When that’s not your motivation, it’s time to quit,” adds Alex.