Welcome to my blog! This is a site where you can keep up to date on my life as a full-time athlete in the sport of cross country skiing. You can expect regular updates throughout the year as I report on training, racing, life in general and maybe even some school. Sponsors, family, friends and fans: Enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Athlete of the Week: A Northern Legend in the Making

For the inaugural bi-weekly-ish “Athlete of the Week” series I conducted an interview with one of the current sport superstars from the North. Among being one of the best short track speed skaters in the world, he is also a close friend and we grew up together way up here in Yellowknife, NT. I’m currently in the YK ‘hood so this is the opportune time to be talking about the North in blog articles (and showcasing northern talent…).


TD: Alright, state your name for the record.

MG: Michael Gilday

TD: Now give us a little background information on yourself for those of us who don’t know you. Stuff about your upbringing, what sport you do, how old you are, etc…

MG: Ok, well, I’m 21 years old and I’m from Yellowknife, NWT. I was actually born in Iqaluit, but moved to YK when I was 2. Most of my childhood was spent outside camping, canoeing, at the cabin. You know just trying to take advantage of the amazing wilderness we have in the north. When I was younger I was involved in quite a few sports, namely, short track speed skating, cross country skiing and soccer. I also did quite a bit of mountain biking whenever I could. As I got older, it seemed that I did better at skating so I started to focus more on that while using skiing as a cross training sport (probably was the best sport I could do for cross training I think). I moved to Calgary after high school to pursue my skating career as well as university. I’ve been here for three seasons now, two of which were spent on the National Development Team. This year is my first season on the Senior National Team.

TD: I understand that you hold the 1000m Short Track World Record, could you tell us a little bit about this? How did you do it? What did it mean to break this record and what does it mean to this day?

MG: Ya I broke the WR last October. It was a record that had stood for almost 4 years, and was actually held by one of my coaches, Li Jiajun from China. Except for the 500m, World Records are seldom broken in races that have a lot riding on them because they tend to start more conservatively as tactics play a huge roll in short track. When I broke this record, I actually sort of “teamed up” with another skater, Guillaume Bastille from Quebec and we kind of time trialed the race. We basically decided before the race that we would work together to try and break the record and that’s what happened. In terms of what it meant to me, well its pretty cool to be a world record holder, and I’m happy that it held through the season, but ultimately world records in short track don’t mean as much as they do say in a 100m track sprint. The thing with short track is that its not always the fittest or fastest skater that wins, its often the smartest. That being said though the fastest skaters in the world still win most of the time, its just that it takes more than brawn to win a short track race.

TD: What are your main focuses (foci?) for this year? Any major inroads you want to make?

MG: This year my main goals are to spend a full season on the World Cup circuit and skate individually at World Championships. I have done World Cups the past two seasons and had good results there, but have not consistently made the racing team yet. This is the last full season of World Cups before our Olympic trials, so it will be important to gain the experience of a full season on the World Cup so that I give myself the best chance to qualify for the 2010 games.

TD: You are also an accomplished cross country skier, winning the skate race at the 2003 Western Champs as a Juvie, and there is word you are considering making a comeback some day after your speed skating days. In what form do you see this come back taking? What are aspects of skiing that you enjoy more than skating?

MG: Haha, well we will see about the comeback. You never know after I’m done skating I guess. I still really love skiing and follow it really closely but I think it would be really hard to comeback and try to compete at an elite level. If I was to come back though I think I would concentrate on sprinting, specifically free sprints (I always liked skating way more than classic). Sprinting in skiing is similar to skating in how you go through rounds advancing towards a final. A sprint course also normally takes about as long time wise as our longest distance so maybe my body would be used to that. But like I said I really love to ski and I definitely miss it. I still get out a few times a year at Christmas and in the spring though.

I think what I enjoy more about skiing than skating is the fact that its an outdoor sport. The majority of the training is done outside, doing things that I would want to be doing anyways like road biking, hiking, running, and skiing obviously. Skiers also get to go to all these little places that are outdoor meccas and explore what they have to offer for sport enthusiasts. In skating we are almost always in bigger cities and just get to see what is in between the rink and the hotel. That being said though coming to train everyday at the Olympic Oval, a facility that is second to none in the world, isn’t really much to complain about.

TD: In closing, so as to not make this entry take up my entire blogspot page, I’m guessing you’re probably pondering a little bit about your downtime after skating season. Not that this spring is going to be the perfect off-season vacation, but in your mind, what would be?

MG: Well last season I went and backpacked the Juan de Fuca Trail on Vancouver Island. That was super cool and really fun. But since we are going for the perfect off season vacation, let’s say that money isn’t an issue. In this case I think going somewhere that I could do some downhilling in deep powder and then take a helicopter down to a cabin on a beach with nice surf and few cold beers would be pretty awesome (think New Zealand). In reality though aren’t we going to Costa Rica or Brazil next year? I think that would be alllright, I guess…
Focus and calm are written on the face of G-day at Senior Team Trials.

Gilday racing at World Cups in Japan in October of '07.