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N.B. speed skaters at international event are proud of where they came from

Rikki Doak, seen in this file from last October, is one of two New Brunswickers representing Canada at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships that run until Sunday.  (Jean-Christophe Pochat/CBC - image credit)
Rikki Doak, seen in this file from last October, is one of two New Brunswickers representing Canada at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships that run until Sunday. (Jean-Christophe Pochat/CBC - image credit)

Rikki Doak still gets nervous before a race, but the Fredericton speed skater has a simple way to "get in the zone" before she competes in front of a sold-out stadium in Rotterdam, Netherlands — she will put in her headphones and listen to a mix of rock 'n' roll, and Taylor Swift.

Doak is one of two New Brunswickers representing Canada at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships that run until Sunday.

Courtney Sarault from Moncton is also skating for Canada.

"I feel like we kind of have a connection from being both from New Brunswick, and I feel like we're both proud to represent New Brunswick while still representing Canada," Doak said.

"I feel like that's really special, that I can have someone like her to travel with, train with and compete with."

This isn't Doak's first big race. She represented New Brunswick at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George in 2015, where she came away with a silver medal in the women's relay. She made her World Cup debut in the 2019-2020 season.

Doak made history with Sarault when the pair became the first two speed skaters to represent New Brunswick at the World Cup since 2000.

"I like that Courtney and I have shown that we're able to go from a small town to be able to go internationally," Doak said.

"I feel proud that I came from Fredericton, New Brunswick, and yeah, I just wanted to let the people that are still training their young kids know that it's possible to go from that to here."

In this file photo, Florence Brunelle, Renée Steege, Courtney Sarault, Rikki Doak, and Danae Blais show their medals at Short Track Speed Skating World Cup Montreal with the American and Dutch teams on October 22, 2023.
In this file photo, Florence Brunelle, Renée Steege, Courtney Sarault, Rikki Doak, and Danae Blais show their medals at Short Track Speed Skating World Cup Montreal with the American and Dutch teams on October 22, 2023.

In this file photo, Florence Brunelle, Renée Steege, Courtney Sarault, Rikki Doak, and Danae Blais show their medals at Short Track Speed Skating World Cup Montreal with the American and Dutch teams on Oct. 22, 2023. (Jean-Christophe Pochat/CBC)

Doak said she's feeling good and looking forward to working with other long-time athletes like Kim Boutin, a three-time Olympic medallist with 50 medals under her belt.

As the current world record holder in the 500 metre, Doak said Boutin gives her lots of advice on how to skate faster.

"I feel like there's no one really better to get advice from than the one that is the fastest. So yeah, I feel like there's nothing that I could have better than her to look up to," Doak said.

The qualifying races for individual distances and relays began on Friday with medals being awarded in the 500 metre and 1,500 metre on Saturday, and medals for the 1,000 metre and all three relays on Sunday.

Speed skaters from more than 30 countries will compete for medals in the 500 metre, 1,000 metre, 1,500 metre for men's and women's races, and for the 2,000 metre mixed relay, 3,000 metre women's relay and the 5,000 metre men's relay.

Doak will be competing in the women's relay and individually in the 500-metre race, which she said is her favourite part.

"It's the speed. It's the only distance that's a full-on sprint from the start. I like that I can just go as fast as I can," Doak said.

"I don't have to think too much. In a 1,500 metre, I feel like my brain has just too many thoughts going through it. And then the 500, it's really like instinct. The moves have to come or you don't pass. I like all the craziness in that."

On Friday morning, Doak placed first with 43.514 seconds in her first heat, qualifying for the next round, with second place opponent Valentina Ascic from Croatia coming in at 44.341 seconds. Sarault placed second in the 1,500-metre quarter finals.

Races will be live-streamed both on CBC Sports and Radio-Canada Sports digital platforms.