Aug. 8, 2022
Olympic Oval speedskating expert recognized internationally
Gregg Planert isn’t a household name to many, but in the speedskating world, he is one of the pioneers of speedskating development in Canada and a minor celebrity.
Some would characterize Planert, high-performance competitions co-ordinator at the UCalgary Olympic Oval, as a technical wizard, while others say, “He just knows it all.”
He has been involved with the speedskating community for over 60 years. Now he is helping all of Canada with his deep expertise as a newly appointed international sport expert. The credential recognizes his extensive technical and operational speedskating competition knowledge and experience.
The Planert family sold speed skates in Chicago from 1904 to 1960. Growing up in a speedskating family, Planert has been involved since he was very young. He skated for nearly 20 years, including six years on the Canadian National Team, and coached in Winnipeg shortly after that.
Fast-forward to 1987. Planert became the apprentice coach to Jack Walters, National coach of Canada from 1978 to 1988, and coached the development team that year before the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games. Planert has been with the Olympic Oval ever since as a coach and high-performance competitions co-ordinator.
“Seeing skaters grow has been the most noticeable change over the years. It’s been amazing to see how the sport has evolved,” says Planert.
International sport expert
In 2007, the International Skating Union (ISU) introduced international sports experts as a competition requirement for speedskating competitions. Before that, Planert was already piloting this idea in China for World Cups and World Championships. Then, he integrated his expertise and knowledge into the delivery of the Olympic Oval’s infield technology (i.e., timing systems and lap counting), training and staffing qualifications. The role evolved into a tech event for each major speedskating event.
The ISU then began implementing Planert's expertise worldwide for national governing bodies running competitions in their respective countries. This year, international sport experts are represented in Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United States.
Planert’s expertise is entirely unique and something the Olympic Oval has benefitted from considerably. “Gregg’s connections with the international skating world have been instrumental in helping the Oval succeed as a legacy facility for over 35 years,” said Mark Messer, interim director, Olympic Oval.
What speedskating will be like in the next 20 years
Skaters, technology, and facilities will continue to improve worldwide with more funding and resources. More and more countries are developing the sport, which will also benefit speedskating.
“Skaters will get a little faster, but we are getting to the point now where there are speed limitations with human beings — but we will continue to try new things to see where these limitations can be tested,” says Planert.
Canada will continue to develop more Canadian athletes — especially with the newly built Centre de Glaces de Québec in Québec City. The two facilities are uniquely positioned to support both eastern and western Canadian speedskating development and high performance.
The Olympic Oval will celebrate its 35th year on Sept. 27, 2022. As staff prepare for the anniversary, there is also an initiative to help secure funding to prolong the life of the Olympic Oval for the next 35 years. Capital investment is needed to secure its long-term future. Learn more about the Olympic Oval Capital Enhancement Fund.