Speedskater at Olympic Oval
Women’s 500m — Oval Grand Prix Bimalpreet Grewl @luvcanphotography

May 20, 2022

UCalgary’s Olympic Oval selected as a Centre of Excellence by International Skating Union

Designation brings new business, grows the sport for new athletes here and abroad

The Olympic Oval offers a unique high-performance training environment. A combination of programming, ice technology, and location on the University of Calgary campus ensures its consistency in providing a high-performance environment. UCalgary is one of the few universities globally positioned to be able to support the Olympic Oval.

The International Skating Union named the Olympic Oval, alongside eight other locations worldwide, a Centre of Excellence hub in October 2019. After a two-year pilot phase, the Olympic Oval is now fully designated as a Centre of Excellence. This designation is valid until 2026. 

"We are probably one of the best training facilities in the world due in no small part to 35 years of experience, thousands of personal bests, hundreds of world records and many Olympic medals," says Cam MacLeod, operations team lead. 

This is also where the education of coaches and officials, training of skaters, and various seminars, webinars and workshops are held. Within each Centre of Excellence, skaters, coaches and officials have access to high-quality experts, services and sufficient on-and-off-ice facilities. 

Olympic Oval is 'the fastest ice in the world'

MacLeod has been with the Olympic Oval since 1987 and has seen how ice technology, training and the sport of speedskating have changed. The Olympic Oval's ice operations team, led by operations manager Mark Messer, has supported six out of seven Winter Olympic Games since 1992 to produce their speedskating ice.

 "Our ice has stability, consistency, quality, and our teams always commit to high-performance training. Although we are a public facility, the focus is on high performance, which allows for the proper time and resources to dedicate to that," says Crispin Parkinson, facility team lead and former high-performance long track coach. 

The Olympic Oval has delivered "The Fastest Ice in the World" for 35 years. The secret is a comprehensive understanding of water, air temperature, humidity, altitude and ice conditions combined with technical ice resurfacing expertise. As a result, 26 Olympians have won 36 Olympic medals, including five from this year's Olympic Games in Beijing, China. 

What do the next four years entail as a Centre of Excellence?

The Olympic Oval will be providing many opportunities to athletes and coaches to help grow the sport within and outside of Canada.

"We are now recognized as a Centre of Excellence — which we have known for a long time. This designation means that we have the opportunity and the obligation to help promote the sport to countries that are still developing speedskating like Colombia, India and Taiwan," says Kevin Crockett, stage 2/3 long track sprint coach. 

For years, the Olympic Oval has been an international training hub, but the new designation helps bring in new business and grow the sport for new athletes. It also benefits the growth of speedskating domestically within Alberta and Canada. 

The next four years will be an exciting time for speedskating as a Centre of Excellence. Part of the bigger picture involves the Oval's Capital Enhancement Initiative — designed to prolong the life of the Olympic Oval for the next 35 years. 

"The Olympic Oval is an incredible example of sport legacy, sport building and community integration at its finest. It is critically important to Calgary's sport and recreation community, our future university athletes, and athletes from across the world that we come together as a community to support the future of the Olympic Oval for the next 35 years," says Peter McCrory, director of the Olympic Oval.

Learn more about the Capital Enhancement Initiative.