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Thousands turn out for first day of international speed skating competition

Today (Friday 9th January), the first day of the International ISU Star Class Short Track Speed Skating competition took place at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre (NIC). Three thousand school children attended the opening day of the event, where they were able to watch Team GB’s elite short track speed skating squad take on the best athletes from Western Europe.

The whole GB Short Track squad, who are all part of NISA’s World Class Short Track Programme, were competing today and with the event taking place on home ice, they really wanted to show supporters what they are made of.

Two time Olympian and current European Champion, Elise Christie was among those skating. She said: “The atmosphere in the arena today was electric. All the school children really got behind us and it meant a lot to the whole squad that they all came out to see us compete. Some of those children have probably never seen speed skating up close and I hope that we have been able to inspire the next generation of potential athletes.”

Over 100 competitors from 14 nations are competing part in the Star Class competition which will continue over the weekend (Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th January).

The races began with the individual 1500m distances today. Elise Christie dominated the Ladies event, claiming Gold. She was followed closely by team mate, Charlotte Gilmartin. Belgium’s Hanne Desmet claimed the Bronze medal.

The Men’s 1500m saw eight competitors take to the ice for the final; Dennis Visser from Holland claimed Gold and Britain’s Richard Shoebridge took Silver. Koen Hakkenberg, also from the Netherlands, skated his way to take the Bronze medal.

Shoebridge, who is part of NISA’s World Class Short Track Programme said: “I’m pleased with how the race went today. The final was a lot more intense than usual because there were eight of us on the ice. Strategy really came in to play and it was a really exciting race for both the athletes and the crowds. Today was my first time back on the ice as I’ve had a knee injury, so it’s great to come away with a medal. I’m now looking towards the 1000m race this weekend.”

Stuart Horsepool, Performance Director for the GB Short Track squad, said: “The skaters performed very well today and I think a major factor in their success was the fact that they had such a huge crowd of supporters cheering them on. Schools from as far as Birmingham and Northampton travelled to Nottingham support the team which was overwhelming. Some of the kids in the crowd could be the next Olympians and I’m glad that they got the opportunity to see the racing up close.

“This weekend’s competition provides a rare opportunity for the public to see a Winter Olympic sport up close on home ice, so I’d encourage them to come along and support our skaters.”

Three time Olympian and Team GB Flagbearer from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, added: “The first day of the competition has been superb. The kids in the crowd made it really exciting for the whole squad and their support really helped the team performance.

“I hope the public will come along to see us in action this weekend because crowd spectator support really does help us to compete to our full potential. We have the 500m finals on Saturday, which is my favourite event and probably the most exciting to watch as it’s so fast paced”.

The ISU Star Class Competition will continue over this weekend (10th and 11th January) and it is open for the public to attend. Tickets are still available online via the Capital FM website at capitalfmarena.com. They can also be purchased on the door.