I took up speed skating just over one year ago and now I am a Double British Champion.
Alex Snowdon, 12.
Having previously been a competitive ice dancer it was a huge decision for me to change sporting discipline but after watching Elise Christie compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics I knew it was the right thing to do. The excitement and adrenaline rush I felt when I watched her skate at speed was like nothing I had felt before and I knew that this was the sport for me.
It was a big decision though. At the time I was a successful ice dancer and had represented GB at international competitions in Denmark and Andorra, winning five international medals (four golds and one bronze) along the way. I was also a member of figure skating’s National Development Squad and the youngest person in the UK to have ever qualified for a British Figure Skating Championship, having qualified for the British Solo Ice Dance Championships when I was just 7 years of age (finishing in 7th place/20 in an U12 category).
When I took the decision to move exclusively into speed skating, ice dance had been my life for more than seven years. I had enjoyed considerable success in it and was the reigning British U12 Solo Ice Dance Silver Medallist. In short, who would give all that up? After all leaving would mean starting at the very bottom once again with no guarantee that I would ever achieve the same level of success.
After talking it through at length with my parents we all decided that I should take three months out from ice dance to see if speed skating really was for me. After just six weeks I decided that it definitely was and formerly joined both Aldwych Speed Skating Club in Guildford (where I receive short track coaching from Head Coach Tony Gallon and coach Gerrard Williams) and UK Longtrack based out of De Uithof in The Hague, Netherlands.
As there are no longtrack rinks in the UK I travel regularly at weekends to the Netherlands for training from the UK Longtrack coaching team, headed up by Dutchman Piet Knip. It is an intensive weekend of training with lots of ice time.
The British longtrack team all train in the Netherlands as the Dutch are the worlds best at longtrack and facilities within the country are first rate.
Through great coaching and determination I was able to progress quickly in both short track and longtrack. There are many reasons for my quick progress but I believe it was mainly due to having already developed strong muscles, being physically fit, having good coordination and because my ice dance coaches had instilled in me both a love for the ice and the right attitude when it comes to learning. Listening, learning from your mistakes and practicing over and over again what you have been taught are key to developing in any sport and I had learned this lesson from a young age.
I am also grateful to my ice dance coaches at Streatham Ice and Leisure Centre (Diane, Philippa and Candice Towler-Green) as they gave me everything I needed, physically, mentally and emotionally to change discipline successfully. Through their successful coaching I had also tasted what life was like on the podium and it was this that drove me to want to get back there as quickly as possible in my new sport.
Over the course of my first year I trained hard, I listened intently, I analysed top speed skater technique and I entered competition after competition, both in the UK and overseas. As a result I saw my competitive times improve month on month and to the point where I suddenly found myself making the A Finals, winning medals and being a regular on the podium once again.
In longtrack speed skating I achieved the qualifying times needed to represent GB at two international competitions; Country Match in Hamar, Norway and the Viking Race (European Youth Championships) in Heerenveen, Netherlands where I finished in the top 8 out of 24. At these two competitions I really felt all my hard work was starting to pay off, and at the Viking Race in particular, I learnt that I had broken three British U13 National Records for the 500m, 1000m & 1500m which was a wonderful surprise and totally unexpected.
In short track speed skating I managed to get my 500m time to below 57 seconds (I am currently at 51 seconds) and in so doing I qualified for the ISU Star Class, a European wide competition series exclusively for elite young speed skaters. Europe’s best Junior skaters get to compete against each other at Star Class and I never thought in my first year I would achieve this goal but I did!
As my competitive times improved throughout the year I also found my name starting to appear on the speed skating world rankings alongside top skaters from the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, Korea and China and towards the end of my first season I now have a world ranking as low as 13 in one distance (333m).
In March this year I qualified for both the British Longtrack Championships, held in The Ha
gue and the British Short Track Championships, held in Sheffield. I won multiple gold medals at both championships and as such I am now a Double 2019 British Champion.
I have been supported by the GLL Sport Foundation for almost five years. The financial support given to me each year has contributed to my coaching and travel costs and the free access to swimming pools and gyms has really helped in supporting my general fitness needs. I am grateful to the GLL Sport Foundation for believing in me and proud to be a supported athlete.
Speed skating is an exhilarating sport and my ambition is to compete for GB at the 2026 Winter Olympics. If I continue to grow and develop in the sport I feel this to be a real possibility.
In order to support my Olympic ambition I have joined two further speed skating clubs this year that jointly support my training and development needs. USF, based in Paris, are a high achieving French short track club and this gives me access to their coaches and all the French competitions including the Championnats de France where this year I competed and where I won triple bronze medals.
I have also joined IJsclub Voorwaarts in the Netherlands. Once again this gives me access to all the Dutch longtrack competitions and the opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best longtrack speed skaters. I will only get better as a speed skater if I compete against skaters who are faster than me.