Kiwi skaters will face talented opposition

International speed skating is returning to the Caroline Bay with an open invitational event this weekend.

Three Australian men and three women are crossing the Tasman to put the finishing touches to their buildup to the world championships.

All the New Zealand-based Kiwis heading to Italy will also attend as Timaru's banked track is acknowledged as the place to train and race in Australasia.

In the women's field, Timaru's Samantha Michael and Waimate's Emily van der Heyden will face Australian star Angeline Thomas Byrne, along with Upper Hutt's Stephanie Challis.

Byrne finished fourth in the 1000m at last year's world championships and cleaned up the shorter distances at the Oceania Championships in Timaru earlier this year, so will give the locals some stiff competition.

Australia's Ariel Chu and Delice Siran are likely to challenge the Whanganui pair of Rebecca Smith and Jessicca van Bentum in the junior competition. In the senior men's event, New Zealand's Antony Nalder and Dale Christopherson will face Australian Paul Garriga.

The junior competition will be tough with Kiwis Josh Whyte (Kapiti), Ollie Jones (Hutt Valley) and Mark MacDonald (Christchurch) up against Australians Harry Stogdale and John Bueker.

The field has further flavour with exchange students Theo Bompas, from France, and Stefan Emele, from Germany, taking part.

There will also be a large contingent from the South Canterbury Speed Skating Club competing .

New Zealand coach Bill Begg said it is a great opportunity for the team to get some tough competition before departing.

"They certainly rate us and it also shows what a wonderful facility the people of South Canterbury contributed to building - as having the Australians come to train in New Zealand is unheard of."

The action starts at 9.30am at the Caroline Bay rink and should provide a good spectacle over the weekend.

The Timaru Herald