Skaters to compete in Italy

STU PIDDINGTON
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2012
Samantha Michael and Emily van der Heyden
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ
TOO SLIPPERY: Rain forced South Canterbury speed skaters Samantha Michael, left, and Emily van der Heyden to miss their final practise at the Caroline Bay rink before heading to the world champions in Italy.

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South Canterbury speed skaters Emily van der Heyden and Samantha Michael head to the world champions in Italy today.

For van der Heyden it will be her first world champions and she will compete along with Upper Hutt's Stephanie Challis in the juniors.

The 15-year-old van der Heyden will face a tough task as she will be racing in the under 20 grade against much older and more experience skaters.

New Zealand coach Bill Begg said the junior grade will certainly be tough, but both girls will be striving to learn from the experience.

Michael however has plenty of experience at the world championships, having been to four but the 20-year-old will compete in the senior ranks for the first time.

"Samantha is looking for an improved performance at the worlds this year and has been training strongly and has been in impressive form," Begg said.

The coach said Michael's best chances were in the points races on the track and road.

"For Emily its probably the 1000m or the marathon. In the marathon if she hides in the bunch she has enough straight line speed to create an upset.

"It will be tough as eight countries have juniors that race as full-time pros."

Begg said the team's best chance of a title was with Peter Michael [Samantha's brother].

"Pete's the reigning world 15,000m elimination champion and world record holder, so he is the man to beat."

The men's team also includes European-based Kalon Dobbin and Scott Arlidge, along with Columbian-based Michael, while Antony Nalder and Dayle Christopherson will travel from New Zealand.

Begg said Dobbin has focused on the long track ice and Arlidge is now limited as he has a fulltime position working in the skating industry so is no longer a fulltime athlete.

"They are certainly capable but we will have to wait and see."

The junior men attending are Ollie Jones (Upper Hutt), Josh Whyte (Kapiti) and Kierryn Hughes (Palmerston North).

Begg said Hughes has been to the world champs four times.

"This year he has spent five months racing in Europe and hopefully the experience will bring better results.

"Jones is a tough distance skater and Whyte a sprinter, who went to last year's championships in Korea and should have benefited from the experience."

The track championships will be held first, starting on September 8 at Ascoli Picino and after a two-day break they switch and race on the road, with the marathon the last event on the final day.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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