Guelph native Westley Yates continued his rise in world short track speed skating as he made his World Cup debut in Dresden, Germany, on the weekend.
The meet comes a little less than a year after he represented Great Britain at the world junior championships.
“It's the same level of excitement -- maybe a little bit more because everyone can be any age,” the 19-year-old said during a Skype interview. “I'm just excited to dip my toes into this next level to see how it goes.”
Finding out he was selected to compete in back-to-back World Cups was a bit of a Christmas present as he found out during the nearly two weeks he returned to Guelph to celebrate the holidays.
“I had a competition in Italy and then I came home from that about Dec. 17th,” he said. “I was back in England about the 30th of December.”
The second World Cup meet for Yates is to be next weekend’s meet in Dordrecht, Netherlands.
Yates and the rest of the British team spent a few days in Dresden getting ready for the World Cup meet.
“We got here on Sunday and we started training on Monday,” he said. “We've been on ice pretty much every day since Monday and also doing off-ice sessions as well. We've been training twice a day, acclimatising and getting ready for the competition.”
The teams get about an hour of ice time each day and they often share that time with other teams. The British squad shared ice time with the U.S. one day and France another. However, that doesn’t mean the teams raced against one another.
“We have our own things that we're doing,” Yates said. “Every team is at a different stage. (We race) a little bit sometimes if we're in a relay, but we're not typically skating with other teams. They'll go and do their effort and then that'll be our rest and then we'll go and do our set and that'll be their rest. Sometimes we'll do a relay together to get a bit fun.”
Competing in the back-to-back World Cups means Yates is away from his home base in Nottingham for 14 or 15 days.
“It's a lot of packing, that's for sure.”
Yates moved to England shortly after graduating from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School in June of 2018. A lot of the expenditures to compete in the sport come out of his own pocket.
“We still don't have very much funding for speed skating,” he said. “We're still supporting ourselves and it can be tough sometimes. It makes sure you love what you're doing when you're supporting yourself.”
He’s also started taking some online classes to keep his schooling up.
“I've started doing some online degrees at Athabasca University,” he said. “I'm taking some math courses and some computer courses on there because I can't go to British school until 2021 — the summer of 2021.”
Yates also works at a rink in Nottingham, mainly when concerts are held there.
“It's cool to see how they transform the rink from an ice rink to a concert hall or a basketball court or something like that,” he said.
“It helps support what I do and also they're understanding if I go away for two weeks like this. There's no problem with it whereas other places might not necessarily understand what we do.”
As for his first World Cup meets, he has fairly modest goals. He’s to race in two distances, the 1,000 metres and 1,500 metres.
“I'd say top 32 in one of the distances would be a goal,” he said. “I won't be disappointed if I don't attain that because it's only my first time at the World Cups and no matter how it goes, the only way I can go is up. (It’s for) the experience and also trying to do your best and leave it all out there.”
And Yates has no second thoughts about making the move to Britain.
“I have no regrets for doing it,” he said. “No doubt it's been tough. It's not been easy, but it's been well worth it -- especially chasing the dream of going to the Olympics. I'm definitely closer to that.”