Gaétan Boucher: major champion

It’s been more than 25 years since Gaétan Boucher laced up skating. The last time was during the exhibition held in Calgary in 1997. Despite the years, the champion’s DNA is still in him.

The Canadian speed skating pioneer never lost a race, either in Quebec City in 1996 or in the World Allround Masters Games in Berlin, Germany the following year.

“But it’s been eight years since my career ended. I was still physically fitter and stronger than other skaters my age,” recalls the athlete, who will compete in the 65-69 age group at the Center de glaces de Québec next weekend. I will be 65 years old in May.

“If I win the 500m, 1000m and 1500m, I will definitely try hard not to lose the 3000m! But it will be difficult,” he admits very humbly.

to skate

Thursday’s meet in Sainte-Foy’s eponymous inner ring after his best 400m of the year without forcing too much, Boucher skated with fluidity and power.

But this is not an unexpected result for the two-time Olympic champion.

Age, long-term inactivity, physical condition, and equipment also come into play. Over time, skates have changed. Now they are equipped with a board.

“It is more unstable, observes the resident of the district of Charlesbourg in the Capitale-Nationale. If earlier we pushed with the heel to prevent the front part of the blade from entering the ice, now we push with the tip of the foot.

“It’s an adaptation that’s best done when you go slowly. I spent 30 years skating a certain way, so when I try to go fast, the old way comes back. But I’m concentrating and it’s starting to get better.”

Not easy for a technician like Gaétan Boucher.

Rating 1 out of 10

As he did when he was a member of the national team, the skating legend records his performances.

“Technically, I gave myself 1 out of 10 in my first race of the year. There was a lot of nervousness, like it had been a long time since I skated and a lot of people wanted to see me. I was just trying to go fast. It was really zero,” Boucher says with honesty and Olympian calm.

“In spite of everything, it gave me the second best time in the world [dans sa catégorie]. I was disappointed, but I told myself that I had done bad skating this time. There was some reassurance. If I skate like in training, I will go technically better, faster. Last week I had the fastest time in the world at 1000m. If I focus on control and technique, I have no reason to be upset.

Some aspects are like riding a bike and are unforgettable.

“Weight transfer, strength, loss, it’s going well. Looks like I did it before. He didn’t go.”

Valuable advice

Boucher can count on the advice of friends like former Sarajevo and Calgary Games teammate Benoit Lamarche, Nagano Games François Drolet, or long track national team coach Gregor to help him prepare. Jelonek.

The camaraderie that the four-time Olympic medalist misses.

“I missed the group life with my teammates. We go for bike rides, we have dinner. We are a good team. I have the same thing with my golf buddies in the Montreal area. When I skated, we were together for 6 months 24 hours…”

Speed

Boucher also rediscovers the feelings that shook him in the past.

“Adrenaline, the taste of speed… driving around the corner at 50 km/h […], you must be in control. This is fun. And there is a taste for physical self-exaltation. I get what I pay for in ice cream! It’s fun to come back and have a practice routine. It’s difficult, but I missed it,” concludes the former Olympian.

“I know I have a chance to win”

Gaétan Boucher knows all eyes will be on him next weekend. The Olympic champion will be the man to win the World Allround Masters Games.

“For someone who’s never been to the Olympics and is in the same category as a guy who’s winning, that should be extra motivation,” Boucher admits. I have that pressure. But I like to skate and I’m very proud.

And the amount of media attention he’s received over the past few weeks also adds a certain weight to his shoulders.

“But the pressure is always on me. People say that the important thing is to participate, but I would like to win. I know I have a chance to win, he says confidently. If I had realized in November or December that the best I could do was eighth or 10th, I’m not sure I would have entered.

Finally healthy

Despite the knee problems, Boucher began thinking about returning to skating after the construction of an indoor ring in Quebec was announced.

“If the ring had been there before, I wouldn’t have stopped, I would have contacted. [avec mon sport]. But coming to skate in extreme conditions, very cold, very windy, dirty ice because of the neighboring boulevard, I didn’t like it.

But he started training on the outer ice ring of the Plains of Ibrahim two years ago. It then moved to the new Ice Center, which opened at the end of summer 2021.

But the problem in his heart slowed down his preparation. He couldn’t get them all out. But in August last year, when the 90% blocked artery was unblocked, he was finally able to open the car.

“I was advised not to compete before February!” Boucher laughs. I told the cardiologist that the championship is at the end of January. He told me that a few weeks is fine, but be careful.

Boisbriand-Quebec

Every week since September, the Boisbriand resident makes the trip from Thursday to Saturday and sometimes Sunday to skate in Quebec.

But the general manager of the corporation that manages the sports complex on Montreal’s North Shore is beginning to find all these trips tiring.

“Sometimes I take the elevator and I don’t know what floor I’m on because I’m always changing my seat.”

This is just the beginning

Despite the pitfalls, Boucher is still passionate about her sport and wants to continue training and competing.

“I want to continue, I want to train a lot this summer. I’ve lost about 10 pounds since the beginning of the summer. I skate well, better, better and faster. I don’t want this to go away. I want to enjoy it while I can. But next week we will start the race!”

– Entry to the All-Distance Speed ​​Skating World Masters Games at the Center de glaces de Québec from next Friday to Sunday will be free. 130 athletes aged 30-88 from 8 countries will participate in the event.

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