Speed Skating

Laurent Dubreuil - Monday Jan. 13, 2014 09:05

Laurent Dubreuil: Not making Olympic team 'still hurts'

Speed skater reflects on missing Sochi qualification

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Laurent Dubreuil, 21-year-old native from Lévis, Que., is competing at the Olympic trials. (Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

I’m not going to pretend, it still hurts. I wonder if this pain will really go away one day. In any case, I will never forget this feeling, the feeling of being excluded from the Canadian long track speed skating team that will participate to the Winter Olympic Games of 2014.

I can’t even find the words to explain what I felt when the axe fell after my last strides at the rink in Calgary in early January. The disappointment is so vivid that it has been following me everywhere ever since.

Enough is enough. Even though the margin that separates me from Sochi ended up being only 5-100ths of a second, I was too slow that day. I know the rules: I had to qualify among the four best sprinters in the country to reach my ambitions. But here I am, stuck in fifth position, nurturing my disappointment in silence. I can assure you that it isn’t pleasant to get a consolation prize.

Most of all I don’t want to bemoan my origins, but had I not been Canadian, my performance at the Olympic selections would have sent me straight to Sochi. Today, I could defend the colours of any country in the world, except for the Dutch team.

There will be maybe four Canadians in the top 10 in Sochi and I won’t be one of them. I accept the verdict. It’s the law of my sport, which I adore. But now I have to face this reality.

In Canada, we are a real powerhouse in sprint. The great champion Jeremy Wotherspoon, who was attempting a comeback, missed his qualification by 6-100ths, just behind me. So I’m not alone in this.

If it’s normal to go through emotions, it is also good to be able to manage your own reactions in a sensible manner. There’s no need to throw a tantrum to show I’m disappointed. Even though I hate to lose, I have to be able to maximize my failures. It’s what they call a life lesson, and right now, I’m having my own.

A blunder and some doubts

After having stuck the blade into the ice in my second curve during the first 500 metre race, I knew I had made a stupid mistake. I never do that in training. So when I was on the starting line for the second and more decisive race, I wasn’t able to let go of this blunder in my head. I even became agitated. And yet I was still strong, with 1-100ths from fourth place!

This did not help my next performance. After having completed that second 500 metre race, I did not have the feeling that I had possibly qualified. If my time had lasted until the end, it would have been because somebody would have answered my prayers. But four out of six katers still in the race realized their dream in my place instead, including my friend and long-time training partner Muncef Ouardi.

I really want to congratulate him. Muncef and I are not rivals. We have worked together to get better, we could have both gone to Sochi. In the end, Muncef will go and I’m happy for him, even though I don’t get to go.

These Games are going to be a real life test for me. I anticipate a strong reaction on my part, but I’m not going to close my eyes or hide under the table! I might be sitting on the sidelines in 2014, but I want to attend the Games of 2018 and 2022. In February, I intend to take advantage from a distance and to support my teammates.

I’ve also been very touched by the support of friends, family and others in Quebec. Many people congratulated me on being able to maintain a good attitude in the face of my defeat. I think I reacted like a man. I’m not ashamed of what I’ve accomplished.

In the coming days I’m going to Japan, where I will take part in the world championships. I know that some good skaters, such as Muncef, have preferred to forfeit these events in order to prepare for the Games. It’s understandable; I would have done the same thing had I been in his position.

Yes, today I’m still sad. But I will go to Japan to chase the sadness away and regain some momentum. After all, I am going to Japan to practice my favourite sport. And it’s not a competition for clowns either!

I wish a nice Olympics to all.

(As told to Jean-François Poirier)

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