McNeil's speeding is just the ticket for work and play

April 07, 2005, vol. 32, no. 7
By Carol Thorbes

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As Nancy McNeil rounds the corner on her way to her office at Simon Fraser University's Strand hall, she smiles quickly at passersby and resumes planning her day.

It is filled with the kind of project balancing and head spinning travel that requires the sure step of an expert speed skater.

McNeil, a research grants officer by day who makes sure the Ts are crossed and the Is dotted on SFU faculty members' research grant applications, recently donned an additional hat.

As the media and promotions coordinator of the 2005 Canada Post Canadian age class short track championships, McNeil pursued media coverage of the national speed skating competition in early April.

The Coquitlam resident's 17-year old daughter Shaelagh was spotlighted in Province newspaper reporter Terry Bell's Feb. 6 review of B.C. Olympic hopefuls for the 2010 winter games in Vancouver, B.C. Shaelagh was the 2003-2004 B.C. short track intermediate women's champion.

Graduating from Terry Fox secondary school this spring, Shaelagh has her sights set on studying psychology at SFU and competing in the long track speed skating category at the 2010 Olympics.

“As much as Shaelagh loves short track, serious injuries have motivated her to switch to long track. It has fewer competitors skating shoulder to shoulder than short track,” says McNeil, a former master's long track gold medalist. “Like me, Shaelagh also prefers the fresh outdoor skating of long track competition as opposed to the indoor arena skating of short track.”

Despite formidable odds, McNeil helped secure the bid for B.C. to host the national short track championships for the first time in many years. The event, held at the South Surrey arena, attracted about 186 short track speed skaters in the midgets (ages 10 to 11) to seniors (18 years plus) classes.

“The short track national championships are usually held on the Prairies or back east,” says McNeil, a former executive member of the Ridge Meadow Racers speed skating club. “There is a much larger skating base and more potential for parental involvement in central and eastern Canada than here.”

Now finished with preparing a bilingual event brochure, posters and banners meeting sponsorship requirements and working with a photographer, McNeil is still not slowing down.

Getting ready to run her fifth half marathon in May, working in her garden with her husband, and meeting research grant application deadlines still have her speeding around office corners.

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