Clapham skater is a multiple gold medal winner – at the age of 12

BY YANN TEAR
yann@slpmedia.co.uk

A former ice dancer who turned to speed skating just a year ago, has become a multiple gold medal winner at the British Longtrack Championships.

And what makes the achievement all the more remarkable is that the Clapham skater is still only 12.

Alex Snowdon took home three gold medals – in the 500m, Super Sprints and Mass Start categories at the championships in The Hague recently and then matched it by winning the U14 Ladies Short Track Championships title in Sheffield last weekend.

A year ago, the youngster had never thought of entering the sport. Now, her newly-discovered talent has earned her a short track world ranking as low as 13 for the 333m and a long track world ranking of 37 for the 500m, considered the most competed distance in long track speed skating.

Snowdon is no stranger to the ice though, as prior to speed skating, she was a successful ice dancer who competed for Great Britain a number of times, winning four international golds and one bronze medal. At just 10 years old, she was also the 2017 U13 British Solo Ice Dance silver medallist.

Snowdon started figure skating competitively at the age of six and quickly qualified for the BIS (British Ice Skating) national development squad, becoming their youngest member.

At seven, she was the youngest competitor to have ever qualified for a British Figure Skating Championship, having successfully qualified for the British Solo Ice Dance Championships that year.

But Snowdon has turned her back on it all by embracing this new sport – and has already proved she has what it takes to make a massive impact.

“After watching [GB skater] Elise Christie compete at the Winter Olympics last year, I knew I wanted to be a speed skater,” she said. “It just looked like it would be so much fun.

“I took time out from ice dance to focus on speed skating but after just a couple of months I decided I did not want to go back. Speed skating is my life now and I seem to have adjusted quickly to skating with super-long skates and very different blades.

“I started working really hard once I became interested and I really liked it. In September last year, I got my short track time down to 59 seconds for a 500m distance and started shaving off seconds until, at 53.2 seconds, I not only qualified to compete in the ISU (International Skating Union) Star Class series as a Junior D skater (U14) but also as a Junior C skater (U16).

“I was really happy about this, as the Star Class is a European competition series exclusively for Europe’s best young speed skaters that ultimately culminates in competing at the Europa Cup, and that is a big deal.”

Snowdon skates both short track and long track – the former is a lightning-fast, adrenaline-fuelled winter sport full of unpredictability, where skaters reach speeds of up to 50kmph on blades 46cm long and only 1mm thick. The latter is the equivalent of running races in athletics and it is regularly done on outdoor natural ice rinks.

Snowdon has an intense schedule that sees her train with Aldwych, her Guildford-based short track club during the week as well as regular travel to The Hague in the Netherlands with her parents during competition season (September to March) to train on a long track rink as there are none in the UK.

During half terms and holidays she trains with USF, her French short track club, as well as attending regular week-long training camps in destinations such as Inzell, Berlin and Montreal.

Snowdon is a weekly boarder at Roedean, the famous all girls boarding school in Brighton, where she puts in hours of fitness training during the week.

With a glittering speed skating future ahead of her, she has her eyes firmly set on competing at the 2026 Winter Olympics, the host nation of which will be announced in June this year.

“I know I can get there if I put in the training. It’s definitely something I feel I can do. It would be such a proud moment to represent my country at the Olympics.”

Snowdon has been supported financially for almost four years by the GLL Sports Foundation, the largest sporting foundation of its kind in the UK, and during this time she has seen many of their supported athletes go off to major international competitions, including the recent 2018 Winter Olympics.

Stephen Airey, the UK Longtrack team manager said: “Alex came into speed skating just one year ago and through hard work, determination and the coaching skills of UKLongtrack she has now taken the 2019 U13 British Championship title for the 500m, as well as taking gold in the Supersprint and Mass Start competitions.

“It has been a really great year for Alex as early on in the season she achieved the qualifying times to join the British youth squad in two international competitions, namely the Country Match in Hamar, Norway and the Viking Race (European Youth Championships) in Heerenveen, Netherlands, where she finished in the top eight out of 24 competitors.

“I have no doubt that Alex has a great future in British speed skating and we look forward to working with her again next season and in seeing her continue to go from strength to strength.”

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