Mya Onos has only been skating for three years, but she already has big ideas for where she wants to go in the future.
“Maybe go to the Olympics,” she said, sitting on the benches during a break in her practice at Chilliwack’s Twin Rinks.
The eleven-year-old Agassiz resident comes by it genetically — her grandfather was a competitive speed skater in Holland during the 1960s — and has already started to inch up the ranks herself.
For the first time this March, Onos competed at the B.C. short track championships in Prince George and finished fourth. It was good enough to get her a spot at the Canada West Short Track Championship, taking place in Grande Prairie from March 22 to 24.
But it hasn’t been a completely smooth ride for Onos.
She first started skating with the Sardis Flyers when she was eight years old, as a way to turn her love of rollerblading into a sport.
“She’s a rollerblader, she loves rollerblading. And I wanted to find something she could do in a sport,” her mother, Kate Onos-Gilbert said about getting Onos involved in speed skating
But, although she spent the season on the ice with her brother, she found she wasn’t quite ready to take on the sport.
Onos took a break for her second year, choosing instead to focus on her other activities, like swimming with the Agassiz Harrison Aquanauts.
A year later, she was back on the ice because, as she explained it, she had “no other activities in the winter.”
But it ended up being fun for Onos, who’s one of the youngest in her age category.
“It’s fun and you can do … fun activities to build your speed and learn how to skate better,” she said, “and do cross-overs and circles and the straight-aways.”
Because of Onos’ age, she had a choice to be in the “learn to train” program or the “train to train” program.
“We call it the bubble year for competing,” Onos’ coach Robyn Kempers said.
Learn to train would have been a little easier, because the focus is on basic skills rather than competition. But Onos didn’t go that route.
“She’s a good distance skater … and the sprint’s a little bit longer to qualify for those meets,” Kempers explained. “It’s also a big jump mentally, preparing for those bigger races against those girls that are more developed than she is at this point.”
As a train to train skater, Onos took on six meets during the season, to improve her skills and get the times she needed to qualify for the provincials. At a meet just before Christmas, she got them.
In the 400-metre, Onos got a time of 53.8 seconds, and the 1,500-metres was three minutes and 25 seconds — quick enough to secure her a place at her first provincials.
The provincial championships in Prince George was Onos’ seventh meet of the season, and the longest. (Most speed skating meets are only one day, while the provincials are two days with four races.)
“It was fun,” Onos said about the championships.
“My coach, she made me do a lot of warm up in the ice rink, so I would be ready for the race.”
Of the four girls in Onos’ age category, Onos came last.
Although she had a fairly quick time for the 1,500-metre in the qualifier, she got a penalty for impeding in the final, putting her in fourth for that race. She came third in the 200 pursuit, with a time of 27.6 seconds but came in fourth for the 400-metre, with 53.88 seconds.
It wasn’t the greatest end to the provincials, but it was enough to send Onos to the Canada West championships at the end of March.
“I was the slowest, so I had a chance of going, but I could have not gone,” Onos explained. “So when I found out, I was excited.”
Onos will be leaving for Grande Prairie with Kempers on March 22 for the two-day championships.
“I feel ready,” Onos said about the tournament.
“My coach is coming with me, and coaches don’t usually come,” she explained. “So she can tell me stuff when I’m there instead of another coach who I might know or not know.”
Kempers has been to many of these tournaments before, and she said she’s confident in how Onos will handle it.
“It’s really interesting to see her at such a young age — Grade 6, 11 years old — not only just qualify for her first provincials … but to get a spot on the provincial team that will be represented at the CanWest championships,” Kempers said.
“She’s constantly motivated, I think that’s one of her big attributes,” Kempers added. “She’s always motivated and always looking to what’s next, and what do I need to do to get there.”
As for the Olympic future that Onos mentioned, Kempers said there’s no reason why she couldn’t get there if she trains.
“She had always been tossed between a couple sports,” Kempers said. “It was the first year that it came out of her mouth that ‘I want to go to the Olympics in speed skating’.
“She’s meeting all these goals of herself, and she can see herself wanting to be at that level.”