February 12, 2016 - 2:30 PM
KAMLOOPS - When Isaiah Jessie Uribe was one of three people selected by the Colombian government to study English in Canada, he used the opportunity to learn how to ice skate and hopes to apply his talent to represent his country on the international stage.
Kamloops Long Blades head coach Sandi Vyse says she initially learned of Uribe, 14, after his mother reached out to her from Colombia asking about speed skating and if Uribe - a skilled inline skater - could join.
“He fit in right away,” Vyse says. “Everybody just kind of adopted him right from the start. He’s a really easy kid to love."
Uribe came to the McArthur Island club with his inline skates from Colombia, which Vyse quickly altered, simply by bolting on a pair of blades.
“The first night he comes out, he’s standing up (on the ice), barely moving - just happy to be there,” she says.
But what happened next, Vyse says, was one of the quickest turnarounds she’s seen in over 30 years of coaching.
“By the end of the first week he was already out skating with the fast skaters doing push relay,” she says. "I’ve had skaters who transferred quickly from hockey and can become speed skaters relatively quickly. I’ve never had anyone come from a non-ice sport.”
The transition had a couple of downfalls. The quick study and even quicker Uribe made a couple of trips to the emergency room after some slipups. He’s still learning, Vyse says, but he’s preparing to skate competitively and hopes to represent Colombia, which recently became a part of the International Skating Union.
Uribe was only slated to come to Canada for one semester abroad as that was all the government stipend afforded. But Vyse says strong bonds formed between him and other members of the club during his short stay in Kamloops. Through the generosity of the Thomas family who is part of the club, Uribe was privately sponsored for the remainder of his school year.
Uribe will have to keep working hard if he hopes to progress towards the next level of competition, Vyse says. But to keep him motivated, she gifted boots and a special set of blades which used to belong to Olympic silver medalist Jessica Hewitt who once trained with Vyse.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016