By Emma Weller
Though he has never laced on a pair of speed skates, local athlete Adriano Padoin-Castillo has discovered he has potential talent in the sport that could propel him to competing at the national level.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the 16-year-old’s athletic abilities attracted attention from Speed Skating Canada through the RBC Training Ground program. With a background in hockey, soccer and track, Padoin-Castillo was a perfect candidate for the sport.
The RBC Training Ground program is offered throughout Canada to help find young athletes with Olympic potential and help them reach their goals. Athletes sign up virtually and are required to submit various performance tests; last October, Padoin-Castillo did just that.
A member of Padoin-Castillo’s Ottawa Lions track club introduced him to the program. With COVID-19 impacting all competitions during the past year, Padoin-Castillo was eager to sign up to see where his scores ranked among other athletes his age.
“I thought it would be fun and a good experience, but I did not expect anything,” said Padoin-Castillo in a Zoom interview, “but then Speed Skating Canada was interested in me doing some sport-specific testing.”
Padoin-Castillo was first exposed to the sport a few years ago. While playing hockey at Brewer Park, he saw speed skaters practising on the oval ice track, though he still hasn’t tried it himself.
He was required to submit scores on YouTube for the endurance beep test, a 50-metre sprint and a vertical jump. After scoring 13 on the beep test, he ranked third in the country in the 14- to 18-year-old age division.
With approximately 1,000 young athletes applying for the RBC Training Ground program each year, Padoin-Castillo didn’t expect anything from his submission, especially since his three primary sports weren’t recruiting. His results and the interest from speed skating officials was a happy shock to the entire family.
“I knew nothing about it,” said his mother, Fiorella Padoin-Castillo. “I thought it was fantastic as there was nothing else going on at the time with COVID.”
He has now been invited to the Speed Skating Canada trials in Calgary this summer, if COVID-19 restrictions are eased enough to allow it. Depending on his results, Padoin-Castillo could get the opportunity to move on to the second trials and then, potentially, the nationals.
Prior to the pandemic, Padoin-Castillo had a packed schedule. He played soccer for Futuro Soccer Club five days a week, hockey for the Ottawa Sting three to four days a week and worked out with the Ottawa Lions track club twice a week.
Each sport has given him skills that contribute to his potential in speed skating, such as stride work from hockey and endurance and speed from all three sports. However, Padoin-Castillo says he still has to learn how to speed skate and to master its technique – the stride is much different than the one he uses in hockey.
“He’s always been really fast, speed was his asset,” says Fiorella Padoin-Castillo. “Speed skating is something he could probably transfer to pretty easily.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Padoin-Castillo to be self-motivated in academics and athletics. He has continued to run and build his endurance and speed for this new speed skating opportunity.
“You don’t know where you place, it’s hard to compare yourself with people,” Padoin-Castillo says about COVID-19 training. “It was definitely a difficult transition.”
Padoin-Castillo has been doing Grade 10 at Immaculata High School on virtual platforms. He says online school has developed his time-management skills, which is critical for student athletes like himself.
“He is very hardworking, passionate, and committed,” said his mother. “He has trained so hard, and I am so happy for him.”
COVID-19 restrictions could still prevent Padoin-Castillo from attending Speed Skating Canada trials this summer – he now anxiously awaits the announcement that could signal the beginning of his new athletic journey.
Emma Weller is a journalism student and member of the Carleton University women’s varsity hockey team, heading into her second year in the fall. She is a passionate social justice advocate who works to make a change in the world.