A tumble into the boards during a pre-tryout hockey game was an unexpected break for Ayanna Badali.
Resulting in a broken leg, the injury marred her chance to try out for any hockey teams in 2010, including Leaside High’s varsity girls squad. With no teams to join, she took up an interest that was long overdue for a free skate.
“I’ve always been very interested in speed skating even before hockey,” she said. “I don’t know (why), I probably saw it in the Olympics when I was younger but I never really thought it was possible to speed skate in Toronto.”
That’s when she came across the Toronto Speed Skating Club and coach Will Wallace.
“I love the people and the sport,” she said. “It’s just really great.”
She’s quick to point out the change in style and sport for her.
“Speed skating is a lot different than hockey,” she said. “The blades are totally different and the technique is different so it’s a big step.”
Mind you, Badali focuses on short track more so than long, competing in the 500-, 1000- and 1500-metre races.
And unlike the long-track skates, hers are not clapped — meaning the blades don’t separate from the back of the boot.
Every season there are four Ontario Cups for the 15-year-old to compete in, including the most recent being Dec. 17.
Though Badali did not medal, she says she is eager to gain experience and improve on her personal bests in the 500. Her aim is to skate under the 50-second mark.
One observation she has made though, is speed skating is not as accessible a sport in the city.
“(The last Cup) was in Clarington, so there’re usually more in rural areas — not really right in the city here,” she said.
Another challenge is keeping up with her schoolwork.
“It’s really difficult because I train around five times a week on ice,” Badali said. “That’s quite a bit so you kind of need to manage your time correctly, do homework whenever you can — when you have time do it in the car, when you get home from school.
“I usually wake up at six in the morning to do my homework.”
In order to meet her training needs, she had to make the tough decision of giving up hockey.
“I really wanted to join the Leaside hockey team this year, but it just wasn’t possible.”
But with her parents cheering her on she’s not ruling out a trip to Pyeongchang, South Korea, the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games as one of her dreams.
When asked if she will follow in the skatesteps of her favourite Olympians, Catriona Le May Doan and Clara Hughes, Badali giggles.
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