A Yellowknife coach who’s dedicated more than 30 years of his life mentoring young speed skaters across the North has been inducted into the Speed Skating Canada Hall of Fame.
The Speed Skating Canada Hall of Fame recognizes athletes and volunteers who make “extraordinary contributions” to the sport in the country, according to the organization’s news release Friday.
“I worked with and played with so many fabulous kids. You ask them to do anything, they’ll meet it and exceed it,” David Gilday told CBC Tuesday.
Gilday has coached athletes in the N.W.T., Nunavut, and even in Alberta. He worked with both the Banff Canmore Speed Skating Club and Yellowknife Speed Skating Club, and he’s taken his teams to the Arctic Winter Games throughout the years, according to the Speed Skating Canada news release.
While he initially started off coaching as a father of skaters, Gilday grew to love the sport and has held on to it for decades, said his son.
I wouldn’t be skating if it weren’t for him.– Wren Acorn, N.W.T. athlete
“It was definitely a family sport,” said Michael Gilday, a short-track speed skating Olympian in 2014.
“I’ve been out of high school now for 15 years which is a bit scary to say, but you know, he’s still involved with it in all that time. It’s a testament to his passion for the sport.”
Michael said his dad loves to work with kids.
“He loves the joy that comes on their faces when they learn something,” he said. “It’s the love of the game. He just really loves to see kids having fun and improving.”
“[Michael’s] right. It’s a whole family deal,” said David Gilday.
“It still inspires me to see how strong they are … and it inspires me to work hard at me,” said Gilday, speaking about Michael and his daughter Jill Gilday.
He said he felt he was pretty hard on his athletes throughout the years, “but they could always rise to the challenge.”
“The kids taught me there’s always more inside,” said Gilday.
‘I wouldn’t be skating if it weren’t for him’: athlete
“I wouldn’t be skating if it weren’t for him,” said Wren Acorn, a competitive N.W.T. speed skating athlete.
Acorn recalled living on the same street as Gilday, and remembers him “nagging” at her parents for her to join the sport.
“Thank you David. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be in the oval in Calgary doing what I love every day. Speed skating is one of my biggest passions in life, if not the biggest,” said Acorn.
“It’s all because you were there for me.”
Gilday was nominated by Tanya Flood of the Banff Canmore Speed Skating Club, who says he’s “one of the most passionate people in the sport.”
“I am surprised he has not been nominated in the past! He is very deserving of this award and I am happy that he has been selected,” said Flood in the Speed Skating Canada news release.
Gilday served on the Speed Skating Canada board of directors from 2013 to 2015 and helped create and manage the organization’s Youth Development Fund, states the release.
And Gilday’s induction into the Hall of Fame isn’t the first time he’s been recognized for his coaching. Gilday received a Coaching Award of Excellence in 2010; in 2007, he won the Speed Skating Canada’s Gagné Family Award which recognizes family members who contribute to speed skating in Canada, states the news release.