Meet Noah Bolton of Little Rapids, N.L.'s lone speed skater at the Canada Winter Games
At 18 years old, Noah Bolton of Little Rapids already has about a decade of speed-skating experience under his belt, but he heads to the Canada Winter Games for his first competition at a national level.
He's one of 64 speed skaters from across Canada to qualify for the Games — but he's the only one from Newfoundland and Labrador.
"It's a lot to handle because you have Newfoundland on your back," he said. "I feel like I got this. I can handle this."
The Canada Winter Games begin Saturday, with athletic competition kicking off Sunday. Bolton will be competing in short-track speed-skating races, including the 500-metre and 1,500-metre races, starting on Monday through to the finals on Friday.
Bolton won't be heading off to the Canada Winter Games alone, but he'll have his coach by his side.
Bolton's coach, Sharon Karn, has been mentoring him on the ice since he started speed skating at just eight years old.
No stranger to the world of competitive speed skating, Karn — president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Speed Skating Association as well as a high-performance coach — said it's a big achievement just to meet the time requirements to qualify for the Winter Games.
"For him to qualify, it is huge," she said.
Ten years of coaching and close mentorship carries a significance that isn't lost on Karn. Standing rinkside at the Corner Brook Civic Centre as Bolton skated his last laps before the Games, she welled up with tears.
"It's extremely emotional," she said.
Also accompanying the athlete and the coach will be his assistant coach — and mother — Nancy Bolton.
Nancy Bolton shares her son's excitement, and some nerves of her own.
"I'm excited, I'm nervous for him," she said.
Turning to look onto the ice as her son skated his practice laps, she added, "I'm very proud."
Far away from major meets and competitions, money is a major barrier for prospective speed skaters in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Attending a competition means travelling to another province, as when Noah Bolton travelled to Charlottetown in 2017 to race in the Atlantic Cup.
Karn says it's a barrier to people in Newfoundland and Labrador getting involved with speed skating, along with the cost of equipment like special skates.
"It's an expensive sport," said Karn.
Despite the small number of local athletes in the Newfoundland and Labrador Speed Skating Association, Karn hopes to be able to attract more people to the sport in coming years.
"We're blessed to have it," she said. "Hopefully it still keeps growing."