On the fast track to gold

South Surrey teen and skeleton athlete has Olympic aspirations.

Holden Kitteridge

While most teens around the Semiahmoo Peninsula are soaking up their last few days of summer vacation, Holden Kitteridge has bigger things on his mind.

The 15-year-old Earl Marriott Secondary student is just over a month away from boarding a plane to Lake Placid, NY, where he’ll begin an intense training regime with the hopes of qualifying for the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer.

His sport of choice? Skeleton.

“My friends, didn’t believe me at first. They thought I was joking around,” Kitteridge said, recalling the first time he told his peers about his new hobby.

He first took notice of the sport in 2010, when he watched Manitoba native Jon Montgomery – now host of reality show Amazing Race Canada – win the gold medal in skeleton in Whistler.

“I saw him win by just a few hundredths of a second,” Kitteridge said. “I saw how fast they went and how much fun it looked like and thought to myself, I want to do that.”

His interest in the sport was once again piqued during the Russian Winter Olympics last year, prompting Kitteridge to do some research.

He discovered a camp in Whistler introducing youth to the sport, and finally got a chance to try out the track last November.

“I was instantly hooked,” he said.

Reaching speeds of up to 140 km/h, barrelling head-first mere inches above the ice, Kitteridge said the feeling of skeleton is almost indescribable.

“All you can hear is your sled gliding against the ice, your own heartbeat and sometimes the wind. Nothing else,” he said.

A self-confessed adrenaline junkie, Kitteridge said that he has sought out the fastest rides at Playland and the steepest hills on his bike ever since childhood. His legs are covered in scars from his various injuries over the years, and he said he came home with new scrapes and bruises “on a weekly basis” when he was a kid.

Although he anticipates plenty of bumps and bruises on the track in the coming months, he pointed out that skeleton is actually the safest of the three ice-track sports.

“You can see where you’re going, unlike luge, and you can control where you’re going, too, by steering,” he said.

Kitteridge admits that his parents had some hesitations when he first shared his ambitions, but have offered nothing but support to help him on his way.

The only hitch for the South Surrey teen on the road to the Youth Olympics is the cost of his training and qualifying efforts.

After Lake Placid, he will spend a few weeks in Calgary before heading to Austria for further training and competition. He will be gone until early December, and the bill of his trip is expected to be around $18,000, including ice fees, airfare, hotel, food, transportation, coaching and gear.

Kitteridge has set up a fundraising website – gofundme.com/holdenkitteridge – for anyone who is able to help with the expenses, and said his mom is planning a pub night in the coming weeks, details of which will be updated online.

He said the thought of travelling the world pursuing his dream is exciting, but also nerve-wracking, especially when he thinks about being away from his family.

“It’s going to be different without them,” he said. “I’ve never been away from my family for that length of time.”

Qualifying for the Youth Olympics, however, will make it all worthwhile, he said.

“Being a part of Team Canada and representing our country all across the world, it’s exciting,” he said. “To know that thousands of people will be cheering you on, it’s amazing. It’s exhilarating.”

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