Horn gets up to speed on the ice

Ben Horn, a fifth grade student at Weston Intermediate School, competes with the Connecticut Speedskating Club in Shelton. — Tony Hack Photography

When Ben Horn is on the ice, he can usually be found trying to skate his fastest.

The 10-year-old Weston resident, who is already an accomplished speedskater, is always trying to improve his times. Every Sunday during the season he skates with the Connecticut Speedskating Club at the Connecticut Sports Center in Shelton.

Currently at about 20 members, the club also has skaters from New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Skaters range from age 7 to 70.

Ben has been speedskating for the past three years. However, it was not his first sport on the ice.

“I started out doing hockey and after a while I started just liking the drills more because they got so fast, and then I was like I don’t really like the game that much,” said Ben, a fifth grade student at Weston Intermediate School. “I’d rather skate in circles.”

Practices run for 90 minutes. Before hitting the ice, club members can also do dry land training, which involves skating drills such as lunges and stretching.

Unlike figure or hockey skates, speed skates have exceptionally long blades to produce maximum speed. Although Ben’s skates measure 13 inches, the longest go up to 17.

Tournaments are held year-round with five to seven held each season. Although many are in Connecticut, Ben also competes in New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Generally, the winter season goes from September through March. Spring session goes from April to May and in July and August skaters can do dry land training.

The courses average 1,500 meters, which is about 14 laps around a standard ice rink. Ben estimates his top speed is about 17 miles per hour.

“When kids are standing up they’re going to naturally go slower,” said Ben’s mother, Esther. “With speedskating, the lower down you get, the faster you go.”

Races average about five minutes. While, relatively short, the workout can be intense.

“It’s more like ‘Oh my God, what just happened?’” said Ben. “I just did that and my legs are like spaghetti right now.”

Besides wearing a speedskating suit, Ben also has cut-proof gloves, a helmet and a neck guard. Thick pads line the sides of the rink in case skaters veer off course.

Under their skate suits, skaters can also wear a cut suit made of kevlar to protect them from others’ skates should they fall during a race.

As a 10-year-old, Ben plans to enjoy speedskating for many years. He is not sure how dedicated to the sport he will be but does hope to improve his times as he gets older.

“You can always get better,” he said. “It depends on how seriously you take the sport. Also I would like to touch the ice on turns and get both hands behind my back, right now I’m swaying one.

For more information about the Connecticut Speedskating Club, visit www.ctspeedskating.com or email ctspeedskating @yahoo.com.

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