Interviewing Valérie Maltais : Freezing water? She knows all about it!
With six world championships and one Olympic medal to her credit, Valérie Maltais continues to excel in her short track speed skating career after more than 20 years in this field. Competitive and fierce, the athlete shares with us a few humorous facts about her Olympic journey, about her lifestyle and her future.
1. Tell us a bit about your childhood, how did you start speed skating?
I was three and a half years old when I started ice skating at the La Baie skating school in Saguenay. I practiced figure skating until i was six, more specifically until my mother discovered speed skating during the 1997 olympics. After noticing that I was a bit too competitive for a sport such as figure skating, my mother decided to offer me a type of skating that was slightly more adapted to my personality. She was used to watching me race against my teammates after every figure skating class, I didn’t quite fit the mold. The funny thing is, the first time I tried speed skating I cried because I didn’t want to try it out, but also cried because I didn’t want to leave the ice at the end of the class.
2. After more than 20 years of practicing this sport, what drives you to go beyond continually?
This year marks my 21st season! For me speed skating is a sport that always leaves room for improvement. Each race is unique, it’s what makes this sport so motivating. I also like the fact that there are many competitions at different levels throughout the year. My favorite moments are when the physical, technical and tactical aspects of the sport are aligned for an almost perfect race. That feeling of success is absolutely extraordinary.
3. What do you like most about this sport?
I love to feel the stress and pressure before a race. I also like to perfect my art continually. The only thing I would change about speed skating is the fact that it’s a sport that is practiced indoors. I love the summer and the heat so if I could enjoy the warm outside while skating I would be 100% fulfilled.
4. Tell us a bit about your annual training, how does it work?
I train 11 months per year. I usually train from 8am in the morning to 5am at night, my mornings and afternoons are spent on the ice. I also have bodybuilding training in between. I take a break from skating in April… I who loves the heat and the weather so much am not always happy about it ;).
5. With such hard training, how do you take time to relax?
I try to keep a healthy lifestyle, I go to bed early and eat well. One of the rituals I maintain during my training a regular soak in the cold bath. The cold bath after training is useful because it reduces muscle inflammation and activates the blood circulation.
6. Do you have other passions than speed skating?
I love to cook! I also like to discover local markets and products when I travel. It makes me discover new foods that I can incorporate into my recipes. I also like to spend time with my friends, read and watch movies.
7. Is it hard to keep a strict diet when you travel?
I have a nutritionist who makes sure to give a menu for the week at the hotel where I stay. I don’t deprive myself, if I want to eat something I do, as long as it’s not excess.
8. What do you plan to do after your Olympic career? Do you already think about your retirement?
I think about it already, I still have 4 years of speed skating ahead of me so i’m not in a hurry to determine exactly what I want to do. I already have certification in dietetics but i’m thinking about changing my field of study completely and enroll in a marketing program at university.
9. Could you describe the key to your success?
It’s important not to take anything for granted. I won several competitions when I started my career in this sport. My parents have always told me that everybody works hard to get better and better and to not let my guard down because I was good. I refused to let my success get to my head.