Ice man Mick King of cool runnings

68-year-old speed skater Mike O'Dea (front, right) won a category in the Masters International Short Track Games (MIST) in Canada
68-year-old speed skater Mike O'Dea (front, right) won a category in the Masters International Short Track Games (MIST) in Canada
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A born and bred Blackpool ice skater won first place in an international speed skating championship - at the grand old age of 68.

Mick O’Dea reaches speeds of up to 30mph when he’s racing on the 111m track for short speed skating competitions.

But risking life and limb to compete in the Masters International Short Track Games (MIST) in Canada was well worth it as he won first place in the 65-69-year-olds category and second place in the 55-79-year-olds category.

The 68-year-old has been skating since he was a teen, first setting up a speed skating team at Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s ice arena in 1967 and now training weekly with a team in Sheffield.

He said he’s always felt “the need for speed”.

“It’s the speed I love,” said Mick, of Rangeway, South Shore. “When I was younger I used to race round in cars, now I do my speeding on the ice.

“I can get up to about 30mph, which on thoses corners is quite hair raising.

“It’s lovely to win though.”

Mick has invested hundreds in his hobby over the years, including £300 on boots and £270 on blades, as well as top of the range safety gear including a throat guard - a must since one competitor was killed when a blade cut his throat after a fall on the ice.

He said: “I used to be scared of falling. It is a contact sport.

“I once went head first into the barrier at a British championships but I don’t feel I’m going to fall now.”

The MIST Games, held in the Canadian capital of Ottawa last weekend, are open to speed skaters from all over the world aged 35 and up. The oldest is 79-years-old. Skaters race on an artificial rink with a 111m track, at distances of 500m, 1000m or 777m, and can reach speeds of up to 40mph.

It gave Mick, now retired from work as a media technician at Blackpool and The Fylde College, chance to rub shoulders with his idols, champion speed skaters from around the world.

It’s not the first time he’s competed though, having previously travelled to Holland and Belgium to race others.

And he’s showing no signs of letting it be his last either, not even letting the beginnings of arthritis in his left knee hold him back.

He added: “I’m not letting it stop me.

“I go training on the sand dunes three times a week and in the gym they call me 

So the 5am starts for Sunday training will continue, as will the aims to top world records in his age group.

“I did a 500m in 54.7 seconds in training,” Mick said. “If I could have done that in Canada it would have been a world record for my 
age group.”