Speed skater Barnett Liu was lightning-quick on the track in Fort St. John, where the Surrey-area teen won four gold medals and added a silver during the 2020 BC Winter Games.
His medal haul was among the most of any of the 1,000-plus athletes who participated in 15 sports at the 2020 Games, which ran from Feb. 20-23.
Barnett, 14, and his family live in the Fraser Heights neighbourhood, where his five medals were proudly displayed on their kitchen table this week.
After giving a few other sports a go, including hockey and figure skating, Barnett tried speed skating for the first time four years ago, and caught on quick. He now trains with the Lighting club in Port Coquitlam.
“I just really enjoy going fast on the ice,” Barnett said. “I don’t know, there’s just something special about gliding on the ice at extremely fast speeds that I really like doing.”
In Fort St. John, Barnett won gold medals in three short-track races – the 400M, 1500M and 2000M point race – and also as a member of the Fraser River zone 3000M relay team.
For the relay, a last-minute change found Barnett paired with two other skaters.
“We got the news it was going to be gendered and only a three-man team against two other four-man teams, and I felt less confident during that, and my expectations went down,” Barnett explained. “I wasn’t sure we’d get to be on the podium, but then those last couple of laps, we started to catch up and it was like, I don’t know how – I put the pedal down and somehow went to the front.”
Back home, Barnett’s older sister Lena was watching on a computer.
“That race, he really pulled through,” she said. “He kept passing the other skaters, and the people were really cheering for him. It was amazing to watch.”
For the singles races that earned him gold medals, Barnett said he was well prepared.
“For those distances I was pretty confident because I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work before the Games to prepare for it, and I was feeling really strong during those days,” he said.
Barnett’s silver medal came in 500M Olympic Style Boys Long Track – an entirely new event for him, as he has focused on short-track skating.
“He only had an hour practice at the BC Winter Games on the second day to learn before going off to compete,” Lena explained. “As a short-track skater, he didn’t have long-track equipment and so borrowed blades from the Vancouver club but right before his warm-up for his 500M race, he found out that his blades didn’t match with his short-track boots and could not be used. So last minute they found some replacement blades that weren’t ideal. However, he was still able to land second place, only 0.3 seconds behind the first place (skater).
“He was up against several very experienced long trackers in his race,” she added. “It was completely unexpected that he placed in his very first long-track race, even with technical difficulties and all that.”
Barbara Beck, speed skating coach with the nine-member Fraser River zone team, said Barnett is a phenomenal athlete.
“He just really blossomed and has become a strong athlete, a strong team leader, and an all-around good kid – as all of our skaters are, of course,” Beck said.
“The relay was incredibly exciting, because it was because of him that the team won the gold, he was amazing,” she added. “Our plan was for him to finish off, and he just took off and passed the lead skater near the end.”
After four days of competition, from skating to skiing to karate, the 2020 BC Winter Games wrapped up the action on Sunday.
The Games concluded with a Indigenous drumming and the closing ceremonies, where the games’ torch was extinguished, to be relit this summer in Maple Ridge. The BC Games flag was passed to Mike Keenan, president of the Maple Ridge 2020 BC Summer Games, to take place July 23-26.
Meantime, Surrey’s Grace Kemp, a ringette coach with the Fraser River Zone 4B team, was among 16 youth leaders recognized with a Coast Capital Savings Leadership Bursary during the Winter Games’ closing ceremony on Sunday.
“The bursary recipients were chosen from close to 100 applicants for their significant achievements in sport and education and most importantly for their leadership contributions to their schools, community, or sport associations,” according to a Games news release. “The recipients are from communities across the province and their leadership involvement includes service with student councils, community events, food banks, fundraising, coaching, and officiating, to name a few.”