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Steven Dubois (CAN) WSTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1134834156

Steven Dubois (CAN) at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

For Steven Dubois’ entire athletic life, he’s been chasing someone’s tail. The boy from Terrebonne, near Montreal, took up Short Track Speed Skating at the age of 11 – far later than most of his contemporaries – and has been playing catch-up, very enthusiastically, ever since.

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“I couldn’t even skate when I started Short Track – so I had to learn that before I could learn to race,” he says with a laugh. “I guess most people start a lot younger than me, at five or six. But I instantly loved it. I’d always been a fast kid. In elementary school I was doing a quick 100m. So I had athletic capabilities, I just hadn’t really done anything about it until I started skating.

“I was the worst person at the club when I started. And even as I got better, I was always going after someone faster. My goal was to try and beat this person, then when I managed that, I’d go after someone else. I’ve always been motivated to get faster.”

Steven Dubois (CAN) WJSTSSC 2016©International Skating Union (ISU) 508804906

Steven Dubois (CAN) at the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2016©International Skating Union (ISU)

Dubois was soon the quickest junior around in Canada, but his next step – entering a star-studded national squad, packed with veteran gold medal winners and powerful young prospects – meant he was chasing shadows again.

“I started at the bottom when I started training with the likes of Charles Hamelin and Sam Girard, three years ago,” he says. “Coming into such an experienced team was great. I was trying to keep up with those guys, which was a lot of fun. But last year I started being able to compete with them. They were such an inspiration. I figured out that I was better than I thought.”

Dubois is being modest. At 21, he exploded on to the Short Track Speed Skating scene, taking three individual podium places in 2018/19, his debut senior season (1500m and 1000m bronze at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Turin, 1500m bronze in Salt Lake City).

“It was an amazing year, and I didn’t think I’d do that good,” he admits. “I was thinking maybe I was good enough to win one medal. I didn’t know what my best distance was. I thought maybe 500m, because I have a good start, so maybe I can squeeze something there. But I got three individual medals, even in the 1000m, which I thought was my worst distance. I was surprised but happy to live up to my capabilities.”

Steven Dubois (CAN) WCSTSS USA 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1060099318

Steven Dubois (CAN) at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating (USA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

Dubois is still figuring out his strengths; in fact, they may lie as an all-rounder. He looks built to compete across all three distances, an ability that can help him contend for the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships overall title over the next few seasons.

“500m is the most fun, and I think 1500m might be my best distance – there’s more time to analyse,” he ponders. “The 1000m is a distance where you benefit from experience. You have to know yourself and how much energy to sacrifice at the beginning of the race. What I’m lacking most is experience but if I keep improving, maybe the 1000m could become my best race.

“I’d like a shot at the overall title. That’s my goal, and most goals should be a little bit out of your reach. Otherwise next season, I’d like to improve on a bronze medal.”

Dubois’ teammates are certainly impressed. “Steven is one of our best skaters right now,” says Hamelin. “His technique is great. He can surprise everyone.”

Dubois knows what he has to do to get to the top in his field, however: get past the Republic of Koreans. “They are so powerful,” he says. “I was watching their trials recently, and I think three out of their six racers for next season will be different. They have such a good racing pool.

Park Ji Won (KOR) Hwang Daeheon (KOR) Steven Dubois (CAN) WCSTSS ITA 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1128697076

Park Ji Won (KOR) Hwang Daeheon (KOR) and Steven Dubois (CAN) at the World Cup Short Track Speed Skating (ITA) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

“A real difference is the fact that they race a lot. They have seven extra competitions a year, where we just have one extra as well as the World Cups. It gives them experience.

“The Korean style is unique – it’s very hard to find a way around them. They go so fast at the end of races, so you can’t go too fast at the beginning, otherwise you’ll get outsided every time. But you can’t go too slow either, otherwise they will control the race. It’s a fine balance, to have that energy to be faster at the end.

“But I’m getting closer to comprehending what they’re doing.”

The wisdom of the likes of Hamelin certainly helps. “They’re great at training, but it is at the competitions that they really help me,” says Dubois. “If I get mad or flustered at a big race, they calm me down. They tell me not to be too hard on myself. They understand the mental game really well.”

Dubois is already training for 2019/20. The squad had a sunny week of biking and weights in Arizona, but are now back on the Canadian ice daily. Dubois lives and breathes Short Track Speed Skating– quite literally, as he is apartment-mates with two other squad members, shopping and prepping meals together – and is laser-focused on his eventual goal of getting on a podium at a Winter Olympic Games.

Steven Dubois (CAN) WSTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1135088503

Steven Dubois (CAN) at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

“I didn’t even watch the Winter Olympics until Sochi 2014, after I’d started skating,” he admits. “I loved watching the summer Games, but I don’t even think I knew the Winter Games existed. It was nice to find out there was one for the sport I was doing.”

That’s Dubois in a nutshell. He may have been late to the party – but don’t be shocked if he is finally leading the celebrations very soon.