Chilliwack's Alec Janssens had dreamed of skating in his first world championship event since he was 10 years old.
In not one of those dreams, it's safe to say, was Janssens blazing around the ice with half a moustache flapping in the air.
Earlier this month, the former Sardis Flier competed in the World All-Round Championships in Hamar, Norway. It was the first senior international event for Janssens, who is a member of Canada's National Development Team and trains in Calgary.
Janssens, 21, put in a solid showing, finishing a combined 20th overall at the event, in which skaters race in both short and long-distance races.
One of just five Canadians skating at the event, Janssens was determined to have fun and make his first world championships worth remembering.
He recruited Dutch fans dressed in orange pope costumes to lead his cheering section and started the competition sporting a Grade A moustache.
"It's something I've been dreaming about since I was 10: you go there, you might as well have some fun," he told the Times after returning to Calgary.
His teammates, who included 2010 Olympic gold medallists Lucas Makowsky and Christine Nesbitt, agreed. So the veterans told Janssens that, for his rookie initiation, he had to shave his moustache before the second day of skating at the event.
"I was really proud of my moustache leading up to it," Janssens said. With most skaters preferring a clean-shaven look, his mustache had already drawn plenty of attention, even before it met the sharp end of a razor. But half the facial hair meant twice the attention.
The broadcasters of the event, Janssens said, approached Team Canada's skate tech to get the inside scoop on the 'stache. And on that Sunday, friends and family watching online found themselves staring at a feed of Dutch television that showed pictures of the young Canadian before, and after, his shave.
Janssens took his initiation with good humour. After all, he was already in a good mood. Earlier in the year, he had failed to qualify for World Cup events, leaving him disappointed; but in January, he qualified for the World All-Round Championships with a strong showing in Salt Lake City. That allowed him to tick off one major goal for this season.
Now, he has his eyes set firmly on the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Qualifying doesn't take place until next January, but Janssens said upping his training level will be his focus for 2013.
But that will be a challenge-one for which he is looking for some help. Janssens is also enrolled in the University of Calgary's commerce program. He said his focus on his skating career means he has to be careful about over-extending himself academically.
And then there are the financial pressures. Life as an amateur athlete and university student is not exactly a road to riches.
"My food bill matches my rent," Janssens said. But eating less-or eating less well- comes at a cost. "Just cutting corners on that can really effect your performance."
For that reason, Janssens has recently launched his own website-www.alecjanssens. com-and is soliciting sponsors to help get him to Sochi.
One thing he isn't lacking is support from his old skating club. Janssens said the regular encouragement and letters he receives from current Sardis Fliers skaters helps keep him on the right track. "It brings the best out of you not only as a skater but as a person."