ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in Hamilton Tickets to go on sale December 10th

OTTAWA, ON:  All-event tickets for the 2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships® will go on sale Wednesday, December 10 at 10:00 a.m. (ET). The event, which draws the best teams of skaters from around the world, will take place at the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario from April 10-11, 2015.

“This is like no other skating event in the world.  The athleticism and skill of 16 athletes skating together, combined with the most energetic and enthusiastic fans you will ever see, promises to raise the noise level to new heights at FirstOntario Centre,” said Dan Thompson, Chief Executive Officer, Skate Canada.

Twenty-five teams from 20 different countries are expected to participate in the event. Canada’s NEXXICE are the defending silver medalists and Les Suprêmes finished in sixth place at last year’s championships held in Courmayeur, Italy.

All-event ticket packages for the two-day event will cost $100 for lower bowl seating and $75 for upper bowl seating, plus applicable surcharges. Tickets can be purchased online at,  by phone at 1.855.985.5000, or in person at the FirstOntario Centre box office.

Group Sales began November 12th, for anyone wishing to purchase a minimum of 15 group tickets. Contact Madeleine Wendland directly by email to [email protected] or by telephone at 905-546-4095 for group tickets.


Canadian figure skaters travel to Moscow for Rostelecom Cup

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will send one entry in men’s and one entry in ladies to Moscow, Russia, for the fourth stop on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating. The Rostelecom Cup will take place from November 14-16, 2014, at the Luzhniki Small Sports Arena.

Jeremy Ten, 25, Vancouver, B.C., will be the Canadian entry in men’s. This season, Ten won bronze at the inaugural Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. Last season, the representative of Grandview Skating Club won bronze at the 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy, and placed ninth at the 2014 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. He is coached by Joanne McLeod and Neil Wilson at the Champs International Skating Centre.

Alaine Chartrand, 18, Prescott, Ont., will represent Canada in the ladies category. Earlier this season, she placed seventh at her first assignment on the ISU Senior Grand Prix circuit, Skate Canada International, and placed fourth at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. She is coached by Michelle Leigh and Leonid Birinberg, and trains at the Nepean Skating Club.

Petra Burka of Toronto, Ont., will be the Canadian team leader at the event, and physiotherapist Mike McMurray of Oak Bluff, Man., will be the Canadian medical staff. André-Marc Allainof Gatineau, Que., will be the sole Canadian official at the event.

For results and full entries, please visit


Discipline Name Age Hometown Club Coach
Men’s Jeremy Ten 25 Vancouver, B.C. Grandview SC Joanne McLeod / Neil Wilson
Ladies Alaine Chartrand 18 Prescott, Ont. Nepean Skating Club Michelle Leigh / Leonid Birinberg

Eight Canadian figure skating coaches win 2014 Petro-Canada Coaching Excellence Awards

OTTAWA, ON: After a remarkable season, eight Canadian figure skating coaches received the 2014 Petro-Canada Coaching Excellence Award over the weekend. The awards were presented Friday, November 7th by the Coaching Association of Canada at the annual Sport Leadership Awards ceremony, during the Petro-Canada Sport Leadership conference in Ottawa, Ont.

The Petro-Canada Coaching Excellence Awards recognize coaches whose athletes excelled at world championships, Olympic and Paralympic Games, and at the Special Olympics World Games.

“These coaches each represent the commitment and dedication that goes into every day of training and preparing our athletes to compete at the highest level,” said Dan Thompson, CEO, Skate Canada. “Their passion for sport and for making a positive impact on the lives of their athletes is remarkable. I’d like to thank the more than 5,000 certified professional coaches across the country who inspire Canadians to skate every day, and in particular to congratulate these eight coaches who have taken their athletes to the pinnacle of our sport.”

All of the coaches honoured had Canadian athletes or teams win gold, silver or bronze on the world stage. The figure skating coaches who received awards for their outstanding work with their athletes are:

  • Richard Gauthier, Montreal, Quebec
    Athletes: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
  • Bruno Marcotte, Montreal, Quebec
    Athletes: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
  • Joanne McLeod, Vancouver, British Columbia
    Athlete: Kevin Reynolds
  • Shelley Simonton-Barnett, Burlington, Ontario
    Athletes: Nexxice Synchronized Skating Team
  • Anne Schelter, Carlisle, Ontario
    Athletes: Nexxice Synchronized Skating Team
  • Ravi Walia, Edmonton, Alberta
    Athlete: Kaetlyn Osmond
  • Kris Wirtz, Kitchener – Waterloo, Ontario
    Athletes: Kirsten Moore-Towers, Dylan Moscovitch
  • Marina Zoueva, Canton, Michigan
    Athletes: Scott Moir, Tessa Virtue

Fifty coaches from a variety of sports in Canada were honoured at the banquet in Ottawa.

Nam Nguyen edged out of medals at Grand Prix

SHANGHAI – Toronto’s Nam Nguyen took fourth spot in men’s competition on Saturday in a memorable night at the Cup of China, the third stop on the ISU Grand Prix circuit in figure skating.

Maxim Kovtun of Russia won the gold medal with 243.34 points, Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, who fell five times in his free skate, took the silver at 237.55 and Richard Dornbush of the U.S., was third at 226.73.

Nguyen totalled 221.85 to climb from sixth after Friday’s short program to fourth. Nguyen opened with a brilliant quad Salchow followed by a perfect triple Axel.  He singled his follow up triple Axel in combination but came back to land it perfectly a few seconds later. He completed his skate to a series of clean triple jumps including two in combination.

‘’I was happy I was able to come back and pull it off,’’ said the 16-year-old Nam about his triple Axel combo.  ‘’For me there was no question about whether I would attempt it again in the program. It’s a jump I have a lot of confidence with.’’

The men’s competition was marred by a nasty collision between Hanyu and China’s Han Yan  in the warm-up just prior to the last flight of skaters.  Hanyu suffered scrapes to his head and face and still competed with a bandage around his head.   Han also performed his free skate and finished sixth.

For Nguyen it was another impressive performance in his first season at the senior level.  Last winter’s world junior champion already has two medal performances including a bronze at Skate America last month.

In women’s competition, Russia was 1-2 with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva winning gold and Julia Lipnitskaia the silver. Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., was fifth in her senior Grand Prix debut.

‘’I wasn’t nervous, I felt confident,’’ said Daleman, 16, a 2014 Olympic team member.  ‘’I knew going in it was going to be a tough competition but I felt ready.  The big thing I learned this weekend is not to second guess myself and trust even more in my training.’’

In ice dancing Alexandra Paul of Midhurst, Ont., and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., were fifth and in pairs Natasha Purich of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Andrew Wolfe of Calgary were sixth.

‘’It’s pretty amazing for us just be here,’’ said Purich who joined forces with Wolfe only six months ago.  ‘’We’re just happy to see our career together starting to take off.  Today we made some little mistakes and left some points on the table but we are confident we will continue to improve.’’

The next stop in the circuit is next weekend in Moscow.

Full results:

Canadians in medal hunt at Cup of China

SHANGHAI – Canadians are in the medal hunt in all four events after Friday’s short programs at the Cup of China figure skating competition, the third stop on the ISU figure skating circuit.

In women’s competition, Olympian Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket stands fourth after the short with 58.49 points just behind Kanako Murakami of Japan in third at 60.44.  Russians are 1-2 with Julia Lipnitskaia first and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva second.

It is the 16-year-old Daleman’s debut on the senior Grand Prix circuit.

In men’s competition, Nam Nguyen of Toronto stands sixth after the short less than seven points from third place.  Maxim Kovtun of Russia, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Han Yan of China are 1-2-3.

Nguyen, 16, is the reigning world junior champion and won bronze two weeks ago in his senior Grand Prix debut at Skate America.

“Overall it was a good skate,” said Nguyen, 16.  “I felt comfortable out there today having now gone through the process at a senior Grand Prix.  You definitely have to earn your levels here and I feel I can do even better in the long.”

In ice dancing, Alexandra Paul of Midhurst, Ont.,and Mitchell Islam of Barrie, Ont., are less than six points from the podium after ranking fifth in the short dance and the pairs team of Natasha Purich of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Andrew Wolfe of Calgary are less than a point from third in pairs at fifth spot.

All four free skates are on Saturday

Full results:

New pair team Natasha Purich and Drew Wolfe set to take on Cup of China

Just when you thought pair skating (alas, everywhere) was down at the heels, tattered and torn and riddled with defections, along has come a little herd of intrepid risk-takers.

Like Natasha Purich and Drew Wolfe.

They – and other new and relatively new faces – are going to make the pair event at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships a fiery contest, come January in Kingston, Ont.

The Purich and Wolfe partnership just seems right. They are buddies from Alberta, (she from Edmonton, he from Calgary), now both training in Montreal. (As luck would have it, they both were in French immersion schools.) They met each other skating sectionals in Alberta, from about the age of 10 or 11.

They have come at pair skating from oddly different directions: Wolfe has been a singles skater and for the last four or five years, an ice dancer. In Wolfe’s hand, Purich glows. At their first event, the Skate Canada Autumn Classic Intern ational, they finished third in the short program with a throw triple Lutz, a combo spin that earned a level four and an excellent death spiral, too.

That Wolfe can do a death spiral is an event in itself. Before he hitched up with Purich six months ago, he had never skated pairs. “When I was younger, I thought there’s not a chance that I’m going to put this girl over my head,” he said. “That just seems way too dangerous. “ Coach Richard Gauthier says he’s never seen a pair skater learn such skills so quickly. He shocked all of them, with what he could do in the first three days.

Okay, so what was hardest for both? Purich wants to say the twist. After all, the male not only has to throw the partner, but catch her as well. However, Wolfe says it’s that deadly death spiral. “It was a weird feeling to get used to the force that another skater would pull on you that much on an edge,” he said. The first one he did went okay. He figures that was beginner’s luck. The second one, not so much. That has changed since, however. They got a level four on their forward inside death spiral in the short program at the Autumn Classic.

As for Purich, who skated last year with former world bronze medalist Mervyn Tran (now off to skate for his third country), she has had to up her game with skating skills and edges to match the ice-dancing crafts of Wolfe.

Seemingly improving by leaps and bounds, they will further show off their wares at Cup of China, their only Grand Prix event.

Wolfe had been skating singles at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club in Toronto with Ghislain Briand – and soaking up the influences of skating in the same rink as Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez – when he thought he might like try pairs. “I’m a big tall guy,” he said. Briand and Gauthier are friends. The next thing Wolfe knew, he was in a tryout with Purich, doing some stroking and elements.

“Of course this was all new to me,” he said. Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte were welcoming and supportive.

“It seemed like they had some faith in me,” he said. ”It’s kind of unexpected, but it seems like the right fit. We both came from different sides of the sport.” And, he said, it’s been very motivating to skate in the same rink as two-time world bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.

“Honestly, he’s just a natural,” Purich said of her new partner. “It’s kind of weird. I think we were doing double twists in two days.”

Because of his dance background, Wolfe said he knew how to place a partner in the right spot. Not everything went smoothly. They had their peaks and valleys. Working also with Syvie Fullum, Julie Marcotte and Cynthia Lemaire, nothing is left untouched in the school, Wolfe said. The learning environment is very positive. All of the teams push each other.

Goals for a new team? Their focus had been just to get to nationals and develop a solid base together. They hadn’t expected even the Autumn Classic. It was a big deal. Style will come with time. They want to be unique.

And it helps that Wolfe loves music. “I adore it,” he said. “Music is my favourite.” He likes to perform, to entertain. Three or four years ago, he skated to Santana and Colin James because his Alberta coach thought it would be a good fit for his style. Wolfe has always had the final say in his music choices. This time, he left it to Julie Marcotte, and made himself trust her. He planned to keep an open mind.

When Marcotte gave them a blues for their short program – “Three Hours Past Midnight” by Colin James – Wolfe just started to chuckle. “I guess I had no reason to worry,” he said. “It was pretty hilarious.” They skate the free to “The Artist” – and that’s a perfect routine for Purich. The programs are very different.

“It’s big and it’s broad and it’s also subtle,” Wolfe said of “The Artist” soundtrack. “There is a lot of variety and you can play with it and you can be powerful with it. And it’s really what Natasha does.”

So no, pair skating in Canada does not look so desolate as it did six months ago. “It makes it fun for us and the good thing is, it gets people interested,” Wolfe said. “New faces bring interest.”

2015 Skate Canada International tickets on sale now!

OTTAWA, ON: All-event tickets for the 2015 Skate Canada International are on sale now. Next year’s event takes place in Lethbridge, Alberta at the ENMAX Centre from October 30 – November 1, 2015.

“Coming off the excitement of last weekend’s Skate Canada International in Kelowna where Canadian skaters captured two gold and one silver, we are looking forward to welcoming the world’s best skaters to Lethbridge in 2015, and for continued success by our Canadians athletes” said Skate Canada CEO Dan Thompson.

All-event ticket packages for the 2015 Skate Canada International in Lethbridge, Alta., cost $150-$180, plus applicable surcharges. Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone at 403.329.7328, or in person at the ENMAX Centre Box Office.

The southern Alberta city will celebrate the silver anniversary of hosting the event in 1990 when Canadian skaters, led by Kurt Browning, swept the four titles.

Skate Canada International is the second competition in the annual ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating® series. The other events take place in the United States (Skate America), China (Cup of China), France (Trophée Eric Bompard), Russia (Rostelecom Cup) and Japan (NHK Trophy). The list of Canadian and international competitors for the event will be announced in late spring of 2015 when all six of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating® event assignments are determined.

Canadian skaters continue ISU Grand Prix circuit in Shanghai

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will send four entries, for a total of six skaters, to the third stop on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating, the Cup of China. The competition will take place at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Center from November 7-9, 2014. Canada will have one entry per category in men’s, ladies, pair, and ice dance.

World Junior Champion Nam Nguyen, 16, Toronto, Ont., will be the Canadian entry in men’s. This season, Nguyen won bronze at his first senior ISU Grand Prix assignment, Skate America, and won silver at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. Nguyen is coached by Brian Orser and Ernest Pryhitka at the Toronto Cricket Skating & Curling Club.

Gabrielle Daleman, 16, Newmarket, Ont., will represent Canada in ladies. This will be the first senior ISU Grand Prix assignment for the 2014 Olympian. Earlier this season, the representative of Richmond Hill FSC won the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. Daleman is coached by Andrei Berezintsev and Inga Zusev and trains at the Richmond Training Centre in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Natasha Purich, 19, Sherwood Park, Alta., and Drew Wolfe, 19, Calgary, Alta., are the Canadian entry in pair. This will be the first ISU Grand Prix assignment for the newly formed team representing CPA Saint-Léonard and the Glencoe Club. Earlier this season, they placed fourth at their first international competition, the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. They train at CPA Saint-Léonard and are coached by Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte.

Olympians Alexandra Paul, 23, Midhurst, Ont., and Mitchell Islam, 24, Barrie, Ont., will be the Canadian entry in the ice dance category. This will be their first time competing at this event. This season, the representatives of Barrie SC placed fourth at the inaugural 2014 Skate Canada Autumn Classic International. Paul and Islam train at the Detroit Skating Club with coaches Pasquale Camerlengo, Angelika Krylova, and Natalia Deller.

Skate Canada High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk will be the Canadian team leader at the event, and Siobhan Karam of Ottawa, Ont., will be the Canadian team physiotherapist. Nicole Leblanc-Richard of Dieppe, N.B., and Reaghan Fawcett of Aurora, Ont., will be the Canadian officials at the event.

For results and full entries please visit


Discipline Name Age Hometown Club Coach
Mens Nam Nguyen 16 Toronto, Ont. Toronto Cricket Skating & Curling Club Brian Orser / Ernest Pryhitka
Ladies Gabrielle Daleman 16 Newmarket, Ont. Richmond Hill FSC Andrei Berezintsev / Inga Zusev
Pair Natasha Purich / Drew Wolfe 19/19 Sherwood Park, Alta. / Calgary, Alta. CPA Saint-Léonard / Glencoe Club Richard Gauthier / Bruno Marcotte
Ice Dance Alexandra Paul / Mitchell Islam 23/24 Midhurst, Ont. / Barrie, Ont. Barrie SC / Barrie SC Pasquale Camerlengo / Angelika Krylova / Natalia Deller

Skate Canada International a weekend of golden firsts

KELOWNA, B.C. – The Skate Canada International aura isn’t a secret. Skaters from Russia, China and elsewhere love the crowds. They love how they are loved, no matter the flag.

The exhibitions? Best ever. Chinese skaters wearing decorated sauce pans on their heads, denim overalls on the rest. The men breaking out brassy wigs. Duelling quad Salchows were seen. Exquisite music was heard, all on a day when a warm fall sun set light to the waters.

For Canadian skaters, it was a time to step out on home ice at an important Grand Prix in the quadrennial leading to the 2018 Olympics. Already there is huge success: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the first Grand Prix gold medal for a Canadian pair since Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison won at Skate America in 2007.

Strangely enough, despite the historic strength of Canadian pairs, the Canuck teams have seldom won pairs events at Grand Prix competitions. They’ve never won Cup of Russia or the Grand Prix in France, or Cup of China (which dates back to only 2003). A Canadian pair hasn’t won Skate Canada since Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in 2001. At NHK Trophy, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini won gold in 1980 and 1982. And Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler won in 1993, the same year they won their world title.

So Duhamel and Radford’s victory takes on a brighter shine. They’ve broken ground and they expect more.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andres Poje’s first Grand Prix gold medal, here at home this week, is another milestone on a long road of Canadian dance victories. Canada’s wins in dance Grand Prix events are almost too numerous to mention. At Skate Canada alone, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won five of them, Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon won two, Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz took six, and Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall grabbed two of them, not to mention single victories by Jacqueline Petr and Mark Janoschak, and Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier.

Weaver and Poje’s exquisite “Four Seasons” routine made fond memories for some in an informal poll of favourite Skate Canada moments this week. They had become a unit, they said. They had taken a step up, even from their world silver medal last March. They came dressed to kill, and focused on the details.

Injuries robbed Canada of better results in men’s and women’s singles. Kaetlyn Osmond broke a fibula during the fall and had to withdraw from all Grand Prix events.  Canadian women delivered in the short program, and had a tougher go in the long, with Alaine Chartrand finishing seventh, Veronik Mallet 11th (was sixth in the short) and Julianne Seguin 12th.

With no Patrick Chan in the mix, and no Kevin Reynolds, out with boot problems and injuries, Canada had to take their victories other ways. Andrei Rogozine showed off his new “higher, faster, stronger” vibe to finish 10th, while Liam Firus fought back after a troubled short program and went on attack in the free to finish 11th overall.

That left other moments that didn’t always have to do with medals, although medals were sometimes rewards:  a transformed Takahito Mura winning the men’s event and weeping in the kiss and cry; tiny 16-year-old Satoko Miyahara winning bronze with a standing ovation and finally, the free dance of unheralded team Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette. They finished seventh of eight, got a partial standing ovation, made people weep and Tessa Virtue to claim their “Un peu plus haut” her favourite of the night. Sometimes it’s not all about medals, although they help.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir enjoy Skate Canada International in new roles

KELOWNA, B.C. – We have missed them, both.

We have wondered where they were, what they were doing, what they were going to do.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir don’t know yet.

They’ve been rumbling the halls of the Prospera Centre this week, working for TSN on broadcast bits, finding out what they don’t know about the other side of the boards, inspecting possible new career paths. It’s a buzz for them, these new duties. Word has it that they are naturals as broadcasters.

But they still don’t know where their path lies. And that is okay with them.

At about the same time, out came the press releases this fall about Patrick Chan and Virtue and Moir taking the year off to ponder their futures. But the response to the press releases has been different. Chan might very well come back. Virtue and Moir? Many seemed to think the gig was up.

“To be 100 per cent honest, I think after Sochi, we thought we were done for sure,” Moir said in Kelowna this week. “But we knew that was probably an emotional decision after training for 17 years straight. We needed to make sure that we took the proper time.”

Halfway through the summer Moir admitted that they had a “glimmer of hope” that they might like to come back. But they don’t know if the glimmer is strong enough and they don’t know what having that glimmer means to them. They do know one thing: they are taking time to think about that glimmer and other things.

“We don’t want to put that pressure on ourselves right now,” Virtue said. “We’ve been dealing with that kind of stress for 10-12 years now. It’s kind of nice just to take that off our plates for now.”

True, there are wistful moments, now that they are in the rink, and hear that opening music that stirs the heart. Virtue said in those moments, she can’t help but wonder what she and Moir would have done for programs, for choreography, what it would feel like one more time to face that cheering Canadian crowd that they love.

And then they remember what fun it is to go grocery shopping and run mundane errands during mid-week and visit their parents and siblings any time they’d like. During those moments, Moir feels the pull of ordinary life. Now that they’ve tasted that, how to give it up for singled-minded training?

Virtue says she is currently straddling two worlds. She is finishing her psychology degree at the University of Western Ontario in her hometown, London, Ont. Yet she and her partner are doing speaking engagements and appearances. They did a little skating tour in China. But basically, they have been off the ice altogether over the summer and into the fall, although Moir has been playing a little hockey.

If they returned, they know they would do things differently. They would train differently. With their history of injury, they would take a more intellectual, scientific-based approach to training. And they’d like to try out new choreographers. They are already cooking up plans to work with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon – who had been their idols and mentors as they grew up – and with the hugely talented Jeffrey Buttle, who they’ve already worked with on Stars on Ice.

Virtue and Moir are doing the Holiday Festival on ice gala in December. That means they are planning programs and also need to get back to training for that. They are looking forward to it.

At Skate Canada International, they were impressed with the routines of all three Canadian dance teams. In fact, Virtue was most impressed with the new faces of “Liz” Paradis and “Frankie” Ouellette, who finished seventh here, but who evoked an emotional rush with their “Un peu plus haut” free dance. Tears were shed.

Ice dance in Canada is in good hands right now, they see. “The other thing is, is there room for us to come back?” Moir says. “Geez.”

Meet Coaches Extraordinaire: Karen and Jason Mongrain

By Debbi Wilkes

Skating Coaches Karen and Jason Mongrain are nervous.

It’s not because their students are competing at Sectionals next week or because of the demands their community and rink are facing this week at Skate Canada International in Kelowna, BC. As top-notch figure skating coaches with some 40 years of combined experience, this husband and wife coaching team is accustomed to that kind of stress.

What makes them worried this week is the fact that for Sunday’s Exhibition Gala they have to design and teach close to six minutes of choreography to over twenty international skating stars, most of whom they have never met, many of whom do not speak English … and there is only ONE 45-minute rehearsal Sunday morning at Prospera Place in which to make it happen.

Sounds like a nightmare.

When Skate Canada called to ask them if they’d take the job, they instantly knew it would be a tough assignment but they also knew it was a rare opportunity that a coach may have only once in a lifetime. The chance to work with this elite level of skater, regardless of the situation, would be considered a coach’s dream. They agreed to the challenge despite the fact that this time of year is one of their busiest, with competitions and training at their most frantic pace.

So what’s the plan?

Key to the success of the number will be selecting great music. Karen and Jason have decided to use what they describe as “cheesy, 80’s hard rock”, made up of super-popular, positive and energetic music.

Keeping their choreography simple and showcasing individuals will also help build a great number. Between now and that first step on the rehearsal ice Sunday morning, Karen and Jason will do some additional research on-line to get to know the performers’ individual skills a bit  better and to look for any special tricks that will help make the number original. They’ll also encourage skaters to come up with a few of their own unique ideas to add to the choreography and give it some extra sizzle.

The team is well aware that after a week of competition and the stress that goes along with performing, the skaters want to break loose, show their personalities and have some fun. They’ll be counting on those motivators to engage the athletes who are an eager bunch and easy to inspire with new ideas.

Logistics will come into play once the teaching process begins.  The skaters will be spilt up into teams, likely playing the girls against the boys. And as always, the music will dictate exactly who goes where, does what and when.

Six minutes is a massive amount of choreography but, despite their nervousness, Karen and Jason will use their considerable experience to get the job done to create a finale hit which is memorable and fun for both the skaters and the fans. And the Mongrains have come to this challenge with the same kind of dedication, enthusiasm and energy that have been the trademarks of their successful coaching careers.

Jason admits it was just pure luck that got him into coaching. As a skater, he didn’t have any desire to coach … it seemed like a very stressful job! He’d just completed his second year of college and was unsure where he wanted to head when he received a phone call out of the blue from a club in the tiny remote village of Nakusp, BC, asking if he’d be interested in coaching their 60 members, over half of which were at the CanSkate level. Recognizing it would be a fascinating experience, Jason thought it would also give him time to make some decisions regarding his future. But once he started, he was surprised to realize just how rewarding coaching could be, and after the first season, he knew he was hooked!

On the other hand, Karen, his wife and coaching partner, always knew she wanted to be a coach. She was twenty-five or so the day she found a time capsule from her own Grade 5 school project. In it was a Q & A page that asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer? “Skating coach!”

Karen also started in a small community, Grand Forks, BC, and like Jason, counts herself fortunate to have begun her career in a small town where she learned to value different perspectives and was forced to develop her craft with limited resources.

Looking back, some of the couple’s happiest moments teaching have been seeing little kids having a blast on the ice. Watching children have fun on skates and being eager to learn are the qualities they notice most in skaters that become lifelong participants in the sport. Karen and Jason teach a lot of competitive skaters … and there is often high pressure involved … but at the end of the day, both coaches attempt to create an experience that’s still full of fun and adventure, one that will help build a desire to remain involved with the sport in some way after their competitive careers end.

“Nothing is more satisfying than coaching a skater from CanSkate all the way to the end of a long and productive career,” says Karen. “We will often get visits from our past skaters, updating us with their current lives … this is something we both cherish!”

Both partners find that coaching is a great competitive and creative outlet and are particularly proud of the amazing accomplishments of their skaters in Kelowna. In recent years the club has produced a good number of podium finishes at nationals up to the junior level, a special achievement for their club, thanks in part to the support and commitment of the club’s amazing volunteers.

“I love coaching and developing skaters,” adds Jason, “but I think the most important contribution I make is in working with young coaches. This has a greater impact on more skaters and on future generations. I’m also very proud to be part of a team with our club volunteers … a team that is raising the profile and value of figure skating in our city.”

Karen and Jason feel skating is a great life skill. The patience required to learn at all levels, to cope with fear, challenge creativity, fulfill fitness needs, deal with the ups and downs in both practice and performance, and most importantly, to persevere … are all skills to be transferred to life.

Golden skate in Kelowna for Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje

KELOWNA, B.C. – Hard to believe, but Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje had never won Grand Prix gold before.

They have been fractions of points away from so many major achievements: making an Olympic team, winning a national title, and most recently, winning a world title last spring (missing out by .02 points). They’ve had a wild, long string of seconds and thirds at Grand Prix events in recent years.

This time they left nothing to chance, steering to victory at the Skate Canada International by almost 20 points with a light touch, skating to Max Richter’s version of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” With it came a standing ovation.

“Between this and Nebelhorn Trophy, we’ve never won so many gold medals,” Weaver said. “It’s kind of cool now.”

Poje intends to do it again.

“I think it has been our goal now, and it feels attainable and it doesn’t take a miracle to get us here,” Weaver said.

It wasn’t as easy as it looked. There was the pressure of being the top-ranked team coming into the event, with no Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the dressing room. And the pressure of making so many changes, more than they thought, to their free dance, to a lift, to a spin, to transitions, to many little nuances that mean so much since the Nebelhorn Trophy. It felt like they were putting out a new program, but best to make the changes now than later.

“Their not being there made us realize that we need to step into the spotlight with confidence in putting out our programs and everything that we have trained in the off-season,” Poje said. Conquering the pressure this week will be a confidence booster for the future, Weaver said.

“Now success feels attainable”, she added. “It doesn’t take a miracle to get us here.”

Weaver and Poje are the head of a powerful Canadian dance team. Proof of that came with Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier bounding up two places after a mistake in the short program, into winning a silver medal at Skate Canada International.

Elisabeth Paradis and Francois-Xavier Ouellette came from nowhere to look like a threat as well. Although they finished seventh of eight at Skate Canada, Virtue and Moir are impressed with their work from the school of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. (Virtue and Moir want to try out their choreography, too.)

“It’s an amazing thing,” Weaver said. “Success breeds success.”

The bronze medal was taken by Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who had been second after the short.

There were other standing ovations, too. Tiny 16-year-old Satoko Miyahara skated to “Miss Saigon” and had the crowd on its feet. She took the bronze medal in the women’s event with 181.75 points and a couple of under-rotations.

American Ashley Wagner got one too, for Moulin Rouge routine (and some under-rotations of her own) and she ended with the silver medal and 186.00 points.

The gold medalist was 16-year-old Russian Anna Pogorilaya, who had no under-rotations and earned 191.81 points. She looked shocked. Last year, she had surprised everybody to win Cup of China.