Teenagers Daleman and Nguyen leads in women’s and men’s after the short programs

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – Nam Nguyen began to felt the pressure this year, the chatter that he could win this national title.

Last week, while training, he had a bit of a meltdown. Coach Brian Orser took him aside, and told him he he’d been there in 1981, when Brian Pockar had been three-time Canadian champion and Orser was a young upstart who had such a good year, people were talking about him, too.

Both Orser (back then) and Nguyen (now) swept the pressure aside. On Friday, Nguyen won the short program with a nice little cushion with a lofty score of 81.78, his best score in a short.

Jeremy Ten, who said earlier that this is his final year – a farewell and a challenge to himself, is in second place with 77.80 points. “It’s pretty cool,” Ten said. “I just left my heart out on the ice.” Roman Sadovsky, only 15 and in his second year of senior, is third with 73.46, a personal best by about three points. Sadovsky had hoped to finish in the top five, to make the national team. “What’s not to be happy about?” he grinned.  He didn’t do a triple Axel: it’s still an inconsistent element for him.

The story of the short program was as much about rough goes as triumphs.

Kevin Reynolds, hobbled by boot problems for the past couple of seasons, got a new pair that enabled him to train for the past four or five weeks. But it wasn’t enough. He fell on all of his jumps elements – both quads and a triple Axel – and dropped to 12th place.

“I gave it everything I had,” Reynolds said sadly. “It was too much for me to handle today…I just wasn’t underneath my feet.”

Elladj Baldé fell on a quad and popped the first jump of his combo, but he sprained a knee a few weeks ago and then caught a virus that swept the Detroit Skating Club last week. Baldé felt horrible for three days, and slowly worked his way back to doing his program only last Saturday. He got 64.79 points.

In the women’s event, Gabby Daleman had one big aim, coming to these Canadian Tire National Skating Championships: to win her first title.

For a moment, Daleman suffered a hiccup on that path, when she fell on a triple Lutz in the women’s short program on Friday, but she steamed ahead to win it with 62.91 points, narrowly ahead of Veronik Mallet, 20, of Sept-Iles, Que., who skated cleanly, putting an exclamation point on her season.

Alaine Chartrand, 18, of nearby Prescott, Ont., and one of the favourites to take the title, stumbled out of a triple loop. Chartrand had the most difficult combination of all, a triple Lutz – triple toe loop, but it appeared under-rotated. She is third with 60.25 points, her highest score in Canada. She got a 61 when she won the short program at Cup of Russia earlier this season, an effort that put her on the international map.

Daleman has had a season of setbacks but decided to follow the advice of choreographer Lori Nichol who told her: “the power of the will is more important than the skill.”

The 16-year-old skater from Newmarket, Ont., came down with her sixth episode of strep throat of the season last week and immediately found a way to frame it in a positive way.

“Skating without breathing is like extra cardio,” she said. “If I can do my program when I can’t breathe, imagine what I can do when I can.”

Daleman also hasn’t recovered from a stress reaction in her right foot that she suffered in Sochi. It’s better, but still hasn’t healed, and on top of that, she has developed plantar fasciitis in that right foot. And the ailment is also affecting her left foot somewhat.

“My right foot feels like a frozen water bottle,” she said.

The senior women and men conclude on Saturday at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston.

Selena Zhao wins junior women’s title in Kingston

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – It was a fight, every step.

But Selena Zhao “is a tough gal,” said coach Christy Krall, after Zhao, in her first appearance at a Canadian championship, won the junior women’s title in a landslide.

The 16-year-old skater, born in Seattle, but now representing Canada this year, won the free skate last night at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships with 90.46 points, 11.06 points more than her closest competitor.

Zhao won the gold medal with 140.67 points, also 13.34 points higher than anyone else could muster on a night when most competitors had a bumpy ride.

Zhao had a bumpy ride, too, but she overcame it. “When I got onto the six-minute warmup, my legs felt really slow and I tried not to let it distract me,” she said. “Sometimes I go into a program and everything is really easy. But today, I knew it was going to be a fight.”

And how she delivered. Zhao let fly a double Axel –triple toe loop, a triple flip-double toe loop, two triple Lutzes, one in a hard-fought series, a solo triple flip and a triple Salchow. She finished after the music.

Zhao will now have to advance to the senior level next year, but she’ll fit right in, with skills like that.

Krall explained that Zhao didn’t do so well at the Skate Canada Challenge competition in December because she had “a little sprain” in her foot. And it “kind of” stopped her training.

“I’m really proud of her to come in here and really let it go tonight,” Krall said. “You have to realize that this is only her second nationals…She has a really great competitive soul, good spirit, hard worker.”

Zhao is also a top student. Krall said she has earned the highest awards in every academic class she takes at the Cheyenne Mountain School in Colorado Springs, where she trains.

“She’s climbed a lot of mountains to climb this particular mountain,” Krall said. “She’s going to loosen up after this for sure. “

Cailey England, 17, of Quesnet, B.C. won the silver medal with 127.33 points while Justine Belzile, 17, of Quebec City took the bronze with 124.22 points.

England provided the small crowd with some of the brighter moments of the night, skating to a Piazzolla tango and a rusty-red jeweled costume.

She was off last year with a sport hernia that required surgery  and four months away from the ice. This is her second season as a junior. During her first season in 2013, she was 18th at Skate Canada Challenge and eighth at the junior nationals.

“This is so exciting,” England said afterward. “It felt so real.” She had been second after the short programs, but kept her nerves in check. She trains with Karen and Jason Mongrain of Kelowna, B.C. who are starting to make inroads on the national skating scene with their attention to posture, carriage, movement, polish and skill development. “They are really great coaches,” she said.

England finds the difficult flip and Lutz jumps easy. She doesn’t do triple loop or triple toe loop yet.

The senior events begin today.

Lori Nichol: Welcome to the Skate Canada Hall of Fame

Welcome to the Skate Canada Hall of Fame

Lori Nichol’s skating career began on a backyard rink hanging on to the end of her Dad’s hockey stick while her Mom glided by in a beautiful arabesque.

That was London, Ontario. Lori was four years old.

After her Dad was transferred to the United States it wasn’t long before Lori’s parents enrolled her in skating lessons at the local club. Eventually she was tutored by the incomparable coach Don Laws.

From her first step on the ice, she was enchanted by the music and how it moved her to create movement and expression. While other skaters practiced their programs, Lori would be skating to their music with her own version of the choreography. Mr. Laws would have to explain to the other skaters that Lori wasn’t being rude, she was simply inspired by their music and how it spoke to her.

It was a sign of things to come for Lori.

“Everything begins with music.”

Lori admits that despite her love of skating, her competitive career wasn’t a huge success. At that time and with exposure to artistic movement lessons, she was slowly discovering she preferred the creative process and felt incredible joy in pursuing the “art” of skating. She appreciated that good skating consisted of great jumps and spins but she also intuitively had a sense that other parts of the sport were worth examining too. What about all the stuff in between? Things like edgework and control, the invention and exploration of movement, the study of sound and how the combination of those things could be expressed in the blade’s relationship with the ice. Those unexplored elements were fascinating to her.

While Lori was delving into her artistic talents, another skater, this one of international and Olympic fame, was putting his artistic stamp on the skating world. Olympic champion John Curry felt so strongly about skating’s artistic potential, he had already created a skating company that would explore that potential through choreography and expression … and he wanted Lori to join. For young Lori, it was a dream come true and her first professional exposure to the rigors of ballet training, the purity of skating and the skills the performers had to develop in order to deliver the material at the standard John expected. It was an intense learning experience.

After an injury that forced her home and out of the Company, Lori found herself lost. She took endless types of jobs to pay the rent while she was undergoing physiotherapy.

Did You Know?

Did you know that Hall of Fame Inductee and world renowned choreographer Lori Nichol was competing at age 10 in her favorite yellow skating dress modeled after a costume worn by US legend Janet Lynn?

One day, a former cast mate in the show, Shaun McGill, asked her if she would substitute teach for him at the Granite Club in Toronto. She wasn’t expecting to love it. Working with young skaters and discovering in them how to make each one unique and special was inspiring. The experience ignited in her the idea that perhaps teaching “artistry” and the quality things she truly loved about skating could be a new and exciting direction for her. … and she already knew the sport needed an artistic advocate.

As her professional teaching career gained momentum, she continued her study of skating’s artistry. She researched the worlds of music, horticulture, fashion, art and architecture, the masters … looking for structure and motivation in anything aesthetic … and always attempting to translate it to the ice.

One summer she took a team of her skaters to Lake Arrowhead in California to study with the legendary Frank Carroll. There she found a mentor and friend who counselled her that if choreography was her thing, she should definitely follow that dream. And to support his advice, he phoned her later in Toronto to ask if she’d work with one of his promising young students.

Lori’s first lesson with this young girl in pigtails was spent figuring out how to connect and trying to build a relationship of trust. That first foray wasn’t easy. How could she explain the meaning of music and artistry when the skater was only interested in how to land a successful triple Lutz? It forced Lori to build on her approach.

“Some skaters are stuck between two worlds”, says Lori. “Are they athletes or artists? My job is to find the music that they love, music that inspires them with ideas and movement, music that will continue to inspire them throughout the season … and still respect the intention of the composer.”

Over the next several years working with Frank’s young student, Lori felt she had a blank canvass on which to help the skater paint an exquisite picture. With Lori’s choreographic vision, that youngster went on to win nine US Nationals, five World Championships and two Olympic medals. Michelle Kwan is one of the most decorated skaters ever.

In Lori’s 30 year career, her choreography has produced 45 Olympic and World medals performed by athletes from all around the world. For Lori each program she creates provides a unique experience and the opportunity for both the skater and the teacher to enter into an intense discovery process together.

She has created some of skating’s most memorable masterpieces: Michelle Kwan’s “Salome”, Jamie Sale and David Pelletier’s “Love Story”, her many creations for Patrick Chan, Joannie Rochette’s “Samson and Delilah, yet Lori’s proudest moments aren’t necessarily about specific programs.

“It comes down to working with athletes from when they’re young, such as Michelle Kwan, Patrick Chan and Carolina Kostner, and having a vision for what style and skills would make them unique. Sometimes it takes years of work before you see results however I’m motivated to envision the impact they could have on skating, and the tenacity, the patience, the acumen and passion it will take to get them there.”

Lori is also inspired every time a skater has a great performance and she sees the joy and satisfaction in their faces.

“I will never forget the look on Michelle’s face at 1996 Edmonton Worlds after skating clean; Jamie and David’s reaction in the kiss and cry when they won Worlds in Vancouver; Evan Lysacek and Shen and Zhao’s look of relief and peace with the gold medal around their necks in Vancouver; Patrick Chan’s special laugh and amazement after winning Worlds 2012 by so many points; Denis Ten going crazy when he won the Free at London Worlds 2013: Carolina Kostner’s smile through her entire Olympic experience in Sochi and Mao Asada’s upbeat tribute to her Mom. That’s when I feel I have done something special!”

It’s the relationships that have so much meaning for Lori, friendships built in the safe and nurturing environment she creates on the ice.

Off the ice, she translates her passion for the artistry of skating into building a better judging system through her work with the International Skating Union. As a contributor and author in the on-going education of judges and the refinement of the Program Components, Lori’s efforts have been recognized world-wide.

In the words of Robert O’Toole, Lori’s one time coaching partner, “Lori wrote the book on how we define, structure, view, and judge the artistry of skating.”

Lori is respected around the world for her work and admits it has become a personal mission to raise the understanding of what aesthetics means, for example, in Japan as opposed to in Russia or in France and Germany, in England or in the United States and Canada … and that one style or one way is not better than another.

According to Lori, “Skating’s greatest challenge is to understand and respect those differences and then educate, educate, educate so we have the tools to know what is considered true quality within those style preferences. I will fight to make sure the art of true skating is never forgotten!”

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje looking for their first Canadian title

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje say they’ve been working nine years for this moment: to win the Canadian title at the 101st Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships.

They remember their first meeting, when they agreed to a cross-border tryout in 2006. It was July, late in a season to be finding a partner. But suddenly, Weaver discovered that her “dream partner” was available and she found herself driving to Canada, all pins and needles. She had resigned herself to skating by herself for the next season.

Weaver didn’t say a word the first day, but she had plenty of thoughts. “I remember thinking this was the real deal,” she said. “This might be something really good…I thought this might be the opportunity I was looking for.”

“My first thought was, this girl was quiet,” Poje said.

Weaver admitted she was intimated by the 6-foot-3 “gorgeous” Poje, who was more accomplished in his skating career than she was at the time. Weaver called him her dream partner. Now Poje says that he feels lucky to have Weaver as a partner and “now she proves to me every day that she is better than me.”

Coach Rebecca Babb took Weaver aside and told her: “Kaitlyn, it’s okay to smile.” Weaver had been so intent and so nervous about winning Poje’s hand that she forgot to be herself.

On the second day of the tryout, Weaver began talking (and hasn’t stopped since.) “From the beginning, we knew it was something unique and something we definitely knew would take us far,” Poje said.

It didn’t take long at all for Weaver, born in the United States, to feel like a Canadian. “The people of Waterloo and Andrew’s family made me feel so much at home immediately,” she said. I was so nervous, thinking I was an outsider. I didn’t want to be the American in the crowd. I didn’t want to stand out. And they took me in right away. Those kids at the rink, I can’t thank them enough.”

Weaver and Poje had their first international completion only six weeks after they joined forces. Right then, Weaver felt like part of the Canadian team.

The secret to their success is their friendship, Poje said. They complement each other. “We are not the same people,” he said. “We’re opposites in some ways, but that definitely helps us when we are going for that gold.”

“We seem to know what each other is thinking before the other knows it,” Weaver said.

Some people never find what Weaver and Poje have. And it has taken them far.

They are two of hundreds of skaters who have shown up this week in Kingston. They helped Canada win an unprecedented 29 medals this season in both junior and senior competitions.

Canada will welcome three new senior champions on Saturday and Patrick Chan, sitting out the season, will be in the arena on Saturday to watch.

Sponsors such as Canadian Tire, Sony, Via Rail, In Bloom Flowers, Black Dog Hospitality and Pita Pit and others are the wind beneath Skate Canada’s wings at this event. Kim Saunders, vice president of sport properties for Canadian Tire calls this championship a “special event.”

Among other things, Canadian Tire is financing a series of skating bursaries for novice and junior champions to the tune of $1,500 for each. “These kids will put this money to good use,” said Skate Canada CEO Dan Thompson.

There will be 20 hours of television coverage of the event on CTV/TSN. A Japanese network is picking up the feed. Thompson said that 12 million Japanese viewers watched the Skate Canada International gala from Kelowna, B.C. last November.

Canadian synchronized skating teams prepared for 2015 Mozart Cup

OTTAWA, ON:  Canada will have two teams competing at the fifth  annual Mozart Cup in Salzburg, Austria. The international synchronized skating competition takes place from January 23-25, 2015, and features 42 teams from 15 countries, in senior, junior, and novice. Canada will have entries in the senior and junior categories.

Les Suprêmes, the 2014 Canadian silver medallists, will be the Canadian entry in the senior category. Representing Quebec, they placed sixth at the 2014 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships and sixth at the 2014 French Cup last season. Les Suprêmes are coached by Marilyn Langlois, assisted by Pascal Denis, Amélie Brochu, and Amanda Gaiotti.

Les Pirouettes, also from Quebec, will represent Canada in the junior category. Last season, Les Pirouettes won this event. The 2013 and 2014 Canadian junior bronze medallists are coached by Nancy Alexander and Stéphanie Savoie.

Susan Morriss of Victoria, B.C., will be the sole Canadian official at the event.

Olympic Medal Upgrade Fifty Years in the Making

Which Color Is It!?

Back in 1964 at the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, my partner, Guy Revell, and I were competing against the skating super powers … West Germany’s defending World Champions Marika Kilius and Hans Jurgen-Baumler, the favorites, and the visionary Lyudmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, examples of the emerging pair skating movement coming out of the USSR.

Both those leading teams showed unique styles and excellent skating, the Germans with their glamorous Hollywood presence and the Russians with their magical and romantic artistry. Just watching each of the teams trying to out-maneuver the other to take control of the practice session was a ticket-worthy event all on its own!

That year Guy and I were considered “dark horses”.

With only two previous world championship outings on our resume, 1960 in Vancouver where I think we were second last and 1962 in Prague where we finished fourth. You may recall no competition was held in 1961 out of respect for the Prague bound US Team killed in a plane crash near Brussels.

When Worlds were held in Cortina, Italy in 1963, Guy and I were hoping to build on the previous year’s success and with a good performance show we had the stuff to be considered possible medal contenders for the Olympic Games just one year away. But after a disastrous fall while posing for photographers, my resulting facial paralysis and concussion forced us out of the event with team leaders sending us home early to deal with what might have been a career-ending injury for me. Fortunately the expert medical team at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto discovered that the paralysis was actually caused by internal hemorrhaging, a result of a hairline skull fracture not picked up at the small hospital in Cortina that dealt mostly with broken bones from skiing accidents.

All that background is to say, in the lead-up to the ’64 Games, nobody really knew who we were or what we could do. Remember … back then there was no Grand Prix Series and very few other international events where programs could be tested and judges could educate themselves. It was one 5:00 free skate that determined the 1964 Olympic Champions. (The Short Program was debuted that year at the World Championships in Dortmund, Germany.)

What the skating world did know was it was going to be a battle like no other. Change was in the air … and in the end, the traditional athletic razzle dazzle of the Germans could not fend off the new, fresh look and mesmerizing direction of the Protopopovs. The Russians claimed the gold medal in a 5/4 split … remember those? Guy and I were third to win the bronze medal and the dynamic US Pair team, Vivian and Ronald Joseph, settled for fourth.

It was a huge upset! But there was something else even more unsettling lurking beneath the on-ice event.

Rumor had it that the Germans were entertaining professional ice show offers prior to the Games, the ultimate taboo back in those days when the Olympic ideal was based on true amateurism. No money, no talk of money, no professional plans, no prize money, no government funding … we really did skate for the love of the sport.

Flash forward two years and out of the blue in 1966 Guy and I received a letter from either the ISU or the IOC … it’s a bit foggy after 50 years … saying that the German team had been disqualified. If we’d be so kind as to return our bronze medals, now to go to the Josephs, we would receive the Olympic silver medals. To say it was like winning the lottery would be an understatement!

And to my knowledge, for more than 20 years, that’s the way the placements stayed.

Suddenly in the late ‘80s, that all changed. Looking at the IOC official results, Kilius/Baumler were back listed as winning silver and Guy and I were once again in third place.

Although there was some scuttlebutt about what that meant, it was all speculation. Neither the CFSA (Skate Canada) nor Guy and I were ever informed of the change, however the biggest part of the mystery was we were never asked to return our silver medals. It was so weird and to tell you the truth, I began to feel a bit like an imposter. I still had the silver medal … but not according to the record books.

Over the next 25 years, nobody was able to get to the bottom of the story. Skate Canada, the USFSA, coaches, officials and the athletes involved all tried to find out exactly what happened. How could the German team be disqualified in 1966 only to reappear in the results some 20 years later?

A visit to Saint John, NB for the 2013 Skate Canada International was a turning point.

There I met Amy Rosewater, a freelance journalist writing for the New York Times. She was doing a pre Sochi story on the US team from 1964, in particular on Scotty Allen the men’s bronze medalist. There aren’t many of us around from that era so Barb MacDonald, Skate Canada’s Corporate Communications Director, suggested Amy speak with me about some of my Scotty recollections. We hit it off right away … had a great gab about my experience at the ’64 Games … which eventually led me to tell her the relatively unknown pair medal saga.

One week later, Amy phoned me at home to ask if I’d be willing to support her efforts to find out the details of the story. My response? “Of course … and may the force be with you.”

It took Amy two months and much probing to discover that the IOC did in fact conduct an investigation after Innsbruck and found evidence the German pair had indeed signed a pro contract during the Games, an action which led to their disqualification two years later.

But there’s more.

Apparently at the same time amateur rules were being enforced, there were political machinations going on in the background. Amy discovered this stunning revelation which she reported in the New York Times on December 13th/2013.

Willi Daume, a longtime German sports official, later said that had the (German) pair not returned their medals, it might have jeopardized Munich’s eventually successful bid for the 1972 Summer Games.

As for the remarkable placement turn-about in 1987, Amy followed up in the same December 13th/2013 NY Times article:

Prodded by two German members, the IOC quietly re-awarded the West Germans their silver medals in 1987, 23 years after the Innsbruck Games, at an executive board meeting in Istanbul. The couple was deemed “rehabilitated”.

Since then, although the record books have consistently shown confusing results and despite never notifying the countries involved, the IOC maintains it always intended that the silver medal would be shared between the pair teams from Canada and Germany.

And in one last note … it took another 11 months of Amy’s persistence before the change in placements was finally and official recognized on the IOC website. Silver for Canada and West Germany, bronze for the United States. That was November of 2014 … over 50 years after the competition.

So this week in Kingston if you see me wearing a rather large silver medallion around my neck, I hope you’ll understand.

Kingston Skating Clubs Keep Making Strides

*It Takes a Team!

Last year Skate Canada Eastern Ontario (EO) felt privileged to host the 100th Anniversary of the National Championships in Ottawa.

With such a highly successful event tucked into their skate bags, it’s no wonder the skating family is back in Eastern Ontario once again, this time in Kingston to celebrate the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships at the beautiful Rogers KRock Centre.

This year many of the dedicated LOC members have returned to be joined by some newly recruited local volunteers for a total of over 250 volunteers from Kingston and the surrounding area.

Glenda Cartwright, Vice Chair of EO and Volunteer Recruitment Director for CTNSC, has high praise for her dynamic team.

“These dedicated people have graciously given their time to assist in delivering a successful event. I’ve had the pleasure to work with several organizations in the City of Kingston to recruit support and of course many clubs in EO have also provided enormous help: St Lawrence College, Queens University, local Senior Centers, CFB Kingston Military, plus over 30 Medical and Physio volunteers, along with those long-standing volunteers who return every year to join in the fun.”

Despite the volunteers’ enthusiasm and the positive experience of many past successes, the week didn’t start out all that well when a flood forced the EO office to suddenly relocate to temporary accommodation.

“The office flood could not have come at a worse time!” said EO Chair Gloria Brighten. “Having to move while repairs are taking place caused real stress for the office staff. We’re involved in multiple events, Seminars, Clinics, Special Olympics, and of course in the lead-up and execution of the National Championships, so the transition was really tough. But everyone has maintained a positive attitude and when the Championships are all over, we’ll work together to return to full service for our Eastern Ontario members.”

Did You Know?

Did you know that one of the oldest skating clubs in Kingston is celebrating a major milestone in 2015? This year the Fort Henry Heights Skating Club will be 50 years old! Congratulations FHHSC for providing many wonderful years of skating to the community.

Within the Kingston area, three clubs are in operation providing lessons, coaching and programming to over 800 members.

Fort Henry Heights Skating Club (FHHSC) is located at the Constantine Arena at Canadian Forces Base Kingston, Kingston East. Constantine Arena opened its doors in 1960 with a small recreational skating club of approximately 30 skaters who received lessons from volunteer coaches. Five years later the Fort Henry Heights Figure Skating Club was officially founded and became a member of Skate Canada, then the Canadian Figure Skating Association. Today the club has grown to approximately 275 members and this year, 2015, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Skate Kingston, located at the Invista Centre in the west end of Kingston, is an amalgamation of the old Kingston SC originally founded in 1958, and the West Kingston SC founded in 1971. With approximately 450 members including Skate Kingston CanSkate, STARSkate and Adult as well as the Kingston Silver Blades (Special Olympics) and Kingston Synchro Skating (KISS), it opened its doors in 2008.

Loyalist Winter Club’s (LWC) home arena is WJ Henderson Arena in Amherstview and was founded in 1970. While LWC is not located in Kingston proper, with the sharing of many coaches and skaters, the club is considered an integral part of the greater Kingston skating family.

In addition to its great clubs, Kingston can also boast about some of the national and international skaters and judges the area and its clubs have produced.

Jean Matthews (Gilchrist) is the only figure skating member of the Kingston Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in 2004 as a Builder. Jean joined the Crystal FSC (’62), now the Kingston SC, and was instrumental in starting the club’s first certified competitions. As an international skating judge, Jean officiated at two Olympic Winter Games (1988, 1992) and five World Championships (1985-89).

George Meagher, born in 1866 in Kingston, was a figure skating pioneer in Canada and in Europe. He is best known for both his talent on the ice and for the co-founding of the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa. In 1891 he won the Amateur Championships of the World (Ottawa). In 2010 George was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame as an Athlete.

Other notable athletes: Ice Dancer Darryl VanLuven took his first skating lessons in Kingston; competitors Janet Emerson and Drew Markham skated with LWC; Robert O’Toole from FHHSC ; and World Ice Dance silver medalist Tanith Belbin started her CanSkate career in Kingston before moving and competing for the USA.

The City of Kingston is a perfect host for the national championships. The services and venue are top notch with a downtown core that’s visitor friendly with the potential for excellent dining and shopping … and we all know how much skaters and fans LOVE to shop!

Historically, the city has embraced skating as a national winter pastime. Constantine Arena and the Invista Centre provide opportunities for open family skating. And every year Springer Market Square has the outdoor rink up and running throughout the winter season, a great place to go and spend time with family while enjoying the great outdoors. In February, the city also hosts Feb Fest, inviting skaters from each Club, Synchro, Queens University and Special Olympics to join with a “famous” headliner to provide a first rate show for the Kingston Community. This year World Champion Patrick Chan will star in the show.

In preparation for the start of the event and to publicize the Championships, the City of Kingston and Springer Market Square hosted a CanSkate Demonstration with the skaters and Coaches from Skate Kingston.

CanSkaters, along with World Champion Elvis Stojko, his wife Gladys Orozco and our Athlete Ambassador, Paige Lawrence, were put through their paces on a CanSkate circuit on the outdoor rink entertaining family, friends and spectators,” offers Glenda with pride in her voice. “Paige has also been invited to visit StarSkate sessions this week at FHHSC and Skate Kingston.”

During the week of competition, EO, its skaters and coaches will be presenting the CanSkate Showcase Demonstration at KRock Centre on several occasions. Forty FHHSC CanSkaters from age 3 to 11, Coaches and Program Assistants will “strut their stuff” with a mini CanSkate Demonstration. When it was announced that the National Skating Championships were coming to Kingston at a time when FHHSC would be celebrating their 50th Anniversary, everyone was so excited with the prospect of being involved. Every board member and Coach is volunteering along with numerous parent volunteers.

“The STARSkaters are here on mass,” comments Glenda, “Flower Retrievers, Ceremonies and Ice Patchers are all doing their best. They’re living this wonderful experience and will have treasured memories for a long time to come. That’s the power of this wonderful sport!”



Thanks to Skate Canada Eastern Ontario for their generous participation in this feature.



Big jumps land Nicolas Nadeau a national title

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – Nicolas Nadeau was on a mission on Wednesday night at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships.

The 17-year-old skater from Boisbriand, Que., wanted to win the junior national title and leave no doubt about it. So he did something Olympic: after using Lutzes at Skate Canada Challenge last month, he decided to do not one, but two triple Axels in his free skate at nationals. None of his competitors tried that jump.

That plan meant he had to do one of those Axels in combination.

So he did. He astonished the die-hard spectators at the K-Rock Centre when he unleashed a triple Axel – double toe loop as his first jump, then wound up right again and went for a second triple Axel.  He stepped out of that one, but the effort went way beyond what he had done at Skate Canada Challenge.

With this bold plan, Nadeau won with the free skate with 123.68 points (6.36 ahead of closest competitor Antony Cheng of Richmond Hill, Ont.) and won the free with185.75, almost nine points ahead of Cheng, who took the silver medal.

Edrian Paul Célestino  of Dollard-des-Armeaux,  Que., won the bronze medal with his beautiful Nessum Dorma routine, that earned him 114. 44 points and 172.68 overall.

Yvan Desjardins, who trains Nadeau, Daniel-Olivier Boulanger-Trottier who finished fourth with a strong skate and 13-year-old Joseph Phan, who ended fifth, said Nadeau showed no nerves at all. Last year, Nadeau would have liked to have won the junior title and skated last but had a disastrous performance in the free. Desjardins said Nadeau hadn’t forgotten that gloomy day in Ottawa, but still, it did not budge his resolve.

“He’s tough,” Desjardins said. “He has to be. He’s in the family. He has four sisters.”

Nadeau finally earned some Junior Grand Prix competitions earlier this season and the first one was in Japan, an experience that could have daunted him. Desjardins asked him if he felt any nerves. “Nothing,” Nadeau said.

The two triple Axels that Nadeau did are vitally important to his immediate future: if he wanted to win this junior title, he needed it, Desjardins told him. And if he wanted to get to the world junior championships in March, he had some convincing to do, especially since Skate Canada officials may be looking at junior-eligible men who compete in senior already, such as Roman Sadovsky and Mitchell Gordon.

Now that he has delivered, he just has to wait to see his fate.

Nadeau is only the sixth Quebec man to win the junior skating title, and the first since Elladj Baldé won it seven years ago, in 2008. Others were Nicholas Young in 2000, Sebastien Britten in 1990, Jamie Eggleton in 1984 and believe it or not, Toller Cranston – who originally skated out Montreal – in 1964.

Only seven Quebec men have won the novice men’s title, the last one being Phan last year.

Interestingly enough, five of the six skaters in the final flight were all from Quebec. Could the tide be turning?

The new junior pair champions are Mary Orr of Brantford, Ont., and Phelan Simpson of Kitchener, Ont., who won in a landslide with a strong skate. Their winning total of 133.14 points was 12.84 points higher than second-placed Shalena Rau of Waterloo, Ont., and Sebastien Arcieri of Montreal.

The bronze medal went to Rachel Dobson of Campbellville, Ont., and Alexander Sheldrick of Paris, Ont.

Junior skaters impress at national championships

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – Selena Zhao hasn’t had a straight and easy path to her first national skating championship in Canada: travel woes, injury, learning curves.

Born in Seattle, Zhao has become a transplanted Canadian this season, and on Wednesday, she finally found her feet, finishing first in the junior women’s short program with 50.21 points, two points more than her closest rival.

Zhao finished only seventh at the Skate Canada Challenge event leading to this competition, but she had been back on ice for only two weeks after injuring her right foot while training an ambitious triple flip – triple toe loop combination.

She had been off for two weeks, after landing “funny” on that combo. It hurt so badly, she couldn’t walk the next day. And when she did get back to work, she couldn’t train normally because everything hurt when she tried that combination again. Leading up to this event, she couldn’t practice the triple-triple version of it.

On Wednesday, she did a triple flip – double toe loop, as pretty as you please, following it with a triple Lutz. When she landed a fine double Axel, she broke into a smile and finished the program that way, skating on air.

As the week unfolds, Zhao says she is “honoured” to have the opportunity to skate for Canada at the nationals. “It’s so cool,” she said. “I’m here and it’s wonderful. This whole thing is so different to me and I’m just happy to be part of it.”

Her mother is in Kingston to watch. “It’s really cool because she was in Ottawa for such a long time,” Zhao said. And Kingston is reminding her of home. “It’s nice to see her getting in touch with her roots,” Zhao said.

Zhao’s goals this year are rather indefinable. “At the very beginning of the season, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “You don’t really know what’s possible or not.”

Getting to some Junior Grand Prix events has been a bonus, and Zhao has learned much from them, also considering that she endured horrendous travel issues at both. At her trip to Dresden in Germany, her flight was cancelled because of a Lufthansa strike.

She’s also learned what it’s like to compete with skaters from other countries. “A big thing is confidence,” she said. She arrived in Germany, gawking at the Russian and Japanese girls, about whom she heard so much. Then she suddenly realized that they were all doing the same jumps too. “It was an eye-opener,” she said.

Justine Brasseur has learned a lot this week, too. She and partner Mathieu Ostiguy are the new novice pair champions, winning with a powerful performance and 111.63 points. The previous night, Brasseur had an unusually poor skate in the women’s novice free skate, after leading the short program – and dropped to a bronze medal. Coach Josée Picard said when her first jump in the routine was a little off, Brasseur tensed up. Picard knew that it would be a fight after that, as Brasseur became cautious. And she was.

But in the novice pair event, Brasseur and Ostiguy – skating pairs for the first time this season – delivered fine lifts, throws and jumps. Ostiguy said the twist was the hardest element for him to learn. They did a double twist here and after nationals, they will start training the triple.

“It’s a dream come true,” Ostiguy said. And about skating pairs, after refusing for so many years? “It was a great decision,” said a jubilant Ostiguy.

(Tiny) Olivia and Mackenzie Boys-Eddy won the silver medal with 108.44 points while Lori-Ann Matte and Thierry Ferland won the bronze with 103.60 points.

First batch of champions crowned in Kingston

KINGSTON, ONTARIO – When Montreal-based skaters Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha won the novice dance title at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships on Tuesday, it was only one on a string of achievements for them.

Lagha, 15, of Longueuil, Que., has played Carnegie Hall as a pianist already. Lajoie, 14, cracks up audiences at Just For Laughs in Montreal, and she’s already been in a videotron commercial.

The sky has always been the limit for this young, talented team that steamrolled past a group of promising novice dancers in a deep field in the free skate on Tuesday.

Skating to music from the Don Quixote ballet – a challenging piece of music indeed for a novice team – Lajoie and Logha won the free dance with 64.62 points, over Sabrina Bedard and Zoe Duval-Yergeau of Repentigny, Que.

Sum it all up and Lajoie and Lagha won with 93. 80 points, while Bedard and Duval-Yergeau (coached by former national ice dancer Josée Piche) took the silver medal with 90.85 points.

Ellie Fisher of Barrie, Ont., and Parker Brown, of Waubaushene, Ont. won the bronze medal with 88.55 points.

Lajoie and Lagha may be young – they have many years of Junior Grand Prix eligibility ahead of them – but they’ve already been together four years. And ballet is a big part of their lives. They study with a beloved teacher, Eva, twice a week. Once a week, she works with them on the ice. Still, they found it very difficult to translate the ballet onto the ice: the placement of the foot, the extensions, the arms, the expression. Still these intrepid youngsters went for it.

They were Canada’s pre-novice champions last year and had finished second at Skate Canada Challenge, the qualifying event for the nationals. They are slated to do the Canada Games in March.

And Lagha, whose heritage is Algerian? He was born in Canada, but his mother Fella Hammouten, is an accomplished pianist and urged her son to follow suit. Lagha studies with a Georgian-born teacher called Tina Kakabadze once a week and practices at home. All of his work landed him at Carnegie Hall.

Winning the novice title the year after they won pre-novice is an achievement they cherish. “We worked very hard for this,” Lagha said. “It came with work. No work. No results.”

Rachel Pettitt, 15, of Whitehorse, YT., learned the hard way never to take anything for granted. Last year, she didn’t even make it to Skate Canada Challenge, out of her section, much less the Canadian championships. On Tuesday, she became novice women’s champion.

She had hoped for only a medal and then as the night progressed, a silver. But short program leader Justine Brasseur made several errors, and dropped to third place. Pettitt won both the free skate and the overall gold medal, earning 112.87 points. Alicia Pineault of Varennes, Que., took the silver medal with 109.63 points, narrowly ahead of Brasseur with 109.05.

Pettitt’s medal marked the first novice championship for coaches Karen and Jason Mongrain, who have carved out a burgeoning school in Kelowna, B.C. They’ve had champions at lower levels and “lots of fourths” Jason said.

The lesson they have imparted to Pettitt is to fight for every point. And she did, skating to Lara’s Theme from Doctor Zhivago. She’ll move to junior next year.

Brianna Delmaestro, 19, of Port Moody, B.C. and Timothy Lum, 19, of Burnaby, B.C. made it no contest to win the junior dance title, taking the free dance by more than five points to win gold with 148.62. Almost nine points back were silver medalists Lauren Collins and Shane Firus of Minesing, Ont. – a new team this year – with 139.83. The bronze medal belonged to Melinda and Andrew Meng of Montreal, who earned 131.14.

Next generation of skaters producing results in Kingston

Coach Josée Picard calls it Part Two. And she’s talking about tiny Justine Brasseur, who has won both the novice women’s short program and the novice pairs short with her new partner Mathieu Ostiguy at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships this week.

Part One of Picard’s revived career would be Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau, the current Junior Grand Prix Final champions. Of course, Picard’s past is the anchor of it all: she coached Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler to win a world pair title and Olympic bronze medal back in the 1990s.

It’s only too fitting that Picard’s latest project is Isabelle Brasseur’s niece, Justine, the daughter of Isabelle’s brother, Dominique.

Picard has been coaching the newest skating Brasseur since she was four. And she started Justine out in pairs when she was only seven – the best way to develop a pair skater.

Brasseur and Ostiguy won the pairs short program on Tuesday with 36.91 points, a narrow lead over Olivia and Mackenzie Boys-Eddy. Justine won the novice women’s short program on Monday with 43.05 points, delivering a triple toe loop – double toe loop and a triple Salchow, along with two spins rated level four.

When Justine was seven, Picard asked Ostiguy, skating at a nearby rink, if he wanted to skate pairs with her. He politely declined, continuing on his singles career. Justine skated with other partners, but they were short-lived duos, all tiny, some with only a 10-pound weight difference, not that Justine was ever very big.

A year and a half ago, Ostiguy came to skate with Picard at her club, and once again, Picard asked him about skating pairs. Ostiguy still did not want to do pairs. But after nationals last year, when Ostiguy did well enough in junior men’s, but not well enough to ever make an international team – there were no triple Axels in the future – Picard told him that when they went home, he would try pairs – and no argument. And then he could decide whether or not he wanted to continue.

He bought in. Picard didn’t think they’d be ready in time for these nationals. But they are showing that they are, with a professional, tidy look on the ice. “What’s good is that they are both good jumpers,” Picard said. “They do all the triples. It’s just a matter of him with lifts, because he had never done lifts before.”

This is Justine’s ninth year of skating. Picard says she’s happy to skate and skate all day at the rink. She’s always smiling. Like Séguin and Brasseur’s aunt, she’s easy going. “I’ve had this one in the oven a long time,” Picard said.

Lori-Ann Matte and Thierry Ferland were only .22 points back in third behind the Boys-Eddy team.

The team that finished ninth of 11 – Katrina Lopez and Kurtis Schreiber – brought back powerful memories of a heady time. They wore the costumes that their coaches, Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay, wore at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

“It’s pretty cool,” Lopez said afterward. She watched the Olympics at home in Calgary.

Wearing them gave this new pair extra motivation: they are not only representing Alberta, but their coaches, too, Schreiber said.

It was a “super last-minute decision” for Lopez and Schreiber to morph into pair skaters. Schreiber tried out with Lopez last summer, but wasn’t sure he wanted to do it. They finally got together September 10, only four months ago.

Because they started so late, there wasn’t time to whip up all of their costumes. And Langlois says she and Cody are all for saving their students’ money.

Langlois tells Lopez that she looks better in the costume than she did five years ago.

Mary Orr of Brantford, Ont., and Phelan Simpson of Kitchener, Ont. won the junior pair short program easily with 48.04 points and have more than a five-point lead over Hope McLean of Newbury, Ont., and Trennt Michaud of Trenton, Ont., with 42.74. In third place is Keelee Gingrich and Davin Portz of Calgary with 41.86 points.

The new novice men’s champion is 14-year-old Gabriel St. Jean of Grand-Mere, Que., who actually finished third in the free skate with 75.05 points to finish overall with 118.23.

Gabriel Farand, 13, of St-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Que., who had led after the short program, was fifth in the free and took the silver medal with 117.09. The winner of the free skate was Conrad Orzel, 14, of Woodbridge, Ont., who evoked tumbleweeds in his routine and won the bronze medal with 114.06. His winning score in the free was 80.49.

New Canadian Champions to be Crowned in Kingston

Pair skaters Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are flying into the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships this week in Kingston, Ontario on a wing.

Kevin Reynolds is flying in on a prayer.

Everybody knows about the stunning international results delivered by Canada’s top two duos, how they both swept their Grand Prix events and won the Grand Prix Final by large margins and huge personal bests. And they both find themselves at the half-way point of the season as favourites for world championship gold.

Reynolds has been forced to follow a different path, disappearing from sight after withdrawing from both of his Grand Prix events, felled by boot issues and injury.

But wait! According to a conference call on Friday, Reynolds is very much back and alive and zeroing in on finally winning that elusive Canadian title after 10 years at the senior level. He appears to have finally found the magic slipper, and has been training more solidly in the past four or five weeks than he has in the past year and a half. This news happily creates an interesting showdown with the 16-year-old Nam Nguyen, who has gone from strength to strength this season and clearly wants that title abdicated by Patrick Chan, too.

Last season, Reynolds went through nine pairs of boots, trying to find a perfect fit, almost impossible considering his uncommonly narrow heels and wide forefoot. He struggled through four pairs of boots earlier this season, and finally found a custom-fit pair – only to discover that they would break down within a week and a half, under the rigors of a Reynolds’ training session.

The problems worsened after Reynolds finished sixth at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic International in Barrie, Ontario, clearly suffering from a lack of training. And then one day in practice, he fell on a quad and sprained his left ankle, the one he uses as takeoff for the triple Axel and his two quads. “I was simply unable after spraining that ankle to be in any sort of competitive shape for the Grand Prix season,” he said. He had to withdraw from the Grand Prix. It was tough.

He knew he had to take a different tack to push forward after the sprain healed. He decided to try out the best, most expensive stock boot offered by each manufacturer, to see which one fit best. He’s lost track of how many boots he’s tried this season. He puts it at 12. But one of those pairs fit, just well enough.

Reynolds calls it “an amicable solution.” After what he’s been through, it’s enough to give him more confidence than he’s had in more than a year, heading into Kingston.

“In the last month or so, I’ve been able to get some good quality training in,” Reynolds said. “Heading into nationals, I want to be able to capitalize on the opportunities that are present this year, namely that Patrick Chan has decided to opt out this season, which leaves the national title open for the taking.”

Reynolds toughest obstacle right now is a lack of competition leading up to nationals, and in an ideal world, he’d like a little more training time, too. But “I’ve proven that I’ve been able to deal with that in performances that I gave at the world championships and Olympics,” he said. “I know it’s possible to step up to the plate and hopefully take that national title. But I know other people are hungry for it, too.”

Hungry? Others are, too. As huge as their winning score was at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Barcelona last month, Weaver and Poje believe that their routines have improved even more over the past month. “We’ve enhanced a lot of aspects of our program so we’re really looking forward to not only having a great nationals, but getting a lot of feedback to give us a boost into the second half of the season,” Weaver said.

Most of their work on their exquisite free dance to the Four Seasons, is subtle, “a couple of choreography things,’’ finishes, details, expression, interpretation. They’re just starting to feel the rhythm and the feel of the routine. “We have so much room to grow,” Weaver said.

Goals? They’re working at maximizing all of their levels of difficulty at the national championships. “We want to make our programs bullet-proof in terms of the technique,” she added. They have now become accustomed to being the top seed at an event, and they’re ready for the responsibility.

This will be their eighth Canadian championship, and both hope they can finally win their first Canadian title, this after already winning a silver medal at last year’s world championships and gold at the Grand Prix Final.

Duhamel and Radford will go into this national championship with a much more relaxed feeling, especially since they will no longer be pushed by Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch. That team has split and are both with new partners, adding another level of intrigue to the event.

Duhamel and Radford, winners of their ISU Grand Prix Final gold by seven points, see this season as a major breakthrough for them. “Last year at the end of the season, we saw a big shift in pair skating in the world: so many teams breaking up, getting new partners, retiring, taking the season off, having injuries, whatever,” Duhamel said. “When we decided to continue skating after Sochi last year, a big part of that was because we saw an opportunity to become the best in the world. And in skating, a lot of it is about timing. You have to wait your turn and you have to be around together as a team and skate your best, at the right time.

“I think that we have a great opportunity this year to set the world on fire,” she said. “And now it’s up to us to seize the opportunity. I would say so far, we’re doing a good job of that.”


Tickets can be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.ca, by phone at 1.855.985.5000 or in person at the Rogers K-Rock Centre box office.

The event will feature approximately 250 skaters in the men’s, women’s, pair and ice dance disciplines, competing in three levels: senior, junior and novice.

Athletes qualified for the championships threw their sectional events and then move onto Skate Canada Challenge the national qualifying event, which saw 18 men’s, 18 women, 12 pair teams and 15 ice dance teams move onto the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships.

Athletes will vie for spots on the Skate Canada National Team and the Canadian teams that will compete at the 2015 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, the 2015 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and the 2015 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.