When Daniel Beland was 16 years old, he blazed a significant trail on the world scene.
Back then, in 1977, he was the first Canadian man to win a world junior championship title. There have been three others since: Dennis Coi in 1978, Andrei Rogozine in 2009, and Nam Nguyen in 2014.
In taking that event, Beland was also the first French Canadian skater to win a gold medal at an international competition. Ever. As Quebec sport has gained power over the years, so have its figure skaters.
In the years that have followed, Beland has quietly been working as a coach in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., giving seminars, teaching skills, and now he has a 17-year-old student, Edrian Celestino with a sensitive touch that could, if he continues on this path, become quite goose-bump worthy. Celestino says he would love to become the Canadian junior champion this year and earn a trip to the world junior championships.
Ask a fresh-faced young guy what he likes most about skating, and he might very well answer that it is about the jump, that soaring feeling, risking it all, landing on a thin edge. What fun.
Ask Celestino the same question and his answer is: “I love edges, stroking, footwork.
“I could probably spend the entire session just doing edges,” he said. “There are so many things you can improve or enhance a little detail, to pointing your feet, the way your free leg is stretched, even your fingers, your arms. It’s endless.”
Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that Celestino’s favourite part of Skate Canada’s 2015 Development Camp in April was the session with Tracy Wilson, a former ice dancing champ who teaches the skill of the blade—right up Celestino’s alley.
“She was explaining so many things I never thought about,” he said. “Such as the way you apply pressure on your blades. And how a simple lean can make a complete difference in the way you accelerate on the ice.”
Celestino attended the 2014 camp as well, after he had finished second at the novice level to Joseph Phan – while winning the freeskate. But that experience was short-lived. Celestino was injured and could not participate, bundling out the door on the first day with his coach. Because of that, Celestino flew under the radar of high performance director Michael Slipchuk, who quickly became reacquainted with Celestino’s qualities at a Quebec summer skate, handing him his first international competition, a Junior Grand Prix in Estonia, in September of 2014.
“He brings a lot of good qualities,” Slipchuk said. “He’s a strong technical jumper, very good skater, good edges, good flow. But what really stood out for me this year was ice coverage. When he did his short program, he just filled the rink. The basic skating of the athlete is so important because as they move up, everyone is doing the same jumps.”
Celestino earned his way back to the camp this spring because he had won the bronze medal at the Canadian junior championships. “It was my first year in junior and I wasn’t expecting too much,” Celestino said. “I just wanted to have fun and gain experience. But at Challenge, that’s where I really surprised myself. I came out at the top. I thought: ‘You know, this hard work is really starting to pay off.’”
Going off to the national championship was more stressful because, as Celestino says, it’s nice to win, but much harder to maintain first place. He was nervous.
Celestino has been to the Canadian championships only twice. At his first appearance in 2014, he moved from eighth place to second with an excellent free skate.
Beland began to coach Celestino six years ago and he noticed right away that the tiny youngster had great knees. No big surprise that he used to be an ice dancer, paired up with Vanessa Bui. He had good jumping action, too, and good spins. “He had the wow factor,” Beland said.
Currently, Celestino has all of his triples but the Axel. In April, he got a new pair of boots, and then began to work on the Axel, with the help of the “fishing pole,” or harness. Like Denis Ten, Celestino is very sensitive about his feet. He needs to feel comfortable in his boots. ”If there is a little bit of discomfort, I’ll take them off and adjust my socks,” he said.
Both of Celestino’s parents were born in the Philippines, moved to Canada and met while studying. In the beginning, Celestino’s father could speak no English. He now has a degree in aerospace engineering. His father used to play in the Filipino basketball league. His mother was always serious about school. Celestino’s 9-year-old brother, Earl Jesse Celestino, is also starting to skate.
“He has a great family,” Beland said. “You would like to have a family like this all the time. We talk about the year all together and we decide what to do.”
Last season, Celestino worked with top choreographer David Wilson. It seems as if he only skates to beautiful music, not surprisingly. His short program was to Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto No. 2 in C minor.
His free skate during the 2013-2014 season was Puccini’s “Nessum Dorma” – one of the best-known tenor arias in opera. Imagine, skating to this powerful song at age 15! Last season, however, when vocals were allowed, Celestino amped up his game: he skated to a version sung by Liciano Pavarotti, who had elevated the aria to pop status during his career.
He’s looking to have his short program choreographed for the coming season by Shae-Lynn Bourne. Stay tuned for something exquisite.