Even in a world that seems to be standing still at the moment, Emily Bausback can’t help but move forward.
Confined to quarantine in her first months as the reigning Canadian women’s champion, the 18-year-old from New Westminster, B.C. took up several hobbies during the shutdown, including a newfound passion for cycling.
Bausback has found her own personal escape from the unpredictability of the new skating season, often climbing on her bike and getting away for hours at a time. Sometimes her travels take her to the University of British Columbia campus, but more often than not she pedals down to the Seawall in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, offering her a picturesque view of the majestic Vancouver skyline, and some quiet time alone to reflect on an unusual nine months.
One day, Bausback did a round-trip 60 kilometres, but she thinks her personal best is closer to 80.
She can’t say for sure.
“My watch died halfway through, so I couldn’t really track how far I’d gone,” says Bausback with a laugh.
“I love it. It’s just me and my bike. It’s allowed me a lot of time with my thoughts,” she adds. “Cycling helped me get some time to myself to reflect on last season and everything that has happened since.”
And what a season it was. A year that started on the Junior Grand Prix circuit culminated at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., where Bausback and coach Joanne McLeod were targeting a top-5 finish in the senior women’s event.
They did a little better than that, finding the top of the podium at the Hershey Centre.
“Becoming a national champion is everyone’s dream, but we weren’t sure if we would progress that quickly and win it by end of the season,” Bausback admits. “When I did end up winning, it was absolutely incredible. I can’t describe the feeling. It was surreal.”
“I’m just trying to stay positive. This is my first time as a national champion, so everything is new to me. There’s not a year I can compare it to.”
One thing is for certain – it has been a year of firsts for Bausback.
In June, she graduated from high school in the most unconventional of ways, as these strange times dictate. Her graduation ceremony was held online and, the following day, Bausback and her fellow graduates were invited to the school in groups of 20, adhering to strict social distancing guidelines. Her school set up a makeshift stage, which she was able to walk across in a mock ceremony, and she was able to enjoy the time-honoured graduation traditions of getting photos taken with her parents and strolling the halls of her school one last time.
She is now enrolled in her first year of the Kinesiology program at Simon Fraser University, taking her classes in a virtual setting. Bausback had originally planned to take a gap year from Simon Fraser so she could compete internationally, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans.
“It’s been an interesting year,” she says. “Winning in Mississauga was probably the greatest moment of my entire life, but what’s happening now, it’s almost hard to remember what the world was like pre-COVID before everything shut down.
“I was looking forward to competing internationally and having my debut on the Grand Prix circuit. But I know there will be another chance. I’m optimistic nationals will happen, and I am motivated every day to defend my title.”
With her home rink at Champs International Skating Centre of BC still closed in April, Bausback found ice time in nearby Abbotsford until Champs re-opened their doors a couple of months later. Working with McLeod and choreographers Lance Vipond and Neil Wilson, she will debut two new programs once competition resumes, skating her short program to The One I Love by Ellen Krauss and her free program to the spiritual Italian piece Alla Notte (Adagio) by Miriam Stockley.
It may not be the way she envisioned spending her first year as a national champion, but Bausback is grateful to all those who helped her get to the top of Canada’s figure skating mountain.
“My parents, my family, my skating family at Champs and Joanne, who has been with me since the beginning, I owe so much to them,” she says.
“It feels like we won this together.”
For now, it’s one day, and one step, at a time. Bausback hopes when her skating journey resumes, it will lead to Beijing 2022.
“We aren’t going to change anything in our plans,” she says. “Our goal is to make the 2022 Olympics, and we’re going to stick to that.”
In every sense, Emily Bausback is looking ahead, and not behind. She knows the best is still in front of her.