(October 31, 2008) – The 2008 HomeSense Skate International began yesterday with an opening press conference to kickoff the event. The energy could be felt throughout the building, especially in the media room where the entire Canadian team assembled to speak with Canadian and international media following the opening press conference.

The press conference began with comments from William Thompson, Skate Canada CEO, Doug Mizzi, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Office, Winners Merchant International (HomeSense representative) and Elizabeth (Liz) Manley, HomeSense Skate Canada International Athlete Ambassador and 1988 Olympic silver medalist. 

Skate Canada CEO William Thompson was the first to speak, “We have a young but experienced team. We are really looking forward to seeing who is going to step up and take control of the podium.”

The Canadian team ages range from 17-25.

HomeSense Skate Canada International Athlete Ambassador Liz Manley expressed her excitement to be back at this event after she won gold in 1986. Liz emphasized that this was and is the event to be at for any skater.

“When we got our assignment envelopes at the start of the season every skater, not just Canadians, had their fingers crossed for Skate Canada,” said Liz Manley. “This is such an important event for any skater and such a great lead-up to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.”  

Skate Canada High Performance Director, Mike Slipchuk introduced the Canadian skaters who were situated around the room on stools. He introduced new comers to the ISU Grand Prix circuit, Rachel Kirkland, 15, and Eric Radford, 23, both from Toronto, Ont. The pair team was a late addition to the event, taking the place of a withdrawn pair. Earlier this year they competed at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany where they placed seventh.

“We are so excited. My parents are driving down from Toronto and even my puppy is coming,” said Rachel.

When asked about the difference in competition from Nebelhorn Rachel responded, “It has a really good feeling. The group of skaters is different and being able to skate in Canada is also a different feeling.”

“We are just happy to be assigned to Skate Canada. We both have lots of friends and lots of family coming down so it’s going to be great,” said Eric.  

Fans came to the rink to watch the official practices, which began in the morning with the ladies at 8:00 AM and finished with ice dance at 7:00 PM.

In the afternoon school children from local area schools came to the rink to cheer on their favourite skaters. Approximately 500 children filled an entire section of the rink. All the students were supplied with bright blue BMO thunder sticks to help express their excitement!

“I really liked it a lot! Especially when they did spins and flips,” said eight-year-old Bianca Pama from Elgin Street Public School. “My favourite skaters are the Americans Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker (pair skaters).”      

Today the actual competition will begin with the pair discipline starting at 12:05 PM. For a full schedule please click here.

Haven’t got your tickets yet? Click here.

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