Central Ontario dance duo continue smooth transition to novice ranks; Sarah Tamura leads after novice women’s short program

Hannah Whitley and Elliot Graham have fast feet.

And so far, at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, tiny Whitley, 13, of Barrie, Ont., and Graham, 15, of Angus, Ont., are bounding up the ice dancing ladder at the speed of light. After the Cha Cha Congelado and the Argentine Tango pattern dances, they are in first place with 27.18 points, just a hair ahead of Quebec team Valerie Taillefer and Jason Chan with 27.01 points.

Megan Koenig-Croft and Jake Richardson are in third place at 25.45.

Only last year, Whitley and Graham were pre-novice champions. With the big step up to novice, they figured they might finish in the middle of the pack. They’re exceeding their expectations.

“They skated with confidence,” said coach/choreographer Kelly Johnson. “They’re really capable of good transitions. They’ve got fast feet.”

They both started out in small clubs, she from Creemore, Ont., he from nearby Stayner, Ont., – from the same club as the current MiniBlades champions from Battle of the Blades. They teamed up when she was only seven, he nine. Already they have been together six years.

Both were singles skaters, too, but Whitley dropped singles skating last year, Graham two years ago to focus on dance at the Mariposa Club in Barrie, Ont. “I don’t like doing jumps,” Whitley said decisively. Graham likes the company on ice, someone to share the experience, to talk to.

They have come to this event with an extra skip in their step: they train with Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam, who just earned a spot on the Canadian Olympic team last weekend. They work with Islam’s father, David, head of the dance program at Mariposa.

“At first, it (dance) was just for fun,” Whitley said. “We grew into it and started doing better.”

On Monday, they preferred the tango to the Cha Cha, in which they missed a step. “It’s really hard to stay on time [in the Cha Cha],” Whitley said. “It’s a dance that people don’t normally do,” Graham added.

Later, the mittened crowd was treated to a tour-de-force performance by tiny Sarah Tamura – all of 12 years old – in the novice women’s short program. Tamura is leading with 42.48 points after she thrilled the spectators with her hand movements, her triple Salchow-double toe loop combination and a triple loop. Her layback spin was a thing of beauty. She showed extreme flexibility, laying over to the side first, then to the back, her head down her back like a pearl – and then it all changed into a beautiful Biellmann. The girl in the bright lime costume was coached by Joanne McLeod.

Kim Decelles of Baie Comeau, Que., was second with 41.38 points after doing a triple toe loop-double toe loop combination and a triple Salchow, earning a level four for a combination spin.

Megan Yim, another Joanne MacLeod trainee, was impressive in the warmup, but fell on a triple Salchow and put a step between the triple toe loop-double toe loop and is in third place with 39.72 points.

Beverley Smith

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