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.

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