KINGSTON, ONTARIO – It was a fight, every step.
But Selena Zhao “is a tough gal,” said coach Christy Krall, after Zhao, in her first appearance at a Canadian championship, won the junior women’s title in a landslide.
The 16-year-old skater, born in Seattle, but now representing Canada this year, won the free skate last night at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships with 90.46 points, 11.06 points more than her closest competitor.
Zhao won the gold medal with 140.67 points, also 13.34 points higher than anyone else could muster on a night when most competitors had a bumpy ride.
Zhao had a bumpy ride, too, but she overcame it. “When I got onto the six-minute warmup, my legs felt really slow and I tried not to let it distract me,” she said. “Sometimes I go into a program and everything is really easy. But today, I knew it was going to be a fight.”
And how she delivered. Zhao let fly a double Axel –triple toe loop, a triple flip-double toe loop, two triple Lutzes, one in a hard-fought series, a solo triple flip and a triple Salchow. She finished after the music.
Zhao will now have to advance to the senior level next year, but she’ll fit right in, with skills like that.
Krall explained that Zhao didn’t do so well at the Skate Canada Challenge competition in December because she had “a little sprain” in her foot. And it “kind of” stopped her training.
“I’m really proud of her to come in here and really let it go tonight,” Krall said. “You have to realize that this is only her second nationals…She has a really great competitive soul, good spirit, hard worker.”
Zhao is also a top student. Krall said she has earned the highest awards in every academic class she takes at the Cheyenne Mountain School in Colorado Springs, where she trains.
“She’s climbed a lot of mountains to climb this particular mountain,” Krall said. “She’s going to loosen up after this for sure. “
Cailey England, 17, of Quesnet, B.C. won the silver medal with 127.33 points while Justine Belzile, 17, of Quebec City took the bronze with 124.22 points.
England provided the small crowd with some of the brighter moments of the night, skating to a Piazzolla tango and a rusty-red jeweled costume.
She was off last year with a sport hernia that required surgery and four months away from the ice. This is her second season as a junior. During her first season in 2013, she was 18th at Skate Canada Challenge and eighth at the junior nationals.
“This is so exciting,” England said afterward. “It felt so real.” She had been second after the short programs, but kept her nerves in check. She trains with Karen and Jason Mongrain of Kelowna, B.C. who are starting to make inroads on the national skating scene with their attention to posture, carriage, movement, polish and skill development. “They are really great coaches,” she said.
England finds the difficult flip and Lutz jumps easy. She doesn’t do triple loop or triple toe loop yet.
The senior events begin today.