PRINCE GEORGE, BC – Reigning national pre-novice champions made a pretty loud statement Monday as the curtain lifted on the figure skating competition at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

Less than three months after claiming the Canadian pre-novice crown at Skate Canada Challenge, 10-year-old rising star Stephen Gogolev of Ontario, who trains under the watchful eye of two-time Olympic silver medallist Brian Orser, scored 40.87 to lead after the pre-novice men’s short program.

“I am pretty happy with my performance,” said Gogolev. “I am just here to do my best and improve. These Games will be good for my experience.”

Gogolev’s dazzling performance brought the crowd to its feet at a jam-packed Kin 1 Arena, but it turned out to be the second-loudest cheer of the event. About an hour later, the overflow crowd had the rafters shaking for Prince George’s own Justin Hampole, who scored 36.08 to settle into second spot.

Beres Clements, another B.C. athlete, sits third with 33.97 points.

In ice dance, reigning Canadian pre-novice champions Arianne Bonneau and Oliver Zhang of Quebec set the pace heading into the free dance with 28.09 points. Team Ontario’s Han Na Kim and Corey Circelli are second at 22.48.

Hannah Dawson and Daniel Villeneuve of Ontario, also 2015 national champions, are in top spot after the pre-novice pair short program. In pre-novice women, B.C.’s Olivia Gran scored 41.37 to hold down a slight edge on Canadian champion Sarah-Maude Blanchard of Quebec (39.02).

Eric Pahima of B.C. leads after the Special Olympics Men Level 2 Elements, while Ontario’s Thomas Babcock is the frontrunner after the Men’s Level 3 Elements. In the Special Olympics Solo Women Dance, Nadia Bouillon of Ontario is in top spot after the Elements competition.

QUICK LEARNER

Seven years ago, ice was foreign to Quebec figure skater Nelson Sanchez-Leemet.

In fact, he had never seen it before.

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, the 16-year-old saw a sheet for ice for the first time when his mother took him to a skating show shortly after the family moved to Canada when he was nine. Not long after, Sanchez-Leemet’s mother bought him a pair of hockey skates and enrolled him in CanSkate lessons. After trying the skates for a week, Sanchez Leemet switched to his mother’s figure skates, trained in them for six months and never looked back.

“I went to that skating show, and that was all I needed to see,” says Sanchez-Leemet.

“That’s what I wanted to do – skate. Just like any other Canadian kid.”

After placing fourth in the pre-novice national championships in December, Sanchez-Leemet and partner Samantha Couillard are currently in the silver medal position heading into Wednesday’s free program.

“I love skating with him – he is so determined, so focused, and he just wants to get better,” says Couillard.

DID YOU KNOW…

Team Ontario’s Hannah Dawson, who teamed with partner Daniel Villeneuve to lead the pre-novice pair competition, recorded one of those popular “I Believe” commercials with Canadian figure skating legend Donald Jackson leading up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.

In fact, the 1962 world champion hand-picked Dawson for the role.

“That was quite a big thrill for me,” says Dawson. “It was a lot of fun, and something I will never forget.”

THEY SAID IT…..

“I was pretty scared when I first got out there. That crowd was pretty loud.”  – Stephen Gogolev discussing how he felt prior to his short program Monday.

UP NEXT:

Novice and Special Olympics athletes take over the Kin I area Tuesday as figure skating competition continues. The novice men, women and pair short programs are scheduled, along with the novice pattern dance. The Special Olympics Women’s Elements (Levels 2 and 3) will also be staged. Competition gets underway at 10:45 a.m. PT (1:45 p.m. ET)

Click here to view start orders and results