Fifty Years Later: Petra Burka, 1965 World Champion

It doesn’t feel like 50 years, says Petra Burka, 1965 world champion, of her momentous achievement, almost a lifetime ago. Somebody sent flowers and cheer. There’s a celebration in Toronto on today. The years have gone in a flash. Still, Burka is ever youthful. “I think because I’m with kids a lot, I don’t feel old,” she says, still working as a team leader and coach.

She remembers little of that day 50 years ago of her stunning win. But she recalls that she and her coach/mother Ellen Burka looked at each other when they heard Petra had won. “I think she was happier than me,” Petra said. “I was in shock.” She had swept both the figures and the free skate.

In a way, she’s paying the price for having an innate jumping ability and she did it in a time without the sort of support that the skaters of today enjoy. Last year, she had hip replacement surgery. The banging on her leg as she worked the doubles – and the triples – took a toll. “It’s a skating thing,” she says. “I think you’ll find a lot of figure skaters, dancers, athletes need hip replacements. It was my landing foot. Now they have sophisticated programs that allow you to get your body warmed up so you won’t injure yourself.”

In Petra’s time, there was no such science or help. Skaters back then did not do off-ice work. She went to the rink straight from school, put on her skates and jumped. Strangely enough, Petra never suffered an injury as a competitor. And just like so many other things in her life, it wasn’t easy for Petra to recover from her hip surgery. The flat in which she lives – in an orchid-hued house designed by architect sister Astra – requires her to navigate 45 steps to the top, to her sun-filled digs.

Petra was Ellen’s first international student, and together they learned the ropes. For her now 93-year-old mother (she still has her driver’s licence), there had been many more to follow. Ellen Burka has taught students that made it to seven Olympics and won 48 international medals. Petra led the way, often training on her own while her single mother worked to pay the bills. Fifty years ago, skaters didn’t get money to train, and they were restricted from earning money. The rule back then was that if skaters earned more than $25 in a season, they’d be banished from the amateur kingdom for good.

“After worlds, we’d be in shows all over Europe and North America, but we didn’t see anything of it,” says Petra. While Petra’s journey to her first world championship in Prague in 1962 was paid by the skating association, Ellen had to buy her own ticket. While she was away, she’d lose the revenue from lessons missed. At Petra’s first Canadian championship in Regina, she and her mother dined on their own breakfast of champions – a can of beans on a hotel dining room plate – because her mother didn’t have the cash to pay for steaks. Remember, women weren’t allowed to apply for credit cards in those days.

In her day, skaters didn’t have the luxury of going to sports schools that would understand the demands of an athlete schedule. Petra would get to the rink by 6 a.m. for four hours of figures, and two hours of free skating a day, and she’d miss the first period of school. Between January and March, she seldom showed up at school because of her travels. The school would demand that Petra still write her exams and she’d cram to fit it all in. Luckily, she has a photographic memory and it would all stick. The year she won the world championships, she got 49 out of 50 on a health exam, but zero for the physical education portion of the course – because she was never there.

It didn’t take long for the Russians to spot Petra’s superior jumping ability at her first world championship in 1962. During a tour that followed, she received a telegram from the Russian federation, asking if she and her mother could go to Moscow and do skating seminars. “They wanted to know how my mother taught ‘that girl who could jump.’” Petra says. “What’s the secret?”

In Prague, the Russians had taken their passports. Ellen was understandably skittish, with no documents in hand in a Communist country. Finally they boarded a cargo plane with no seats for the ride to Moscow. Ellen calmed her nerves by downing vodka. “I remember the plane flew really low and dropped mail or whatever and would keep flying,” Petra recalls.

After her amateur career, Petra toured for three years with Holiday on Ice, with the final two years in Europe. It was a culture shock for Petra, used to training, never going out, missing the high school prom. They played to sold-out houses for a month in Paris, and Amsterdam, too. Picture this: near a rink in Paris, there would be 10 caravans, where the show’s cast and crew would have wives and dogs and lives. Petra could have stayed for another two-year stint, but she decided that she didn’t want to get caught up in a never-ending carnival life with “all those gypsies that stay in forever.”

Mostly, Petra would stay in cheaper hotels in Europe (skaters paid for accommodations) because that’s where her friends were. One night, she was caught off guard. During a drive from France to Spain, Petra stopped to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969 on a tiny TV screen somewhere out in the countryside. When Petra finally arrived in Madrid, the sun was rising over the city, and her room had been taken. It was the only time she checked into a five-star hotel during her career.

She arrived back home in Toronto with a designer wardrobe and a Mercedes 250 SL that promptly died, and found herself in the midst of another culture shock. While she’d been gone, hippies had blossomed, and they all wore gauzy dresses with flowers in their hair. “We were yuppies before there were yuppies,” Petra says. She had to adjust to the real world. “It took me the next 40 years to recover,” she says, laughing.

With the money she made on the tours, she bought her mother a refrigerator. “I want to make sure my mother gets credit,” Petra says. “She had a pretty tough life. She had to drive herself around between three clubs to make a living. My mom was instrumental in my doing well. It was because of her that I became a champion.”

Top 5 Hot Music Tracks from the 2015 Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships

Flashmobs and dance parties were a big hit at the 2015 Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships. Here are our top 5 songs that get you out of your seat to get your dance on!

1. Fireball – Pitbull

Canadian junior synchronized skating teams prepared for 2015 ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships

OTTAWA, ON: Canada will have two teams competing at the 2015 ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships in Zagreb, Croatia, from March 13-14. Les Suprêmes junior and Nexxice junior will represent Canada at the event. This will be the second edition of this biannual event, inaugurated in 2013, and will feature 19 of the top junior synchronized skating teams from 24 countries, competing for the title of Junior World Champion.

Two-time consecutive Canadian junior champions, Les Suprêmes junior, are the first Canadian entry. They placed fifth at this event in 2013 and won silver at the 2014 Junior World Challenge Cup, the biannual event which takes place in years when there is no world junior synchronized skating championship. Earlier this season, the representatives of CPA Saint-Léonard won gold at the 2015 French Cup. They are coached by Marilyn Langlois, assisted by Pascal Denis, Amélie Brochu, and Amanda Gaiotti.

Nexxice Junior.

Canadian silver medallists, Nexxice junior, will be the second Canadian entry. The 2013 Canadian junior champions placed fourth at this event in 2013. Earlier this season, they won silver at the 2015 Spring Cup. They are coached by Trish Perdue-Mills and represent the Burlington Skating Club.

Julie Petrilli, of Montreal, Que., will be the Canadian team manager at the event. Dr. Erika Persson of Edmonton, Alta., will be the Canadian team doctor onsite and Meghan Buttle of Toronto, Ont., will be the team physiotherapist. Cynthia Alepin of Mount Royal, Que., will be the sole Canadian official at the event.

For more information on the event please visit the event website or

Heartbreak for Bent and MacKeen at world juniors

TALLIN, Estonia – Mackenzie Bent of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen of Oshawa, Ont., took fifth spot in ice dancing on Saturday at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov of Russia won the gold medal, Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the U.S. were second and Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin of Ukraine third.

Bent and MacKeen were second after Thursday’s short dance and appeared in contention for a medal until with seconds left in their free dance, MacKeen slipped and fell on both knees causing a major point deduction. Their free dance was ranked eighth.

Madeline Edwards of Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang of Burnaby, B.C., remained sixth despite posting the fourth best free dance.

In men’s competition, Shoma Uno of Japan took the gold with Boyang Jin of China second and Sota Yamamoto of Japan third.

Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., was 14th.

Canada ends the competition with one silver earned by Julianne Séguin of Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau of Trois-Pistoles, Que., in pairs on Thursday.

Full results:

Roman Sadovsky advances to men’s free skate at world juniors

TALLIN, Estonia – Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., was 13th in the men’s short program on Friday to advance to free skate at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Shoma Uno of Japan is in first place with Adian Pitkeev and Alexandre Petrov, both of Russia, second and third.

Sadovsky, 15 and already competing at his second world juniors, was 13th last year and stands 13th as well after the short program nearing his personal best with 66.36 points. This season he won a Junior Grand Prix event and was also fourth and fifth at two others. He was fourth in the senior men’s event at nationals in January.

Nicolas Nadeau of Boisbriand, Que., missed qualifying for the free skate by one spot placing 25th.

Competition ends Saturday with the men’s free skate and the free dance featuring Mackenzie Bent of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen of Oshawa, Ont., who stand second after Thursday’s short dance.

Full results:

Canada’s Seguin and Bilodeau win silver at ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships

TALLIN, Estonia – Canada’s Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau won the silver medal in pairs on Thursday at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China successfully defended their world junior crown with 178.79 points. The Canadians followed with a personal best 176.32 and Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin of Russia were third at 154.33.

‘’We came out here and did what we had to do and it is a very satisfying performance,’’ said Séguin, from Longueuil, Que. ‘’We are proud of ourselves.’’

Séguin and Bilodeau will also compete at the world seniors-set for later this month in Shanghai. They’ve had a super season winning their three ISU Junior Grand Prix assignments including the Final in December and placing third in senior pairs at nationals in January.

In their skate to “In Your Eyes” and “Wallflower” by Peter Gabriel, Seguin and Bilodeau produced a side by side triple Salchow, double Axel-double toe combination, throw triple Salchow and toeloop as well as six level-four elements.

‘’This is a marvelous end to our junior season,’’ said Bilodeau from Trois-Pistoles, Que. ‘’The go out there at every event and deliver clean performances was a big thrill for us

Shalena Rau of Waterloo, Ont., and Sébastian Arcieri of Montreal were ninth and Mary Orr of Brantford, Ont., and Phelan Simpson of Lunenberg, N.S., 10th.

Canada appears on track for another medal in ice dancing. Mackenzie Bent of Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen of Oshawa, Ont., are in second spot after the short dance with 61.09 points, also a personal best. Anna Yanovskaya and Sergey Mozgov of Russia hold a slight lead at 62.22 and Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the U.S., are third at 59.10.

Bent and Mackeen’s smooth dance to “Vida Loca” and “Straight to Memphis” was highlighted by precise footwork and a straight line lift. The Canadians picked up a level four for the lift, the twizzles and both Samba sequences.

“The skate – we couldn’t have asked for much more”, Bent commented. “For us, this season was just a bunch of different stepping stones. Our first Junior Grand Prix Final, was also a big learning lesson and as well senior nationals which was a big part of this season.

Madeline Edwards of Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang of Burnaby, B.C., are sixth at 52.34.

Competition continues Friday with the women’s free skate and men’s short program. The free dance is Saturday.

Full results:

Séguin and Bilodeau stand second after personal best short program at world juniors

TALLIN, Estonia – Canadians Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau are in second spot after Wednesday’s pairs short program at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Defending champion Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China lead with 62.56 points, the Canadians follow at 61.32 – a personal best score – and Lina Fedorova and Maxim Miroshkin of Russia are third at 58.27. The Canadians are undefeated internationally this season winning their three Junior Grand Prix assignments including the Fiinal.

Performing to “The Grand Hotel Budapest” soundtrack, Seguin and Bilodeau landed a well synchronized side by side double Lutz, triple twist and also earned a level four for five elements.

“We reached 60 points and that was a nice goal to achieve”, said Seguin of Longueuil, Que., who joined forces with Bilodeau, from Trois-Pistoles, Que., last season. ‘We want to approach the free skate the same way and not worry about our opponents.’’

Shalena Rau of Waterloo, Ont., and Sébastian Arcieri of Montreal are eighth and Mary Orr of Brantford, Ont., and Phelan Simpson of Lunenberg, N.S., 11th.

In the women’s short program, Selena Zhao of Varennes, Que., and Kim Deguise-Léveillée of Sorel-Tracy, Que., did not crack the top-24 to advance to the free skate.

Competition continues Thursday featuring the pairs final.

Full results:

Canadian Juniors head to Estonia for the 2015 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will send nine entries to the 2015 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships this week from March 2-8 in Tallinn, Estonia. The fourteen person Canadian team will compete in all four disciplines: men’s, ladies, pair and ice dance. Competition begins Wednesday with the ladies and pair short programs.

Roman Sadovsky, 15, Vaughan, Ont., placed fourth at the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in senior men’s. He competed on the ISU Junior Grand Prix Circuit winning gold in Czech Republic and then placing fourth in Germany. He qualified for the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, placing fifth. This will be his second trip to the world juniors; in 2014 he placed 13th. Sadovsky is coached by Tracey Wainman and Gregor Filipowski at the YSRA Winter Club.

Nicolas Nadeau, 17, Boisbriand, Que., is the 2015 Canadian Junior Champion, having won the title earlier this year in Kingston, Ont. Nadeau placed fifth and 10th at his ISU Junior Grand Prix assignments in Japan and Croatia. Training at the École Excellence Rosemère he is coached by Yvan Desjardins.

Selena Zhao, 16, Varennes, Que., – Colorado Springs, USA., will be one of two entries in the ladies category. Zhao won the Canadian junior title in January and place 10th and ninth at her junior grand prix events this season in Slovenia and Germany. She is coached by Christy Krall and Damon Allen in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Kim DeGuise-Léveillée, 17, Sorel-Tracy, Que., competed in senior at the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships and placed fifth. Previously this season she placed eighth and 10th on the junior grand prix circuit in Czech Republic and Germany. DeGuise-Léveillée is coached by Josée Picard and Marc-André Craig in Chambly, Que.

Ice dancers Mackenzie Bent, 17, Uxbridge, Ont., and Garrett MacKeen, 20, Oshawa, Ont., will make their second trip to this event, having placed 12th is 2014. Bent and MacKeen won gold and silver on the junior grand prix circuit in Czech Republic and Estonia, which qualified them for the Final, where they placed fourth. They placed sixth at the national championships this year in senior. Training at Scarboro Ice Dance Elite, they are coached by Juris Razgulajevs and Carol Lane.

The 2014 world junior bronze medallists Madeline Edwards, 18, Port Moody, B.C., and ZhaoKai Pang, 19, Burnaby, B.C., will make their third trip to this event. Their season began at the first ISU Junior Grand Prix event in France with a silver medal performance and then a gold medal in Japan. They qualified for the Final were they placed fifth. At the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships they placed seventh in senior. They are coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe at the Champs International Skating Centre.

In pair Julianne Séguin, 18, Longueuil, Que., and Charlie Bilodeau, 21, Trois-Pistoles, Que., will compete at the world junior championships for the first time. They have had a successful undefeated season internationally. They won gold at both their junior grand prix assignments in Czech Republic and Germany and then went on to win the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final title. They won the bronze medal in senior at the national championships in January. Séguin and Bilodeau are coached by Josée Picard in Chambly, Que.

Mary Orr, 18, Brantford, Ont., and Phelan Simpson, 19, Lunenburg, N.S., are the 2015 Canadian Junior Pair Champions. This will be their second trip to the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships; they placed sixth in 2014. On the junior grand prix circuit this season, they placed sixth and seventh in Estonia and Croatia. Orr and Simpson train at the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club with coaches Kristy Wirtz and Kris Wirtz.

This will be the second international event for Shalena Rau, 15, Waterloo, Ont., and Sebastien Arcieri, 20, Montreal, Que.; they placed seventh at the junior grand prix event in Estonia earlier this season. In January, they won the silver medal at the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in junior pair. They are coached by Kristy Wirtz and Kris Wirtz at the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club.

Manon Perron of Boucherville, Que., and Scott Rachuk of Strathroy, Ont., will be the Canadian team leaders at the event. Dr. Bob Brock of Toronto, Ont., and physiotherapist Cathy Striowski of Toronto, Ont., will be the Canadian medical staff onsite. Nicole Leblanc-Richard of Dieppe, N.B., Jeff Lukasik of Calgary, Alta., and Debbie Islam of Barrie, Ont., are the Canadian officials at the event.

Skate Canada High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk will also be traveling with the team.

For results and full entries please visit


Discipline Name Age Hometown Club Coach
Mens Roman Sadovsky 15 Vaughan, Ont. YRSA Winter Club Tracey Wainman / Gregor Filipowski
Mens Nicolas Nadeau 17 Boisbriand, Que. CPA Boisbriand Yvan Desjardins
Ladies Selena Zhao 16 Varennes, Que. – Colorado Springs, USA CPA Varennes Christy Krall / Damon Allen
Ladies Kim DeGuise-Léveillée 17 Sorel-Tracy, Que. CPA Sorel-Tracy Josée Picard / Marc-André Craig
Ice dance Mackenzie Bent / Garrett MacKeen 17/20 Uxbridge, Ont. / Oshawa, Ont. Uxbridge SC / Bowmanville FSC Juris Razgulajevs / Carol Lane
Ice dance Madeline Edwards / ZhaoKai Pang 18/19 Port Moody, B.C. / Burnaby, B.C. Inlet SC / Inlet SC Megan Wing / Aaron Lowe
Pairs Julianne Séguin / Charlie Bilodeau 18/21 Longueuil, Que. / Trois-Pistoles, Que. CPA Longueuil / CPA De Drummondville Inc. Josée Picard
Pairs Mary Orr / Phelan Simpson 18/19 Brantford, Ont. / Lunenburg, N.S. Kitchener-Waterloo SC / Kitchener-Waterloo SC Kristy Wirtz / Kris Wirtz
Pairs Shalena Rau / Sébastian Arcieri 15/20 Waterloo, Ont. / Montreal, Que. Kitchener-Waterloo SC / CPA St. Leonard Kristy Wirtz / Kris Wirtz

Skate Canada names teams for 2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in Hamilton, Ontario

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada has selected two synchronized skating teams for the 2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in Hamilton, Ont., from April 10-11, 2015 at the FirstOntario Centre.

Nexxice, from the Burlington Skating Club, and Les Suprêmes, from the CPA Saint-Léonard, earned their entries to the world championships winning gold and silver respectively at 2015 Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships this past weekend in Quebec City, Que.

Representing the Burlington Skating Club, Nexxice senior earned the first Canadian entry to the 2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships winning their ninth consecutive Canadian title on Sunday. Nexxice is the only North American team to win the world championships, having won in 2009. The three-time consecutive world silver medallists are coached by Shelley Simonton Barnett and Anne Schelter.

Canadian silver medallists Les Suprêmes, will be the second entry. Representing CPA Saint-Léonard, they earned their fifth consecutive Canadian silver medal this past weekend in Quebec City. Les Suprêmes placed sixth at the 2014 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships. They are coached by Marilyn Langlois, assisted by Pascal Denis, Amélie Brochu, and Amanda Gaiotti.

This will be the 16th edition of the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships with Canada having won medals at 10 of those previous events. Twenty-five teams from 20 different countries are expected to participate in the event in Hamilton.

Tickets are available and can be purchased online at, by phone at 1-855-985-5000, or in person at the FirstOntario Centre box office.

Earlier this season, entries for the 2015 ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships in Zagreb, Croatia, from March 13-14, 2015, were determined at Skate Canada Central Ontario’s annual Winterfest competition. The 2015 Canadian gold medallists Les Suprêmes (junior) from CPA Saint-Léonard and 2015 Canadian silver medallists, Nexxice (junior), of the Burlington Skating Club earned the two entries for Canada.

“I cheer for trying my best”: Special Olympians epitomize the spirit and passion of sport

Brothers of sorts, Matthew Lai is nestled up beside his B.C. Special Olympics teammate Eric Pahima on the kiss and cry bench at these Canada Winter Games, subtly eyeing the two roses clutched in his friend’s right hand.

With a slight, almost inaudible, wisp of sadness in his voice, Matthew leans over and says, “I didn’t get one of those.”

There is no pause. The words are barely out of his mouth, and Eric reaches out and passes a flower to his friend.

“You can have one of mine.”

Figure skater.

Instantly, both faces break out in broad, ear-to-ear grins. They hug. Around them, witnesses to this spontaneous act of kindness look at one another as if to say, “try not to cry. I dare you.”

There is little doubt, little argument, that these Special Olympians help represent the de facto true spirit of these Canada Winter Games.

It goes without saying that figure skating, by nature, is a sport charged with emotion. Smiles and tears, laughs and hugs, are a fabric of its soul.

But these competitors all wear smiles, teaching us in the process why we love sport, why we stand and cheer. Not just for the medals, but for daring to dream, for being witness to personal triumph and perseverance.

The tears? Those were reserved for everyone else in the building.

Figure Skater.

Credit: Dyanne Dimassimo

“This is what sport is all about – having athletes go out and perform and do their best,” says Brittany Baril, Special Olympics coach of Team Newfoundland Labrador. “That is what these athletes show us. Go out and work your hardest, give it your all. Nothing else really matters.

“Every so often, all of us can lose our passion along the way. These athletes remind us how important it is to keep that passion. They always have it.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to hold it together,” Baril adds. Her voice begins to waver, and she has to take a breath.

“It’s a unique bond we share, and it is very rewarding,” she continues after a pause. “As a coach, you just want to teach the love of skating and give something back. That’s what it is all about. The love of skating, no matter what level.”

Like Baril, Team B.C. Special Olympics figure skating head coach Jessica Chapelski has wiped away her fair share of tears at these Games.

“I’ve lost count how many times I’ve cried,” admits Chapelski. “I don’t even try to keep count anymore.”

“These athletes belong here, belong on this team, and it means the world to them. They are cheered. They feel free.”

Figure Skater.

Credit : Dyanne Dimassimo.

Standing alongside the personable Michael Sumner, one of her athletes from Team Yukon, coach Michelle Semaschuk has a tough time keeping her emotions in check, as well. As she speaks, tears well up in her eyes and she stops, caught up in the emotion of the moment.

As if on cue, Michael leans over and gives his coach a warm hug, for comfort.

It seems hugs are mandatory here.

“To see this camaraderie, this perseverance, can be overwhelming,” admits Semaschuk. “You see the passion, the love in their eyes. Michael continues to grow into this wonderful young man, with the biggest heart you’ll ever see.”

“This has been a tremendous experience for all our athletes,” says Cathy Skinner of Team Ontario. “It’s incredible. To see the crowd, even the judges, clapping and cheering means everything to these athletes. They’re all friends. They want to sit together. It’s just a life experience that most of them have never had. They don’t have tears. It’s all about the smiles. If they haven’t won, one of their friends has.”

“We could all learn from them.”

Like his fellow competitors, Matthew Lai is an entertainer, and cherishes his time on centre stage. Following his performances at these Games, he raises his arms to the heavens in triumph as he skates off, basking in the crowd’s adulation, in his moment.

Canada Winter Games. Athlete and coach.

“I like the crowd cheering, when they cheer for Matthew and his elements,” he says.

“I cheer for the flag of British Columbia. I cheer for trying my best.”

As it turns out, Matthew will leave these games with a gold medal. The medal, like the score, doesn’t seem to matter as much.

More importantly, he is leaving with his friendships. His memories. And his flower.