World-class coaches work with Canada’s rising stars at Development Camp

Markham, ON – In one corner of the Angus Glen Community Centre Arena was Brian Orser, perhaps one of the most-sought coaches on the planet these days.

Just down the ice was Orser’s coach from his competitive days: Doug Leigh. Twenty-five sets of young eyes were transfixed on them at various times during the three-day development camp for Canada’s future rising stars.

Skate Canada started the development camp four years ago to target skaters that are potential candidates for the Junior Grand Prix circuit (no senior skaters here). Orser, Leigh, Tracy Wilson, Anne Schelter, Lee Barkell, Joanne McLeod and Yuka Sato all directed skaters aged 12 to 17, teaching them basic skating skills and edges, transitions, jumps, spins, all the goodies they’ll need in years to come.

It seems to be working. Skate Canada high performance director Michael Slipchuk says four of the girls who attended early camps have already been to a world championship, even an Olympics. Nam Nguyen and Roman Sadovsky were in that first group. Now both have moved into the top echelon of senior skaters in Canada, with Nguyen breaking the speed limit to be fifth at the world (senior) championships in March.

“It just shows us that we are targeting the right level of athlete,” Slipchuk said. “We want to have a better idea of our talent pool coming up. And it gives us a chance to see them in a training setting.”

It’s also a development camp for coaches, to hear and watch and see and take the torches that have been passed by others.

So there was Leigh, a coach for more than 40 years, the creator of Olympic silver medalists and world champions Orser and Elvis Stojko at the mighty Mariposa Skating School in Barrie, Ont. Leigh was carrying a torch, too, for he’d been coaches for a couple of years by coach-to-the-stars Sheldon Galbraith. “Everybody… has fingerprints on the person you become,” Leigh said.

On ice, Leigh was part teacher, part entertainer. He kept talking about “threads and strands” – the minute details that make the difference between success and landing on one’s butt. It was about control and balance, the placing of the free foot just so. He talked to girls about doing triple Axels. It’s clearly here. “Let’s get the party going,” he said. ”We’re not sitting on the park bench.” If you master these details, he proffered, “you will go to first class. If not, you’ll go to the cargo bin.” The result will be like an insurance policy.

His subjects grinned. “He’s so funny,” said Rachel Pettit, a 16-year-old from Whitehorse, Yukon, who is Canada’s reigning novice women’s champion, set to become a junior this season. She’s heard the points he made before, but “the way he explains it is so different, that you just think of it a whole new way,” she said. “He has a very cool way of teaching.”

Stephane Yvars, now head coach at the Boucherville Centre Elite, decided to train with Leigh as a competitive skater, but in 1993, he already had a long-term plan in mind: to learn about coaching skaters, too, from the best. “He’s really generous,” Yvars said. “He’s the most generous person I know. He gives everything,”

When Yvars was a skater himself, he had landed a triple Axel only once (at age 16) before injuries took over. He knew he needed one when he returned. “We spent a month on the back edge,” Yvars said. “He’s so patient.” Yvars arrived in April. By the end of May, he was doing triple Axels. “He’s a great mentor,” Yvars added. Every year now, he invites Leigh to give seminars at his club.

So out there on ice, Leigh was now working as a colleague alongside Orser. What is it like for him to watch Orser ascend to international coaching heights? “He asked me if he was allowed to call me grandfather,” Leigh said.

“He was a world champion, and he’s got an Olympic and world champion,” Leigh said. “It’s really cool. It’s the person that is left after you’ve done that chapter. And you watch them go onto the next chapter. And they are great coaches and they can step up and take on the world and doing a good job.”

Orser said he’s taken much of what he learned from Leigh as a coach to what he does now, although he’s evolved with the times. “Skating has changed and technique has changed,” he said.

The takeoff and flights of jumps are now different than in Orser’s day. “We used to say we’d climb up into the jumps,” Orser said. “We’d swing that free leg through, whether it was an Axel or a Salchow or even a toe loop. You’d bring that free leg and you’d climb like you were climbing a stair.”

Now the feet stay together more. Skaters get into the rotation sooner. “You’re still climbing, but you’re not climbing like you are stepping on a stair,” Orser said. “”If you are talking about quads, this is imperative. You have to start teaching it this way now. “

The beauty of Dartfish showed that Orser was one of the only people who could do the big step up into a triple Axel and still get 3 ½ rotations completed while he was a skater. He does not teach Axels the way he learned them.

Other things he learned from Leigh have been vital to his success as a coach. “He was the hardest working person in the rink, who was always the first one there and the last one to leave,” he said. “He stepped on every session on time and with lots of energy.

“And you can still see that in him, that fantastic energy, but that’s what you need to have in a centre, when you try to create a community of skating. You have to do it with enthusiasm and energy and excitement and everybody feeds off that.”

Over the past two years, Leigh has stepped back from the boards at the Mariposa Skating School that he founded and works now as more of a general manager. But he’s always willing to pass on what he knows and he finds the development camp “wonderful.”

“Coaches are the leaders of the next generation,” he said. “This is team building. It’s great to be a part of it. It’s fun watching everybody develop.”

2015 Skate Canada Development Camp Participants
Justine Brasseur, 14, Brossard, Que.

Edrian Celestino, 17, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que.

Antony Cheng, 17, Richmond Hill, Ont.

McKenna Colthorp, 14, Fort St. James, B.C.

Marjorie Comtois, 15, St-Hubert, Que.

Kim Decelles, 16, Quebec City, Que.

Cailey England, 17, Quesnel, B.C.

Gabriel Farand, 14, St-Antoine-Sur-Richelieu, Que.

Ajsha Gorman, 14, Kelowna, B.C.

Brian Le, 15, Delta, B.C.

Grace Lin, 14, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que.

Nicolas Nadeau, 17, Boisbriand, Que.

Conrad Orzel, 14, Woodbridge, Ont.

Rachel Pettitt, 16, Whitehorse, Y.T.

Joseph Phan, 13, Gatineau, Que.

Alicia Pineault, 15, Varennes, Que.

Triena Robinson, 15, Fort St. John, B.C.

Alison Schumacher, 12, Tecumseh, Ont.

Gabriel St-Jean, 15, Grand-Mère, Que.

Sarah Tamura, 14, Burnaby, B.C.

Amanda Tobin, 14, Burlington, Ont.

Bruce Waddell, 13, Toronto, Ont.

Semi Won, 13, Barrie, Ont.

Matthew Wright, 14, Waterloo, Ont.

Megan Yim, 13, Vancouver, B.C.

Master Coach Sheldon Galbraith Leaves Lasting Legacy

Sheldon Galbraith’s funeral was anything but quiet and sombre.

Old friends by the numbers filed in and the chatter filled the room. The chatter became a din. It was like an old family reunion. Galbraith always had lots to say. So did his family and that includes folks who felt his big presence over the years.

Galbraith was just short of 93 when he died on April 14, and it was clear from all the gibber, that the life he had lived was full and meaningful to many. He was a man who was a game-changer, ahead of his time, with a big personality that radiated gloriously through glossy black-and-white photos of him skating shadow pairs in his early Ice Follies days with brother Murray.

Photos lined the room of Galbraith’s life: an incredibly handsome photo of him in naval uniform; Galbraith toting an enormous golf bag, with an amused look thrown back over his shoulder; Galbraith going deer hunting, or perhaps it was for moose (the bigger the game, the better); Galbraith in his familiar coaching uniform – long baggy coat, big galoshes, cap with floppy ear flaps pulled over his head – as he leaned over to inspect a compulsory figure; Galbraith with family, wife of 69 years, Jeanne and their four daughters and one son; Galbraith receiving the Order of Canada.

Galbraith’s list of accomplishments is long: coach of Barbara Ann Scott, winner of the first Canadian Winter Olympic gold medal in 1948; coach of world champions in three of the four skating disciplines; coach of Olympic champs Barbara Wagner and Bob Paul, the first Canadian pair to win this gold; two-time world champions Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden, who also took Olympic silver; coach of 1962 world champion Donald Jackson, who became the first skater to land a triple Lutz in competition, coach of Vern Taylor, credited with the first triple Axel.

He also earned a string of awards: he was the first figure skating coach to be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1980), and he’s also a member of the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame (1990), the Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame (1991), the World Museum Hall of Fame in the United States (1996) and the Professional Skating Hall of Fame (2003). Galbraith, the first president of the Professional Skating Association in Canada, also received the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario.

But reading between all of those lines is even more astonishing. Brian Foley, the Pied Piper of Canadian dance who also choreographed for Dorothy Hamill, Robin Cousins, John Curry and Toller Cranston, said he first set foot at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club in 1966, when he met Galbraith, then the head coach.

“I’ll never forget that first introduction with Sheldon,” Foley said. “He was, in his way, very polite in chastising me, that I was standing and teaching in his space.”

In a far corner of that space, Foley saw the many teaching tools Galbraith used to bring out the best in his skaters: “a homemade flying contraption,” Foley said. “Trampolines with crash mats. A few wooden poles. Some climbing apparatus and other paraphernalia that reminded me of an early Cirque du Soleil.”

And who could ever forget the video room? “I want to assure everybody that nobody was invited or allowed into that room,” Foley said. Well, international judge Jane Garden did. Galbraith showed her videos, taught her to see errors, made her a better judge. Later, he advocated for judges to pass on what they learned at skating events. Not only did he teach skaters. He taught judges.

Galbraith spent his life researching and developing his own philosophies, adapting his training as a flight instructor to figure skating. He made it all a science, but intuition worked too. Technique in figures, jumps and spins was all-important. He taught the science of momentum and balance and centre, which are elements that you need to do quality spins, Foley said. He researched the physical transfer of weight from edge to edge, carrying the weight appropriately over the ball of the foot. He measured the amount of velocity required in order to skate forward and backward with great flow.

If there is anybody who carries the Galbraith torch of technique, it is Gary Beacom, the master of the skate blade. “I am grateful that my most influential coach plumbed the depths of technique with such enlightenment and a sense of adventure,” Beacom said. “I credit my skating proficiency and capacity for innovation to decades of training the Galbraithian relationship of speed, curve, lean and rotation. Sheldon Galbraith advocated continuous harmonious motion using momentum and rhythm for both technical and artistic advantage.”

Beacom says he had Galbraith to thank for reviving the cross-foot spin as a compulsory program element during the mid-1970s. The cross-foot spin became Beacom’s signature move.

Casey Kelly, now an international judge, began to take lessons from Galbraith when her family moved back to Canada in 1973. She remembers his fairness and sense of equality. Cranston had a habit of drifting over the lines of the space allotted to him for training figures. He was working toward a world championship: Kelly was working on her third test. She would politely step aside for Cranston.

However, Galbraith told her: “Don’t you dare stop. You deserve to be here just as much as he does.” Kelly smacked into Cranston three times, before he finally moved back into his own space. “That was something I never forgot,” she said.

Donald Jackson also discovered Galbraith’s sense of fair play before he even began to work with him. Jackson had been training with Pierre Brunet in the United States, but Galbraith, the Canadian team coach, took over watch on Jackson during the 1960 Olympics when Brunet was too busy with other skaters.

Galbraith was the official coach of Wendy Griner at the time and the question became: who would take to the practice patch first? “It was always better to skate second, because the ice would be a little bit softer and more like the ice you were skating on when you skate in front of the judges,” Jackson said.

Jackson was astonished when Galbraith flipped a coin to determine who he would coach first. He could easily have saved the best patch for his own student. “That was just the type of man he was,” Jackson said. “Fair. Honest. It was what I really appreciated.” The next season, Jackson moved into Galbraith’s fold.

Galbraith changed the technique on all of Jackson’s jumps, laboriously. Then one day, he asked Jackson to do a double flip, which Jackson could do with his arms folded. But Galbraith told him to relax into a backspin position as he went up. “No problem,” thought Jackson, who promptly landed on his toes and fell, hard. Galbraith glided over and said: “I saw what I wanted to see. Don’t do it again.”

It was too late for Jackson to change that technique on a flip. But now, everybody does jumps with backspin technique. “Every time I see the skaters doing triples and quads, I think of what Mr. Galbraith developed for skating,” Jackson said. “And I think of my bruise, too. I guess I was the guinea pig.”

And yes, he was Mr. Galbraith to everybody. Hardly anybody ever called him Sheldon. Barbara Wagner said she called him Mr. Galbraith even as she became an adult. Kelly said her mother, Andra, never called him Sheldon, even though they’d sit next to each other at Hall of Fame functions, because of her husband, hockey great Red Kelly.

“He was a very special man who was way ahead of his time,” Wagner said.

Kevin Reynolds recovering from hip surgery

OTTAWA, ON: Three-time Canadian silver medallist and 2014 Olympic silver medallist (team) Kevin Reynolds, 24, Coquitlam, B.C., underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left hip earlier this month. The surgery took place on April 9, 2015 in Vancouver, B.C., and was successful in repairing a labral tear.

Earlier this year, Reynolds had to withdraw from the free program at the 2015 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships due to the injury which he has dealt with since late 2010. Over the last year, the condition had worsened considerably and treatment such as physiotherapy, rest, and specific recovery exercises had had no significant effect.

“It is an injury that I have been dealing with for a long time. After speaking with experts, we made the difficult decision to undergo surgery. Over the next week and beyond, I will work closely with my medical team on my recovery,” explained Reynolds. “I’d like to thank everyone for their continuous support, and I hope to eventually return to skating with a renewed sense of freedom.”

Optimistic for a successful recovery, Reynolds hopes to return to competitive skating when healthy.

Tracy Wilson Brings Elite Skaters Back to the Basics

Tracy Wilson figures she learns as much as she teaches.

Yes, we all know she’s a crack skating analyst for various television networks, having won Gemini Awards for her work. But the former Olympic ice dancing medallist has quietly and behind the scenes fashioned a stellar career as a skating coach to some of the world’s best. Teaching all manner of skaters the true art of the blade, Wilson has become the wind beneath the wings of Olympic champions and world contenders.

And she’s done it through partnerships: Learning from other sports as she teaches their athletes. She’s deconstructed puzzles, and has come out on the other side with exercises and methods that seem to work wonderfully well. Several weeks ago, three of her students placed among the top five in the men’s event at the world championships in Shanghai: new world champ Javier Fernandez, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and the irrepressible Canadian champion Nam Nguyen who made believers out of many with his fifth-place finish at age 16.

Wilson’s exercises are a hybrid of many things, starting with what worked to make her and partner Rob McCall seven-time Canadian champions, three-time world bronze medalists, and the first Canadian ice dancers to win an Olympic medal (bronze in 1988.) She and McCall did foundation exercises every day as they trained. “It really helped us to find our balance, to create muscle memory so that we weren’t ever having to think,” Wilson said. “Our bodies just know how to maximize efficiency.”

After the death of McCall in 1991, Wilson didn’t skate for five years. She returned to the ice only because her children wanted to skate. Her oldest son, Shane, started playing hockey. Everything changed after a chance meeting with a hockey coach at a cocktail party. Wilson found herself telling him: “Guess what you guys need to do?” The coach asked her if she’d like to do it. Wilson said: “Sure.”

She worked with her son’s team from the time he was about seven or eight until he was in his mid-teens. Another son, Ryan also played hockey. “I just took my ice dance exercises and that’s what I did with these hockey players with music,” she said. She adapted the exercises to the needs of the players.

And of course, the needs were different. She learned that hockey players didn’t care how they looked on ice. They had no need for the pointed-toe thing. They cared about balance and speed and power. She quickly discovered that she had to always stay one step ahead of nine and 10-year-olds, and always tried to come up with new exercises.

“What I gained from them was a freedom,” she said. “It was really interesting to me.” And in turn, she brought that to her figure skating exercises. It’s great to have the correct technique, but best if you couple it with power and energy.

One day, son Shane was on the ice at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club because he had asked his mother to work with him. Intrigued, U.S. skaters Adam Rippon and Christina Gao, who were training in Toronto at the time, asked if they could train with him. “It was fabulous,” Wilson said. “They got on the ice and you could really see the difference. They were going for style over power. And I said: ‘Guys, just for fun, get in behind Shane. And always listen to his blade and forget about how you look. Just stay in there.’”

She and cohort Brian Orser have both honed in on what works to help different skaters. There is no set formula. When Wilson actually went back to coaching figure skating, her first students were astonishing: Chinese pair stars Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao. Lori Nichol, who had been choreographing for them, sent them over to Wilson to tinker with their skating skills just as both Orser and Wilson had started at the club.

Together, they worked five hours the first day. Wilson took them right back to the basics. At the time, Yu Na Kim’s mother was in the rink, coming to work with choreographer David Wilson, and she asked if Wilson would work with her daughter.

“Sure,” Wilson said. “When?”

“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,” she said. So Kim became Wilson’s second student. She had a whole year to work with Kim. Eventually, whatever Wilson could think up for her, Kim could do.

“If you haven’t really broken down the skating basics to their most simple form, you can’t build on top of it,” Wilson said. She had set Shen and Zhao right back to doing two-foot skating exercises, called bubbles (feet go in and out together), and it was to teach them knee action and balance. They spent about 30 to 40 minutes on the first exercises and then moved to inside edges.

“I just knew if I was going to do for them what they needed, we had to start from the very beginning and I didn’t know any other way,” Wilson said. Later she called Nichol and told her she was going to apologize in advance for frustrating Zhao in particular. Nichol said on the contrary: they had loved it and wanted to do it every day. They trained with Wilson for 10 days in a row.

Last spring, Zhao, now a coach, sent three of his pair teams to Wilson so that she could work with them in the same way. They are the same exercises that Wilson and Orser use to teach beginner skaters and adults.

Wilson has also developed off-ice training over the years, too. She herself had worked Pilates, and dance on the floor and adapted some of those exercises onto the ice. “You can be very creative once you have the basics and see how the principles follow through at all levels,” she said.

Most importantly, in the beginning, Wilson wasn’t sure – coming from an ice dance perspective – if what she was doing was what a single skater or a hockey player, or a synchro skater needs.

“But you know what?” she said. “It is. It’s the same.” Yes, partnerships and cross-discipline learning works.

Skating Family grieving the loss of Chief Operating Officer Bethany Tory

Bethany ToryOTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada is in mourning after the passing of Bethany Tory. Bethany had been Skate Canada’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) since November 2013 and was a critical member of the executive team. She leaves behind her husband Graham and two young sons.

Bethany passed away suddenly on Tuesday at age 44 after experiencing complications from a minor surgery. She had a lifelong passion for skating with a tremendous desire for life and a positive energy that was infectious.

“We are in shock by the sudden passing of our colleague and friend Bethany. There are no words that can describe the sadness felt by everyone who knew her,” said Dan Thompson, Skate Canada CEO. “During her time with Skate Canada, Bethany changed our culture and helped streamline our priorities. Her open communication and belief in alignment and collaboration has helped all of us change how we think in so many ways. Bethany’s contribution will not be forgotten.”

The entire skating family grieves in the loss of a wonderful life but will find the strength to celebrate her legacy and the positive impact she made to Skate Canada.

A Memorial Service will be held at Cedarview Alliance Church (2784 Cedarview Rd, Nepean, ON K2J 4J2) on Saturday, April 25 at 1 p.m. The family will receive friends and colleagues in the church reception hall from 1:30-4:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations are preferred for the Queensway Carleton Hospital and/or the New Beginnings Pet Rescue. A full length notice will appear in Friday’s Ottawa Citizen.

Skate Canada wishes to express the most sincere sympathies to Bethany’s family and friends.

Canada fourth at ISU World Team Trophy

TOKYO – Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., won the free skate in pairs and Canada finished fourth on Saturday at the ISU World Team Trophy figure skating competition.

The U.S. finished first overall in the six-country competition with 110 points, Russia was second at 109 and Japan third at 103. The Canadians, Olympic silver medallists in 2014, followed at 82 with China fifth and France sixth.

Duhamel and Radford, just a few weeks off their first world title, took the free skate with 140.70 points. They edged Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China in second at 139.73 and Alex Scimeca and Chris Knierim of the U.S. were third at 127.87.

The victory for Duhamel and Radford was worth 12 points to Canada’s total score. Second place was worth 11 and so on.

‘’Our team came in with the feeling that we didn’t have the expectations to win the gold medal,’’ said Duhamel, Canada’s team captain. ‘’But everyone was satisfied with their efforts and we’re building this Canadian team towards the next World Trophy in 2017 and of course the Olympics in 2018 where we’ll be aiming for a better result.

‘’We should end our season with our heads held high.’’

In the women’s free skate, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Elena Radionova, both of Russia, were 1-2 in the free skate which was worth 23 points to the Russians in the team standings but not enough to catch the Americans.

Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., was eighth and Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont., 11th.

Full competition:

Canada remains fourth at ISU World Team Trophy

TOKYO – Second place finishes in the pairs short program and free dance wasn’t enough to lift Canada in the standings on Friday at the ISU World Team Trophy figure skating competition.

Canada, the Olympic silver medallists, remains fourth with 63 points with one day of competition remaining. The U.S. leads with 83 points, Japan is second at 79 and Russia third at 77.

In the free dance, world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France were first edging Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., by under two points. The Canadians won the short dance on Thursday.

For each event the winning country gets 12 points, second place 11 points and so on. The top six-ranked countries in the world are battling for the world team crown.

In the pairs short program, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China were first ahead of world champions Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., in second.

The men’s free skate was won by Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan with Nam Nguyen of Toronto seventh and Jeremy Ten of Vancouver ninth.

Competition ends Saturday with the free skates for pairs and women.

Full results:

Thank You to the Greatest Volunteers in Skating

How Judges Decide Who Takes Home Synchro Gold

The four S’s – synchronization, spacing, speed and strength – were on championship display at the 2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships at FirstOntario Place in Hamilton, Ontario on Friday, April 10 and Saturday, April 11th. Relive the short and free program performances from the world’s premier synchronized skating teams, including the gold medal performances from Canada’s NEXXICE of Burlington, Ontario.

Read below to learn how the judges determined who deserved to take home the gold medal.

Synchronized Skating – The Secret Weapon

After slightly more than 30 years as an official discipline, synchronized skating is still relatively unknown outside the circle of skating. With the world’s best synchronized skating teams competing for the global title in Hamilton in April, the sport is quickly finding its place in the spotlight … and hopefully someday soon into the Olympic Games.

Skating fans have been so entrenched in the traditional disciplines of singles, pairs and ice dance that it has taken time for this fifth on-ice member of the skating family to gain recognition and credibility. Thanks in part to huge interest here at home, Canada has been a giant force in helping develop synchronized skating and bringing it to the international stage.

So what exactly is “synchro” and how does it differ from the other forms of skating we already know and love?

Think team skating.

With teams of eight to twenty skaters on the ice performing fast-paced and intricate moves side-by-side at the same time, the sport requires nerves of steel, adaptability, control, confidence and teamwork. Just like in other skating disciplines, speed, power, edge work, skating skills and choreography are important but so are additional technical elements like accuracy of formations (see below), transitions, and precision of movement within the team. Consider how difficult all those goals are to achieve with only two people on the ice in pairs and dance, then add in additional skaters and more hard stuff to do … and you’ll have a much clearer idea what the sport is all about, why it’s so difficult and why it’s growing in popularity around the world.

Many involved countries have their own version of a synchro program which starts with introducing young skaters to the experience and benefits of belonging to this specialized area of the sport. As part of a team, every skater can enjoy the thrill of competition and the success that comes from participating. But be warned! Like skating anywhere, once the synchro bug gets hold, what may start out simply as wanting to learn to skate for fun can become seriously competitive!

To attract members, Canada’s synchro program starts early through a gamut of stages of expertise, Beginner through various levels to Junior, Senior and Adult, each one based to some extent on age and ability. Teams may form merely for fun and recreation, like for an appearance in an ice show, or they may take a more serious route with competitive goals, auditions, fund-raising, long-range commitment and extensive training on and off the ice.

To align high level synchro competition with other skating events, junior and senior teams must compete in short and free programs, each with required elements to ensure a well-balanced program. Performances are judged using the International Judging System where the Technical Score is based on the difficulty of the element and the quality of its execution, and the Program Components score reflecting the quality of skating skills, performance, choreography, transitions and musical interpretation.

Sound familiar?

As similar as the structure of these events may be to traditional competition, you won’t see triple jumps or complicated spins during synchro … or at least not yet. Although these elements will likely come to the sport eventually, what you will see today is some of the most technically demanding skating and creative choreography on the planet.

In synchro, keeping in mind that every element should be skated in unison with speed, power and control and with maximum ice coverage, here are the basic formations to look for.

Line: one line, parallel lines or diagonal lines

Block: a rectangular formation with a minimum of three parallel lines covering the length of the ice with lines close together and skaters evenly spaced

Circle: a consistently round shape rotating for at least 360°, skaters evenly spaced with no pulling or tugging between individuals

Spin: solo spins performed in unison with a minimum of 3 revolutions

Intersection: one half of the team intersects individually with the other half

Wheel: formation must rotate at least 360° where all skaters rotate around a common point, like spokes of a wheel

Group Lift: two or more skaters will lift one or more skaters to any height and set them back down

Creative: innovative movements, free skating elements or moves that reflect the music, performed individually, as pairs or as groups

Moves: a flowing sequence of at least 3 different skating movements, e.g. spirals, Bauers, spread eagles, etc. skated with strong edges and linking steps

No Holds: similar to a block formation except the skaters are not connected – team must hold the block of 4 or 5 lines and maintain spacing while skating turns and linking steps in unison over the entire length/diagonal of the ice surface

The first step to enjoying synchro is being able to ID the above formations. Once you have a taste for those, next you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions to determine the quality and difficulty of the move.

  • Is every skater doing exactly the same thing during formations?
  • Are skaters close together and equidistant from one another? (Closer is much harder!)
  • Do elements appear easy and comfortable without pushing or pulling (tension) between skaters?
  • Are the formations clear and accurate?
  • Are they held for the required amount of time or ice coverage?
  • Are the transitions between moves seamless?
  • Are lines straight?
  • Is the performance skated smoothly and with confidence?
  • Has any element been made more difficult by the addition of footwork, changes of direction, pivoting or by choreography that makes the element harder to skate well or the formation harder to hold?

There you go … now you have the basics.

While the athletes test their skills … with these guidelines … now you can test yours too.

Canada in fourth place after first day at ISU World Team Trophy

TOKYO – Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Waterloo, Ont., won the short dance and Canada is in fourth place after the first day of competition at the ISU World Team Trophy figure skating event.

The U.S. is in first place with 48 points followed by Japan and Russia which are tied at 43. Canada, the Olympic silver medallists last winter, stand at 31 points.

In the short dance, Weaver and Poje bettered their score from last month’s world championships earning 73.14 points. Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S. were second at 72.17 points and world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France were third at 70.86.

Weaver and Poje’s first place finish was worth 12 points to the team score while the Americans earned 11 and the French 10.

Gracie Gold of the U.S. topped the women’s short program standings followed by Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia and her compatriot Elena Radionova. Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., and Alaine Chartrand of Prescott, Ont., were eighth and ninth combining for nine points to the team standings. Both the Russians and Americans earned 21 points in the event.

In the men’s short program, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Han Yan of China and Jason Brown of the U.S. were 1-2-3. Nam Nguyen of Toronto was sixth and Jeremy Ten of Vancouver 10th. That was worth 10 points for Canada while Japan totalled 21 and the U.S. 16.

Competition continues Friday with the pairs short program featuring Canadian world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and the free skates for ice dancing and men.

Full competition:

Skate Canada Celebrates National Officials Day

Happy National Officials Day to all our Skate Canada volunteer officials!

Today we celebrate and honour the contributions of our dedicated and passionate officials all across the country. From the grassroots to Olympic level, officials provide the backbone for our sport in all disciplines. As judges, referees, data specialists, evaluators, technical specialists and controllers, our officials support the participation of all skaters through test days, competitions, monitoring sessions, workshops and much more!

Why does one become an official? What does it take to be a successful official? How do I get involved? These are some of the questions that may come to the mind of anyone with an interest in the sport (skater, coach, parent, etc.) so we have reached out to some of our current officials from across the country to collect a brief snapshot of their journey as officials to share with you all.

Richard ValleeNO Section, Judge/Evaluator (Officiating for nearly 40 years)
Deciding to conclude my coaching activities, yet wanting to stay involved in the sport, it was suggested that I consider joining the judging ranks. My mother, a low test judge, encouraged me to continue to pursue this avenue which would eventually assist our local skating club by defraying future costs of importing judges for test sessions. I began the educational aspect by reviewing judging materials and attending test sessions to learn as much as possible. As I advanced through the test levels, Norm Carscallen, an International judge from Sudbury, Ontario who had judged several of my skating tests served as my mentor, encouraging me to progress through the ranks.

Advancing through the competitive levels resulted in involvement in related activities such as sectional and national committee work, facilitating clinics and seminars, and monitoring skaters.

As a competitive judge, I was fortunate to reach Canadian and international status with the guidance of several highly esteemed officials: Jane Garden, Joyce Hisey, and in particular Jean Mathews and Elizabeth Clark. As I reflect on my nearly 40 years as a Skate Canada official, I believe that it is extremely important for judges to share their knowledge, expertise, and experience in order to assist others in attaining their goals. My life has been enriched through the wonderful judging experiences, lifelong friendships, and the immense satisfaction I have received from working with parents, coaches, volunteers, and in particular, the skaters.

Lyse PrendergastBC/YK Section, Data Specialist (Officiating since 2013)
After many years of involvement in figure skating, beginning as a skater myself and later as a parent, club volunteer, board member and then club administrator, I decided to continue my participation in the sport by beginning training to become a data specialist about two years ago. It has been a great experience so far. It’s given me a way to stay involved in skating while really challenging myself and developing new skills and knowledge. As well as learning the particulars of the data specialist role, I have enjoyed learning more about the sport itself, and continuing my connection with the skaters, coaches and officials I’ve come to know over my years as a club volunteer and staff member. We have a great team of data specialists in BC and the mentoring I’ve received from people like Sharon Dahl, Lorraine Mapoles and Wayne Sutherland has been incredible. For data specialists, the competition hours are often long and demanding, and sometimes punctuated with challenging technical crises, but I really enjoy being part of a team where everyone is dedicated to the sport, works hard and looks out for each other, and pulls together when needed.

Chelsey SchaffelAB/NT/NU, Synchronized Skating Technical Specialist/Technical Controller/Judge (Officiating since 2006)
I was always quite analytical about synchro programs that I skated, and that I watched, so I was very interested in the technical specialist role when the new judging system was introduced. I was invited to attend the technical specialist training seminar right around the time I could start to see my career as a skater winding down due to cost, injuries, and other life commitments. I passed the exam, and though I competed for two more seasons, I was also given opportunities to officiate and discovered that I enjoyed it immensely. Being able to continue skating and test the waters of officiating at the same time made the transition away from competing much easier, and I found the technical specialist role was a great fit because I still got to work in a team environment, which was what had drawn me to synchro (“precision” when I started!) in the first place.

I love educating coaches and skaters, and giving teams feedback. Judging criteria and processes seemed very mysterious when I first started competing, and I feel the CPC judging system really fosters dialogue between officials and competitors. It’s very rewarding to see your words have a positive impact on a team’s development.

Being an official is a bigger time commitment and involves more hard work than most people probably realize, but it’s also much more rewarding than I ever anticipated. Having the best seat in the house at competitions is an obvious perk, but I also get to learn and teach, travel, meet people from all over the world who love to talk about synchro as much as I do, and stay involved in an amazing sport. The experiences I had as a synchro skater have had a positive impact on so many areas of my life, and I know that by volunteering my time, I am giving other skaters the chance to have those experiences too.

Benoît LavoieQC Section, Judge/ Technical Controller (Officiating since 1982)
As a beginner I was dreaming about Olympics. I was a huge fan of the Olympic movement since I was a young boy. I was quite realistic as an athlete even when I competed at the senior national level. I wanted to stay involved after my skating career and when an accelerated program was created to train new officials I became involved that way in 1982. Being an official has allowed me to stay active and accurate with the technical rules, and also stay involved somehow with athletes and the skating family who have given me so much for so many years.

I would recommend becoming an official because it’s the best seat in the house at events, best second family to contribute as a volunteer and best sport organization in the world.

Many people have contributed to my desire to become a better official; Sally Rehorick inspired me at first at a skating conference. Eva Finlay was my mentor through all my levels up to senior. Debbie Islam was a role model for me to become an international official.

I have several favourite officiating moments but I guess one of the best would be having the privilege to judge at the Olympic Winter Games in 2002 when Salé and Pelletier won Gold through adversity. I felt I contributed in a special way and for the credibility of our sport and the respect of the Olympic values, I had so much pride.

Nancy BrayNS Section, STAR 1-4 Judge (Officiating since 2014)
I decided to become an official for a number of reasons, one of them was to give back to a sport that gave me so much. Figure skating taught me the value of never giving up and instilled in me a solid fitness foundation, which I carry with me today. I also became an official to stay actively involved in the sport. As a new mother, I don’t have the time that coaching would demand. Being an official offers me more flexibility, allows me to enjoy watching the skaters develop and at the same time builds my own knowledge about the sport. It’s a win-win situation; I can give back to the sport I love and do something positive for myself that fits easily into my busy schedule.

Do you have a love for the sport of figure skating? Do you want to learn more about the sport and join a team of passionate and dedicated individuals?

Whether you have experience as a skater yourself, or have put in extensive time at the rink as a skating fan or parent, there is an officiating opportunity available for you! To learn more about developmental officiating opportunities, please contact your section office:

Skate Canada mourns the loss of Hall of Fame Coach Sheldon Galbraith

Skate Canada Hall of Fame coach Sheldon Galbraith passed away at the age of 92 yesterday in Toronto.

Galbraith had a record of success unequaled by any other Canadian coach. He was a dedicated teacher and technical innovator that led his skaters to world titles in men’s, ladies, and pair, as well as Canada’s first ladies and pair Olympic gold medals.

After a successful skating career, he began to coach at the Minto Club in 1946, moving to the Toronto Skating Club in 1949. His students included Barbara Ann Scott, Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden, Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul, and Donald Jackson. He was the Olympic team coach in 1948, 1956 and 1960 and was instrumental in the formation of the Professional Skating Association of Canada.

He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 as the first figure skating coach ever to be honoured. He later entered the Skate Canada Hall of Fame, World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Professional Skaters Association Coaches Hall of Fame. Galbraith was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1999 and in 2005 was awarded the Order of Ontario.

Skate Canada offers its sincere sympathies to Galbraith’s family and friends.