Behind The Blades With Michelle Long: Skate Canada International

long4Flashback to 2003, Hershey’s Center Mississauga, Skate Canada International: As an eager eleven-year-old and lover of figure skating, I was so excited when I found out there was a big skating competition coming to town. Without knowing much about the competitive side of the sport, I went with my mom, sister and a friend to attend the official practices at Skate Canada International 2003. I remember sitting in the stands, watching, in amazement. My favourite part was when the practice was over. We would rush down, over to the boards, to ask the skaters for their autograph. I was so new into the sport that I only knew a few of the skaters (mostly Canadians) but I didn’t care. I still wanted their autograph because, in my eyes, they were famous!

Skate Canada International has always had a special place in my heart. I believe that having the opportunity to watch such a high level competition, at such a young age, really inspired me to be a competitive skater! Now, attending events like this later in my skating career have definitely not hindered their magic. I still get excited to watch some of the best skaters in the world compete, but now instead of asking for their autographs, I am able to converse and learn from them.

long3One of the highlights of my weekend was actually being able to be a fan, sit back, relax and enjoy the skating! Usually, I am most interested in the ladies event, since that’s what I compete in. I have to give a shout out to both of our Canadian ladies, Kaetlyn and Alaine, for both skating fierce short and free programs. Once their event had finished, I was able to sit with Kaetlyn, chat, and watch some world class skating!

I was so impressed with the level of athleticism and performances from the Canadian team. Some of my favourite moments were Kevin’s quad-filled free program, Megan and Eric’s throw triple axel and Piper and Paul’s post free dance celebration!

long5A friend of mine made a donation to the Skate Canada Athlete Fund, and bid on an opportunity at Skate Canada International for a backstage ‘behind the scenes’ tour with Elvis Stojko. I was fortunate enough to be brought along for this amazing experience. I was shown around the dressing rooms, warm up area, data rooms and media centre. I got to see some of the skaters warm up and getting ready for the Gala on Sunday. The coolest part was seeing the press conference area. It is so much larger than what you see on television. There was a large head table for the athletes, and surrounding that were smaller tables and chairs, filled with photographers, video cameras and microphones, something I had never scene before, nor was prepared for. Elvis also had some great advice for me as someone aspiring to be at an event of this calibre one day. He spoke with me about his experiences with the media, how to prepare for interviews and how to overcome obstacles. These were all very valuable lessons that I hope to be able to put into action one day! long2

Over the course of my weekend, I was able to get out and talk to some of the fans. I also ran into some familiar faces. Many skaters from my training centre were in attendance, as well as many of the regular skating fans and veteran competition goers. It was great to hear the positive comments from the fans and to see their enthusiasm. I was also given some advice on what to bring to a competition:

1. Wear your team colours: Red and White, Go Canada Go!
2. Bring a flag: from your home town, country, or favourite skater’s country!
3. Something to keep track of the scores. A program, or good old-fashioned pen and paper work well!
4. Bundle up: sometimes those rinks can get chilly, bring along your Skate Canada sweaters, scarves and mittens!
5. Your skating stories: everyone in the audience has one, listen to someone’s story and share yours!

All-in-all, the fans were super supportive and cheered the skaters one whether they were having the performance of a lifetime, or needed some help to continue. The number of times the audience started clapping in time to the music during footwork was amazing! Everyone, young and old, found themselves immersed in the experience and were able to get involved! It was also incredible to witness the younger skaters carry the same joy as I did when I was a youngster.

The greatest feeling was being able to see the sparkle in their eyes. It’s amazing to see the next generation inspired and as excited like I was.


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