Spotlight on Community Constellations

At Skate Canada, we’re driven by a vision where everyone in Canada can experience the joy of skating.

In 2022, we proudly launched Community Constellations, a program designed to make skating more accessible to marginalized communities in Canada. Community Constellations removes financial barriers to give equity-deserving groups the opportunity to attend live figure skating events and experience the magic of the sport first-hand.

To date, we have partnered with organizations such as KidsUpFront, Temple Community Association, New Canadian Friendship Centre, Indigenous Sport Physical Activity and Recreation Council, and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation to help distribute more than 700 tickets to figure skating events to underserved individuals and families, including newcomers, refugees, and Indigenous Canadians.

“I want to thank you on behalf of the entire family for the magnificent distinction you have made for us by selecting us for a beautiful and fun competition at the Calgary Olympic Park,” said a Community Constellations recipient and newcomer to Canada. “We feel privileged to be taken into account for so many and such beautiful presentations.”

Thanks to meaningful dialogue with our community partners, since launching the program, Community Constellations has evolved to better address the needs of the people it serves. In addition to an event ticket, participants receive transportation to and from the venue, onsite food vouchers, and extra tickets for their family members to attend.

“It was heartwarming to see the parents and children take in the activity they otherwise would not have had the means to attend,” said the Vanier Pediatric Social Club. “Thank you for this initiative.”

Through Community Constellations and in partnership with local organizations across the country, we are not only fostering a more diverse body of figure skating fans but also helping to make the joy of skating more accessible to all Canadians.

To learn more about Community Constellations and how your organization can participate in the program, please contact Patricia at [email protected].

Canadian Figure Skaters in Medal Contention at Four Continents

Shanghai, China (February 2, 2024) – Canadian figure skaters sit in medal contention in both the ice dance and pair competitions following the first two days of competition at the ISU Four Continents Championships taking place in Shanghai, China, while Madeline Schizas and Sara-Maude Dupuis both finished in the top-10 in the women’s competition.

Schizas, from Oakville, Ontario, the 2023 Canadian senior women’s champion, was sitting in ninth following the short program, and then had a fantastic free skate to move up to finish sixth overall with a total score of 185.69 – her best finish at this competition to date.

“I’m happy with my skate, I’m happy with my score, and it’s a big step up from Canadian Nationals. I’m hoping to add a few more points at World Championships if I get that nomination,” said Schizas who wasn’t satisfied with finishing second at Canadian Championships last month. So much so, she debuted a new costume in Shanghai: “I wanted a new one anyway, and I had a bad nationals, so I decided that I needed new vibes.”

Sara-Maude Dupuis of Montreal, Que., posted a massive new personal best score in her free skate (118.99) to finish in 9th with a new personal best total score as well of 172.45. Justine Miclette of Chambly, Que., finished in 14th (151.30).

Mone Chiba of Japan won gold (214.98), while Chaeyeon Kim of Korea took silver (204.68), and Rinka Watanabe of Japan took bronze (202.17).

Piper Gilles of  Toronto, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., look on track to win their first Four Continents Championships title in ice dance on Sunday as they have a healthy lead following the rhythm dance that took place today. Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen of Montreal, Que., sit just behind them in second, while Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac of Ste-Anne-des-plaines, Que., sit in seventh.

“We skate everyday with commitment and passion, even when we don’t feel good, and so I think we just really enjoy flipping the switch and really seeing that energy, and I think that’s what makes us special. You see a lot of the top athletes able to do that, and we did that today,” said Gilles following their performance.

Canada has the top spot currently in the pair competition as well with Deanna Stellato-Dudek of Chicago, USA and Maxime Deschamps of Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que., having a comfortable lead heading into the free skate taking place on Saturday.

“It was fun to go out there. I’m disappointed in my mistake, but really happy with the rest of the performance. We accomplished a lot of our upgrades and have been working really hard,” said Deschamps who has been struggling with his jumps at the last couple of competitions.

Lia Pereira of Milton, Ont., and Trennt Michaud of Trenton, Ont., are sitting in sixth after the short program, and Kelly Ann Laurin of St-Jerôme, Que., and Loucas Éthier of Deux-Montagnes, Que., are in eighth.

The men’s competition will wrap up on Saturday. Wesley Chiu of Vancouver, B.C., is the top-ranked Canadian in sixth following the short program which took place on Thursday. Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont., is sitting in 11th, and Conrad Orzel of Toronto, Ont., is sitting in 17th.

For full results please click here.

The Little Club that Could – Minnedosa Skating Club Champions Inclusivity to Give Local Boy a New Way to Enjoy Skating

On January 1, 2022, eight-year-old Cain Burgess of Minnedosa, Manitoba, and his family received news that no one ever wants to receive. A lump that his family had noticed on his shin was revealed to be osteosarcoma, and thus began Cain’s journey with cancer.

Cain spent eight months away from home undergoing chemotherapy and multiple surgeries to remove his tibia bone and replace it with a bone graft and a cadaver bone. When he finally returned home, Cain was cancer free and eager to return to his normal life.

Before his cancer diagnosis, Cain had been a very active kid, playing hockey, rugby, biking, and hiking and so getting active again was paramount for his recovery. Despite being cancer free, Cain was still unable to put any weight on his leg, so his family was unsure of what he’d be able to do. Luckily, the family’s good friend, Jacquie Gerrard – President of the Minnedosa Skating Club – had recently seen a CanSkate poster that showed a young boy using a sledge to get out on the ice.

“I really didn’t know anything about sledging, but I contacted Skate Manitoba, and they put me in touch with Skate Canada and they were able to provide me with more information. In Manitoba, it’s mostly Sledge Hockey Manitoba who do the most with sledges, and they’re managed by Manitoba Possible. They were able to get Cain fitted with a sledge, and he brought it out to Minnedosa and he was able to start in our CanSkate program using a sledge which was really cool,” said Gerrard.

Being out on the ice on his sledge has had a very positive impact on Cain says his mother, Danica Wotton: “The social aspect of getting him back on the ice has been beneficial in so many ways. He’s not excluded, and it’s a way for him to take part and be with his friends, and he’s having fun and he’s exercising, which is a huge thing, because I really can’t find many activities for him with his leg not working.”

Cain was also lucky enough to meet and skate with Paralympic athlete Tyler McGregor in February 2023 when he was in Winnipeg for his “Sledge Skate of Hope” campaign. McGregor, who also had a form of bone cancer and lost his leg, discovered para ice hockey early on and is now the captain of Canada’s national para ice hockey team and widely recognized as one of the best players in the world.

“He and Cain went for a skate on the river together, just the two of them. They got to talk and had a lot in common. Tyler has had his struggles as well, so they were chatting and sledging, and it was really cool for Cain,” said his mother Danica.

Minnedosa is a small, rural town, near Brandon, Manitoba, with few opportunities for kids with different abilities to get involved in sport and recreation. After seeing the impact that sledge skating has had on Cain, Gerrard is working to create better access to the sport for other local skaters. She applied for a grant with the Minnedosa and District Foundation to purchase two additional sleds for the club.

“We just got those before Christmas, and together with our recreation department, they’re now available anytime we have public skating, or sticks and pucks – our whole community can use them and try them out. Anyone who’s tried it thinks it’s super fun,” said Gerrard.

Cain has become the resident expert on sledge skating in his town. He helped make some videos for the club about how to use them, how to get in them, and how to stop and will be helping to teach other kids that want to learn how to sledge through the club’s CanSkate programs.

“We’re just so thankful to the club,” said Wotton. “At the time that this was all going on, Cain was really struggling with a lot and having a lot of challenges with his chemo, and his treatment, and not being mobile, and they were in the background, doing all of this and taking the lead on it, which took a lot off our plate. They gave Cain this opportunity – we didn’t ask for it – they just did it, and we’re really grateful to them for thinking of him and doing their work towards making this inclusive activity out here in in a rural area setting where we don’t have these things.”

If you’d like to find out more about sledge skating, and you live in Manitoba, visit any of the links in this story. For other parts of Canada, please get in touch with our Member Services desk at Skate Canada and they will direct you appropriately.

View Skate Canada’s CanSkate-Sledge Skating Development Library

CanSkate@School Breaks Barriers in Edmonton

It’s a cold blustery morning in Edmonton, Alberta as local elementary school children board a bus for a trip to the downtown community arena next to Rogers Place and the home of the Edmonton Oilers. For many of the children, the bus ride from their school to the rink is an adventure in and of itself. Putting on the skates and helmets awaiting them — an even bigger adventure. For some, this is the first time they will have ever stepped on the ice. Thanks to a partnership between Skate AB|NT|NU, EverActive Schools, The City of Edmonton, and the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, many of these children are about to experience the joy of skating for the first time. This is the CanSkate@School program.

CanSkate@School started in 2018 with the sole purpose of providing children in grades 1-4 who come from inner city and under-served school communities, an opportunity to experience the joy of skating and learning to skate. Participants don’t even need to bring their own helmets or skates – as equipment is often a key barrier to entry, all the equipment required is housed at the arena waiting for them. In fact, most of the equipment is legacy funded equipment from the Skate Canada “Skate Bank” program from Canada 150, a gift that keeps on giving to this community.

Since it first started, over 4700 students have gone through the program with 90% of participants experiencing skating for the first time. These are impressive numbers considering the program had to pause for a year and half during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program also serves sledge skaters and adaptive skaters – ensuring that anyone who wants to, has the opportunity to attend by participating in specialized sessions called interaction sessions.

Each child’s class registers for the program through EverActive schools and gets three sessions that follow the CanSkate program, and which are led by Skate Canada certified coaches. It works just like a skating field trip – board the bus to the rink, skate, go back to school…and the kids seem to really love it.

When speaking with one parent whose child recently participated in the program, she shared that, “he loved it and had so much fun”. Tehmina’s son, Shuwaiz, is 11 years old, blind, and like many other families, faced a financial barrier to entry. This barrier was quickly removed because everything he needs to participate is provided through the program. After he was able to step on the ice for the first time, his mom said that: “he really enjoyed it and improved a lot by the third day.” Shuwaiz, like many other children, was able to have a new experience that might never had happened if it were not for the CanSkate@School program.

In its first year, the program served 732 kids – that’s 32 classes from seven schools and all of those were primarily grade two students (while geared towards grades 1-4, the program will accept students up to grade 9). To date, 4,700 kids have had the opportunity to skate that may never have otherwise stepped foot on the ice — and that’s just in one city. So, what does the future hold? Speaking with Leona Boyle, Administrative Coordinator and Lisa Hardy, Executive Director of Skate AB|NT|NU, the section is looking to expand the program offering to the City of Calgary soon.

The confluence of events that came together to create this program is nothing short of amazing. After the construction of Rogers Place Arena and the downtown community rink in 2016, it soon became apparent the rink was being under-utilized. The equipment from Canada 150 was still pretty much brand new and was able to provide the skates and helmets the skaters require to participate. Funding from the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Oilers Foundation, in conjunction with the coordination of logistics from EverActive schools and Skate AB|NT|NU’s expert coaches, all came together to build this unique program. It was a perfect skating storm that managed to remove some of the most basic barriers to entry and to serve some of the most under-served members of the Edmonton community.

Programs and opportunities like CanSkate@School continue to make strides towards ensuring this beloved Canadian pastime really does have the potential to be available to everyone.
_______________

*If you are interested in starting a CanSkate@School program in your area, please reach out to [email protected].

 

Gold for Canadian Pair and Ice Dance Team at Skate Canada International

Vancouver, Canada (October 28, 2023) – Deanna Stellato-Dudek of Chicago, USA and Maxime Deschamps of Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que., showed that they are well on the path towards their goal of standing on the podium at the World Championships in Montreal next spring with a commanding free skate that earned them the gold medal in the pair competition at 2023 Skate Canada International.

Piper Gilles of Toronto, Ont., and Paul Poirier of Unionville, Ont., also retained their Skate Canada International title for the fourth year in a row with a beautiful performance in the free dance to win gold in ice dance.

Stellato-Dudek and Deschamps scored a personal best of 142.34 in their free skate to the theme from “Interview with a Vampire” to win gold by 27 points (214.64 total score) over the Hungarian team of Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko who took silver (187.78). The Italian team of Lucrezia Beccari and Matteo Guarise captured bronze (181.42).

“I’m very happy with today’s performance which is a rarity for me,” laughed Stellato-Dudek following their performance. “It’s still early in the season, but we’ve been waiting for a performance like this for years. We were sick of it last year and never skating even close to a clean long program, so we worked really hard to be able to put this out today.”

Kelly Ann Laurin of St-Jérôme, Que., and Loucas Éthier of Deux-Montagnes, Que., improved on their short program performance where they were sitting in seventh, to finish the competition in fifth overall with a total score of 168.12. Brooke McIntosh of Toronto, Ont., and Benjamin Mimar of Terrebonne, Que., finished sixth overall with a total score of 166.00.

Gilles and Poirier performed a moving free dance to music from “Wuthering Heights” to win their first gold of the season with a total score of 219.01. Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain and Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius of Lithuania retained their positions from the rhythm dance to capture silver (209.55) and bronze (192.01) respectively.

“This has been such a successful competition for us,” said Poirier. “We’ve been able to debut both of our new programs which has been really exciting just to put them out there in the world. We’re proud of how we skated and contained our nerves, and we’re both really looking forward to improving on both of these skates as we go through the season.”

Alicia Fabbri of Terrebonne, Que. and Paul Ayer of Brossard, Que. finished seventh with a score of 173.34, while Molly Lanaghan of Doncaster, GB and Dmitre Razgulajevs of Ajax, Ont. placed ninth.

Madeline Schizas of Oakville, Ont., bounced back from her disappointing short program on Friday with a flawless free skate in the women’s competition that gave her the second highest score of the day, which saw her move her up from eighth to fourth overall with a total score of 189.91.

“I’m feeling really good. I was very disappointed after my short yesterday, but I was able to pull it together in the free to put up a really big score which is what I was really looking for. I know I can skate a good short, but sometimes the free gets away from me so I was really happy,” said Schizas whose free skate score of 132.47 is a new personal best and season’s best.

Kaori Sakamoto, the reigning world champion, continued her dominance in the free skate to win the gold with a total score of 226.13. Chaeyeon Kim of Korea took the silver with an overall score of 201.15, and Rino Matsuike of Japan took bronze with an overall score of 198.62. Senior Grand Prix rookies Kaiya Ruiter of Calgary, Alta., and Sara-Maude Dupuis of Montreal, Que., finished the competition 10th (155.44) and 11th (151.95) respectively.

The men’s competition saw Wesley Chiu of Vancouver, B.C., take the title of the top Canadian as he finished in seventh position with a total score of 221.54. Toronto’s Conrad Orzel finished 10th with a total score of 213.12, and Aleksa Rakic of Burnaby, B.C., finished 12th with a total score of 189.38.

It was a close fight for the gold, with Sota Yamamoto of Japan squeaking through to take the gold with an overall score of 258.42 – just ahead of his teammate Kao Miura who took silver with an overall score of 257.89. Matteo Rizzo of Italy captured bronze with a total score of 246.01 after an inspired performance that saw him move up to the podium from eighth after the short program.

Next up for Canadian skaters is the Grand Prix de France taking place in Angers, France from November 3-5, 2023. For full results, please click here.

Adaptive CanSkate is a Win for Everyone

In the Fall of 2022, the phone started ringing and emails started coming into the Kitchener-Waterloo Skating Club (KWSC). Parents had questions about possibilities for their children with disabilities to access the club’s CanSkate program. They wanted to know what kind of equipment was available and if there was a volunteer that could be with their child while they were on the ice.

Debra Brown, Executive Director of KWSC, started looking at the landscape in her local community. There were programs like sledge hockey, gymnastics, baseball and even horseback riding but nothing regarding learning to skate. The demand was there but how could they make that work at their club? Inspired by the recent Skate Canada annual Ice Summit, Brown remembered a workshop focused on adaptive skating that a colleague of hers mentioned and had also returned with numerous resources. Slowly the pieces started coming together.

“We will need a process for kids to be accompanied on the ice, funding and some support in working with children with disabilities,” she thought to herself. Where there is a will, there is often a way and around the same time, Brown discovered that the City of Waterloo was giving seed money in the form of community cash grants. For assistance, she reached out to KidsAbility, a non-profit that provides support for children and youth to reach their communication, social, physical and behavioural goals. KWSC received the grant and the journey towards building the program began.

With the support and expertise of KidsAbility, KWSC was able to train all their volunteers on best practices when working with children with disabilities. In the Fall of 2022, KWSC launched their pilot adaptive CanSkate program with eight skaters and nine volunteers registered.

Alison McLaren, who is now the Program Coordinator, was one of the original volunteers. “One of my best friends has a daughter with a disability, and I have seen first-hand the lack of inclusive recreation opportunities available to her. When I saw that the KW Skating Club was starting an Adaptive Canskate program, I knew I wanted to be involved.”

This was the beginning of something that would soon make session days her favourite day of the week. While Alison does receive some pay for her role in the program, she says that this is really a passion project for her.

A regular at the program is Kunsh who is 14 years old, has down syndrome, and is non-verbal. This program makes a difference, not just for him but for his mother. “I am very happy seeing the changes in Kunsh,” she shares. “He is very happy skating and always with a big smile on his face.” His mother Nidhi wishes the club ran summer sessions because “he loves it so much”.

Alison and Nidhi recount his progress and how the program helped him get there. It was slow and took many sessions. He started by just getting in the arena. The next step was getting him to wear skates, to moving around and keeping his balance on his skates and then finally, Kunsh was on the ice with his skates at the last session.

The program’s success stems from the fact that volunteers are able customize it and give children one-on-one attention. Kunsh’s Mom confirms the same. She explained that his on-ice aid Leah has been a huge difference maker and that she engages Kunsh with bubbles, little basketballs and is always encouraging him to be involved.

“It’s a win for everyone,” Alison says. “A win for the club, a win for the volunteers and a win for the kids.” As of this fall, the club is now offering two sessions of Adaptive CanSkate and both currently have a waitlist.

The landscape continues to shift in terms of adaptive and inclusive sporting opportunities and while there might still be a lot of work left to do, this reminds us just what is possible and how much impact it can have.

Click here to learn more about Skate Canada’s clubs and programs.

The Evolution of Bruno Delmaestro: From Skating Champion to Coaching Icon

Building the champions of tomorrow is every coach’s dream. It takes years of commitment, dedication, patience, and sacrifice. In figure skating and hockey, it means time away from your family, late nights and early mornings at the rink and countless days on the road. Esteemed skating coach and BC Section Skate Canada Competitive Coach of the Year Award (1999, 2001, 2006) Bruno Delmaestro will tell you; nothing happens overnight.

In his early years, Delmaestro was both a figure skater and a hockey player, playing hockey up until he was 15 years of age. His figure skating career continued for years beyond that. In 1980, as a dual citizen of both Canada and Italy, Delmaestro left Canada to go compete for Italy. During his figure skating career, Delmaestro became a three-time national champion and won a silver medal at the 1982 Nebelhorn Trophy and a bronze medal at the St. Gervais international competition in France. He skated in the European and World Championships on track to be named to Italy’s 1984 Olympic team when he was sidelined by a hip-flexor injury that ended his competitive career.

His on-ice accomplishments would turn out to be to what just one chapter of a long and accomplished career built around skating. After recovering from his injury, Delmaestro entertained offers to skate professionally but was also curious about dabbling in the coaching world. Instead of skating professionally, he began taking coaching courses under the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) while going to school and gradually became a skating coach.

After the first year, Delmaestro started to notice a trend in his skaters. “Guys were taking figure skating for hockey, and then quitting.” This opportunity would become a game changer for his career and that of many young hockey players.

His thought process became: “If you want to a be a hockey player, come train at my hockey school and if you want to be a figure skater, come train at the clubs.” This quickly became the motto he would share with all young skaters looking to train with him and the foundation of what would become Bruno Delmaestro’s Skating Schools. Delmaestro took his knowledge of both sports to create unique and effective skating programs.

In the years since, he has coached several prominent athletes, such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matthew Barzal and 2023 first 2023 NHL Entry Draft pick Connor Bedard. In addition to Connor Bedard, Delmaestro also coached two additional NHL draft picks this year. In figure skating, he has coached numerous national champions and international medallists.

While these accomplishments bring him pride, he shares that the real joy comes from, “when you get to touch the lives of these skaters, you give them guidance to overcome things in skating and that makes them strong in life.”

Just like anything else in life, there is always much behind-the-scenes work that goes into every success story and Delmaestro is no exception to this. At 60 years old, he has now been coaching for 38 years in the two sports he is passionate about. He is an NCCP level 4 (partially level 5) coach, which represents countless hours spent learning both on and off the ice. Logging coaching hours, completing tests, attending trainings, in addition to the time he spends directly with his athletes he was also a Skate Canada Master Course Conductor in Power Skating. Today he is a High Performance, Pre-Power and PowerSkate Manager and skating coach at the Coquitlam Skating Club in British Columbia.

He attributes much of his success to the incredible mentorship he found in Cynthia and Jan Ullmark, and while mentorship brought him a long way, he continued to train and evolve as a coach. Continued NCCP training and listening to his athletes brought him staying power in two sports that have changed leaps and bounds since he started coaching.

“We are so beyond the way we taught 38 years ago. You must adapt as the sport evolves and today the kids are stronger, better trained, and more skilled.”

Both hockey and figure skating are so radically different than they were years ago. Athletes are constantly breaking new physical barriers. In figure skating, we see more quads in the programs, better skating skills and hockey is faster now than it has ever been, with better equipment and puck handling skills. So, Delmaestro kept evolving, kept learning, kept growing with both the sport and his athletes.

For new coaches coming up through the ranks, Delmaestro relays some key advice. “For a coach working with any high-performance athlete, it’s a good balancing act of getting that person to their best performance. The road is never easy, there are lots of ups and downs, it’s important to be patient. We all need a basic understanding that this is their sport and part of your job is to keep them grounded.”

Getting to the top is challenging and requires a network of people and assets to get there. After 38 years of coaching, Delmaestro is now setting new goals and new aspirations. “I never thought I could push 60 with my body and now the dream is 65 and maybe 70,” he shares. In one last parting thought Bruno reminds us that, “sport is active for life and if you keep active for life, you will push through.”

_____

This week is National Coaches Week. Join Skate Canada in celebrating coaches across the country working to help skaters of all ages accomplish their goals. We invite you to thank your coach in your own special way and to tag Skate Canada so we can join in the celebration.

Bruno Delmaestro is a World and International Level Skater and Coach who is NCCP Level 4 certified (partial level 5) and trainer of hockey players from beginner to NHL. To find out more about his skating schools, click here.

Empowering Joy: How Figure Skating Transformed Jayda’s World

Life opens up for all of us at different times and in different ways. Sport is something unique that pushes us, asking us to give it a shot, to improve and most of all, to have fun. Sport also provides social structures and opportunities to bond. In a positive and inclusive sporting environment, people thrive. This is exactly what happened for Jayda Yang when she took up skating.

Jayda started skating at five years old and seven years later, she still loves going to the rink. She thrives off the relationships she has built with her coaches, especially Coach Lisa, and while group activities have been difficult for her in the past, she absolutely loves being involved in programs at not just one but two skating schools in her area. In fact, Jayda loves skating so much that her mother registers her for a double session in the winter.

Jayda is also autistic and has limited verbal communication. For special needs individuals, group and social activities can often be challenging, anxiety provoking and stressful, but just as essential as they are for neurotypical people. Individuals all need a place where they belong and can develop relationships and skating has done just that for Jayda.

The rink has become a place where she is engaged, feels safe, and looks forward to being. Her clubs have adapted to keep her interested and enjoying the experience. Jayda is a very visual learner and sometimes needs things like timers and choices to help her continue to succeed. Her bond with her coaches, particularly Coach Lisa, gives her the motivation to keep going session after session.

Jayda’s autism diagnosis brings with it certain struggles. Some days it can take almost half an hour for Jayda to summon the motivation to get out of bed, but on days when she knows she has skating, she is excited to get up and get going. These are some of the small but hugely impactful differences Jayda’s mother has noticed as a result of skating.

Following her skating sessions, Jayda is “often happier, calmer and more open.” These become teachable moments where they get to communicate more. Jayda has limited verbal capacity and communicates largely by sign language and via an iPad. After skating, she will often sit outside with her mom having a snack and watch other skaters through the window of the arena with a smile on her face.

The clubs that Jayda skates at are a key contributor to this world of difference for her. The class sizes are small at both clubs which allows for more one-on-one attention. These classes are also organized in a way that works well for Jayda, with children moving station to station with their teacher and the rest of their group. Her coaches will also take time to bring her back to the group and have put in place accommodations that ensure a positive experience and the opportunity to learn and progress.

“It sounds like a small thing, but it’s not a small thing. It takes a lot of people’s goodwill and consideration to keep this a positive experience” for Jayda and others who might have additional needs to succeed and thrive in a skating environment.

There is no doubt that Jayda’s clubs, coaches and friends have contributed to her skill development and continue to provide her with a wonderful opportunity to grow. For a parent, there is nothing sweeter than seeing your child find joy, especially after periods of hardship. For Jayda, figure skating is that joy, that social circle we all crave so deeply and a place for her to grow. It’s been a gift and one that will hopefully continue to give to her for years to come.

53 Athletes Named to Skate Canada’s 2023-2024 NextGen Team

Ottawa, ON (July 26, 2023) – Skate Canada is excited to announce the 53 athletes that have been selected to the NextGen Team for the 2023-2024 season. The team will be comprised of 12 men, 13 women, five pair teams and nine ice dance teams.

Skate Canada’s NextGen program was created to support the operations of Skate Canada’s high performance development system with the purpose of ensuring athletes and coaches reach their maximum potential through various development and training opportunities.

The program is delivered in partnership with the Skate Canada Sections (PSO), Own The Podium, and Canadian Sport Institutes across the country. Selected skaters and their respective coaches are provided essential support to further their athletic goals, while identifying and supporting the development of the skills necessary to be competitive at a national and international level.

2023-2024 NextGen Team

Name | Age | Hometown | Coach | Training Location

MEN

David Bondar | 16 | Richmond Hill, Ont. | Lee Barkell | Toronto, Ont.
William Chan | 14 | Vancouver, B.C. | Eileen Murphy & Keegan Murphy | Richmond, B.C.
Vladimir Furman | 16 | St-Hubert, Que. | Marc-André Craig | Chambly, Que.
Alec Guinzbourg | 18 | Aurora, Ont. | Lee Barkell | Toronto, Ont.
David Howes | 16 | Winnipeg, Man. | Keegan Murphy | Richmond, B.C.
Terry Jin | 17 | Surrey, B.C. | Joey Russell | Toronto, Ont.
David Li | 16 | Richmond, B.C. | Keegan Murphy & Eileen Murphy | Richmond, B.C.
Grayson Long | 15 | Oakville, Ont. | Brian Orser | Toronto, Ont.
Rio Morita | 18 | Thornhill, Ont. | Tracy Wilson | Toronto, Ont.
Edward Nicholas Vasii | 16 | Rosemère, Que. | Yvan Desjardins | Rosemère, Que.
Anthony Paradis | 16 | Boisbriand, Que. | Yvan Desjardins | Rosemère, Que.
David Shteyngart | 17 | Ottawa, Ont. | Darlene Joseph | Ottawa, Ont.

WOMEN

Abbie Baltzer | 15 | Hamilton, Ont. | Jennifer Jackson & Bryce Davison | Hamilton, Ont.
Breken Brezden | 17 | Dauphin, Man. | Jennifer Jackson & Bryce Davison | Hamilton, Ont.
Mély-Ann Gagner | 15 | Sherbrooke, Que. | Marc-André Craig | Chambly, Que.
Fée Ann Landry | 18 | Gatineau, Que. | Guylaine Blouin | Gatineau, Que.
Lulu Lin | 13 | Mississauga, Ont. | Paul Parkinson & Andrew Evans | Mississauga, Ont.
Reese Rose | 14 | Gananoque, Ont. | Darlene Joseph | Ottawa, Ont.
Hetty Shi | 14 | Northville, Michigan | Andrew Evans & Paul Parkinson | Mississauga, Ont.
Uliana Shiryaeva | 16 | Coquitlam, B.C. | Joanne McLeod | Burnaby, B.C.
Rose Théroux | 16 | Ste-Victoire-de-Sorel, Que. | Marc-André Craig | Chambly, Que.
Aleksa Volkova | 14 | Lac-Brôme, Que. | Martine Dagenais | Boucherville, Que.
Megan Woodley | 14 | Oro Station, Ont. | Andrew Evans & Paul Parkinson | Mississauga, Ont.
Lucille Yang | 13 | Dunrobin, Ont. | Darlene Joseph | Ottawa, Ont.
Kara Yun | 14 | Burnaby, B.C. | Joanne McLeod | Burnaby, B.C.

PAIR

Annika Behnke | 14 | Peace River, Alta. & Kole Sauve | 15 | Grand Prairie, Alta. | Terri Gallant | Edmonton, Alta.
Jazmine Desrochers | 16 | Mississauga, Ont. & Kieran Thrasher | 19 | Amherstburg, Ont. | Bruno Marcotte | Oakville, Ont.
Ava Kemp | 14 | Winnipeg, Man. & Yohnatan Elizarov | 19 | Winnipeg, Man. | Andrew Evans & Kevin Dawe| Mississauga, Ont.
Martina Ariano Kent | 16 | Mount Royal, Que. & Charly Laliberté-Laurent | 17 | Boucherville, Que. | Marc-André Craig & David Alexandre Paradis | Chambly, Que.
Ashlyn Schmitz | 17 | Shellbrook, Sask. & Tristan Taylor | 21 | Regina, Sask. | David & Vicki Schultz | Regina, Sask.

ICE DANCE

Victoria Carandiuc | 15 | Saint-Constant, Que. & Andrei Carandiuc | 16 | Saint-Constant, Que. | Mylène Girard | Chambly, Que.
Auréa Cinçon-Debout | 16 | Montreal, Que. & Earl Jesse Celestino | 17 | Dollard des Ormeaux, Que. | Benjamin Brisbois | Montreal, Que.
Charlotte Chung | 18 | Toronto, Ont. & Axel Mackenzie | 18 | Toronto, Ont. | Carol Lane | Scarborough, Ont.
Emma Goodstadt | 18 | Oakville, Ont. & Christian Bennett | 18 | Charlotte, North Carolina | Carol Lane | Scarborough, Ont.
Jordyn Lewis | 18 | Komoka, Ont. & Noah McMillan | 19 | Ilderton, Ont. | Scott Moir | London, Ont.
Savanna Martel | 18 | Calgary, Alta. & William Oddson | 20 | Calgary, Alta. | Kim Weeks & Tyler Myles | Calgary, Alta.
Chloe Nguyen | 18 | Vancouver, B.C. & Brendan Giang | 19 | Burnaby, B.C. | Aaron Lowe & Megan Wing | Burnaby, B.C.
Dana Sabatini-Speciale | 17 | Springwater, Ont. & Nicholas Buelow | 16 | Barrie, Ont. | Mitch Islam | Barrie, Ont.
Layla Veillon | 17 | London, Ont. & Alexander Brandys | 18 | London, Ont. | Scott Moir | London, Ont.

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect; You Just Have to Be Awesome

Photo by Elsa Garrison – International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images

In the spring of 2022, senior synchronized skating team Les Suprêmes struck gold at the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in front of a home crowd in Hamilton, Ontario. This marked the third time in history that a Canadian team would stand on the top step of the podium since the event’s inception 22 years ago. The previous team to win gold was NEXXICE in 2015, seven years prior. So, how did they get here?

Believe it or not, COVID-19 helped catapult the team to this level of excellence. When talking with Marilyn Langlois, one of the three members of the coaching team along with Pascal Denis and Amélie Brochu, she attributes their success to the training constraints they had to adhere to during the pandemic.

Marilyn paints a picture of what their training was like: “The pandemic forced us to focus more on individual skating skills and we had to get creative with our trainings, using sticks to maintain distance which allowed for more room to skate and to skate bigger.”

This unique training environment created a strong base for the skaters and allowed them to put together a much stronger program. Heading into Worlds in 2022, Les Suprêmes were not well ranked internationally, a direct result of limited opportunities to compete internationally due to the Omicron outbreak in January 2022. A few months later in Hamilton, the hometown crowd shook the building each time Canadian synchronized skating teams took the ice. It felt more like a hockey game than traditional figure skating. It was a special moment for this Canadian team as they skated lights out and captured the gold medal on home soil.

The 2022-2023 season was slightly different for the reigning world champions due to the fact that synchronized skating was added to the

Photo by Elsa Garrison – International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images

2023 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships program for the first time alongside all other skating disciplines.

This was a special moment for the synchronized skating community and fans welcomed the discipline with open arms. Throughout the event, spectators were heard saying things like “I didn’t know synchronized skating was like this” or “It’s come so far technically from when I last watched.”

However, this change also meant that synchronized skating teams would be competing for their national title a month earlier than in the past. Historically, synchronized skating teams participated in their own National Championships which took place in February, with the ultimate objective of peaking at the World Championships in late March. Going into nationals as World Champions the previous year, Les Suprêmes were the strong favourite to win, but ended up placing third.

According to Marilyn Langlois, it wasn’t a bad skate and they were not planning to peak at nationals. To not perform at your best at the National Championships seems counterintuitive, but sports are a building game and each competition prepares you for the next. The team was focused on getting the technical elements, good GOEs and building mental strength so they could peak when it counted.

Photo by Elsa Garrison – International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images

Following nationals, Canada’s synchronized skating teams began their international season and the work to qualify for the World Championships. This is a time of “believing and trusting the process and being confident in the program you are building,” shared Marilyn.

At their first international competition of the 2023 season, the team was just looking to improve and build confidence. These competitions are good preparation for Worlds as athletes compete against other international competitors. The focus is on winning one element at a time. The coaching philosophy always being, ‘You do not have to be perfect; you just have to be awesome.’

Indeed, they were awesome and in turn accomplished something amazing: the team won medals at both of their international competitions leading up to the World Championships, finishing first at the 2023 Challenger Series Spring Cup and claiming bronze at the 2023 Leon Lurje Trophy. This momentum carried them into the 2023 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships, where they accomplished something incredibly awesome: back-to-back World Championship titles, a first for Canada.

Competing at this level of the sport requires strong mental skills, which is a main area of focus within the coaching team. They constantly tell their team that they just need to be awesome because perfection is impossible and regardless of the outcome of the season, “they are still going to be able to achieve something awesome by the end.” In addition to instilling this mindset within their team, they take proactive approaches to preserve athletes’ health. The coaching team regularly checks in individually with each athlete and Marilyn confirms that for their coaching team, “the health of the athlete, mentally, physically, comes before any performance.

For Les Suprêmes, winning in a healthy way is a mindset they would like to bring to the forefront of competitive sport. “Doing it in a healthy way is doable, it just takes a lot more communication and listening to the needs of your athletes, as well as, finding just the right balance between hard work and fun.”

10,000 Requests a Year: Supporting Safety for 2SLGBTQIA+ with Rainbow Railroad

On June 28th, 1969, New York City, police raided The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Employees and patrons were roughly dragged from the bar by police. The raid ignited a riot amongst the patrons and residents. This led to six days of protests and violent interactions with police and was the inciting event of the gay rights movement.

One year later, thousands of people gathered to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising. Citizens in New York, Chicago and LA marched for equal rights. These events are what inspired the Pride Parades that we have today. Pride in North America is a celebration of the progress we have made, and we should celebrate but we should also remember the history.

“Pride began as a protest and is still a protest for many people around the world today,” shares Brittany Skerritt, Senior Development Officer of Community Giving at Rainbow Railroad.

For Pride Season, Skate Canada has partnered with Rainbow Railroad in support of their global initiatives to protect and assist queer people who are facing state enabled violence and persecution.  While we are safe from that type of threat here in Canada, 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals are still living in fear of the death penalty in 12 countries across the globe. Crackdowns and law changes specifically targeted at queer people continue in countries like Afghanistan and Uganda. This creates a bigger demand for safety and support, just the type of work that Rainbow Railroad is known for.

In 2006, the organization was founded by a group of volunteers who started privately sponsoring queer refugees to come into the country one individual at a time. They operated like this until 2013 when Rainbow Railroad became a registered charity in Canada and then a few years later in the United States. Their main mandate is emergency travel support. Since their inception, they have helped almost 10,000 2SLGBTQIA+ people find safety through relocation, crisis response and financial assistance. It’s a big job and it’s intricate, working with governments and on the ground organizations to assist as many people as possible, and more people need help than you might think.

On RainbowRailroad.org they have a live counter that indicates the number of people who have requested assistance to date this year. As of June 8, 2023, the organization has received 4,106 requests and are expecting to receive 10,000 or more by the end of 2023. Sometimes help requests are not always from where you think they might be either.

“In 2022 the United States was in the list of our top-ten countries,” noted Brittany.

Demonstrating that the western world still has work to do to safeguard the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Rainbow Railroad works with different government agencies around, in Canada, the United States, Europe and a few more, to bring these individuals to safety. However, sometimes there is not a safe pathway out and, in that case, their organization will provide shelters in nearby countries, financial support or help relocate people to a safer region within their current country.

Brittany explains, “that it’s kind of similar to someone who is living in the countryside and then relocating to a larger metropolitan like Toronto where it might be a little safer.”

They need to have alternative methods.

“When it comes to the refugee process, most people have to be outside of their country first, before they can relocate to a new country,” Brittany explains. “And it can also be incredibly dangerous.”

In a lot of these countries being visibly queer can prevent you from taking public transit and airlines limit the number of individuals who can leave the country because they can be penalized if too many people board their flight who might be claiming refugee status.

The difference they are making is significant. In the next few months in cooperation with the Canadian Government they will be moving 600 Afghan refugees to safety. This is one of the biggest efforts the organization has accomplished to date.

It is eye opening to hear about the situation for 2SLGBTQIA+ people globally. It is easy to limit our view to the country we live in. In Canada we have the privilege of same-sex marriage and other equality laws that help protect queer people. Ten thousand requests a year is a lot and Rainbow Railroad is aiming to support 4,100 refugees this year a tall order for this once volunteer run initiative.

To support the pivotal work being done, Skate Canada has produced a line of all-gender Pride merchandise to show our support and donate funds to this important effort. The merchandise will be on sale on summer and all of Skate Canada’s proceeds will be donated directly. Pride apparel can purchased through the Skate Canada Shop. . Make sure to pick up your unique piece and show your love of skating loud and proud while also supporting queer individuals globally who are in desperate need of help.

In closing, Brittany reminded us kindly, “that support is needed all year long, not just during Pride Season.”

If you are looking for ways to help, please visit RainbowRailroad.org for information on donating, sponsoring refugees and other ways to lend your support.

This Pride Season let’s remember to celebrate what we are so grateful to have achieved here in Canada but let’s also take a moment to reflect the protests and oppression that continues abroad.

_______

You can follow Rainbow Railroad and their efforts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
Or visit their website RainbowRailroad.org for more information and to stay up to date on recent events.

Purchase your official Skate Canada Pride merchandise here.

Resources

(2022, May 31). 1969 Stonewall Riots. History.com. Retrieved June 8, 2023, from https://www.history.com/topics/gay-rights/the-stonewall-riots

Learning to ‘work in good ways’ with Clayton Sandy

The road to change is a long one. There is no one action that can eliminate the inherited generational trauma and behaviours that have been experienced by Canada’s Indigenous people. Skate Canada has been proud to work hand in hand with Clayton Sandy this year as we look to ‘work in good ways’ with the Indigenous community.

Clayton Sandy is a survivor of the ‘Sixties Scoop’ a period where large numbers of Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed in non-indigenous foster homes. Both of his parents went to residential schools, as well as six of his siblings. Growing up, Clayton shares a story of a home life marked by violence and alcohol. He shares with us interactions with police who beat him and urinated on him. Racism, violence, and alcohol were all regular occurrences but that would not be his path forward.

Today, Clayton is the opposite of the environment he was raised.

Never wanting his children to grow up surrounded by violence, Clayton began a healing journey and went to therapy.

“Therapy really helped me to let go of a lot of issues because I was carrying issues of being physically abused, sexually abused, and that was coming out every time that I drank and getting me in trouble all the time. That really helped me deal with a lot of my issues,” shared Clayton.

Then in 1982 when he became a father, he was determined to create a home where his children and eventually grandchildren would feel safe and secure. So, he quit drinking and never allowed alcohol into his home, breaking generational ties.

Fast forward to today and Clayton Sandy is focused on sharing the history of his people and his own story to ensure people are hearing about Indigenous experiences from an Indigenous person. He is retired after 39 years of work in government but for a retired person his work towards reconciliation keeps him very busy.

Here at Skate Canada, staff were privileged to participate in an in person sharing circle with Clayton in the Fall of 2022. It was an eye-opening experience to learn about the history and suffering that Indigenous people have endured. Employees learned of residential schools, the sixties scoop, and heard the firsthand retelling of Clayton’s story and history, one that is unfortunately not rare among Indigenous people.

Clayton also shared with us his love of sport and long-time engagement and love for hockey. Unfortunately, the racism he experienced led him to quit the game he loved. Today he is a ‘hockey granddad’ with three of his grandchildren participating in hockey. Clayton works with Skate Canada to help correct some of the racism in sport that he has witnessed throughout his life, so that other kids do not suffer the way he did.

Clayton’s efforts and engagement with Skate Canada continued in April 2023 when Skate Canada sections were privileged to engage in a virtual learning session with Clayton in April of 2023. Clayton led members in a conversation about dispelling the misconceptions about Indigenous people. This is all part of Skate Canada’s effort to continue to build lasting and meaningful relationships as we work towards reconciliation.

Apart from Skate Canada, Clayton is also highly involved in the Turtle Island Project (TIP). TIP is an action-oriented exercise designed to transform society’s negative perceptions of Indigenous people and engages people in reconciliatory action. Participants taking part in this project are asked to walk in the shoes of Indigenous people that began 150 years ago and share in celebrating the lives of Indigenous people today. This can include activities like sharing circles, true life stories from residential school survivors and participating in the setup of a full-size tipi.

Clayton participates in initiatives like this regularly to help move society forward in relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

While it might sound counter-intuitive based on his story, Clayton elaborates that throughout his journey he has been the recipient of kindness and that his efforts today as very simply about giving back for the kindness he is so grateful to have received.

“I have connected with non-native people that really helped me out at many times. I had a mentor in government for 38 years who taught me a lot about kindness and giving back. Learning to walk together in a really respectful way and learning to forgive when somebody says something because they do not realize, it is not deliberate, and some people just do not know any better.”

He explains that we need to recognize that thing are not always straight forward.

“It’s not a one-way street. So, it must be a two-way street between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. You have to be willing to accept mistakes sometimes and just keep on moving forward.”

It is almost unbelievable when you hear the details from Clayton of what he went through – consistent racism, abuse, assault, and family violence – to see where he is and the actions he is taking today. To supersede the adversity, he has experienced in his life and be able to give back is nothing short of determination and a true desire to be the best person possible.

He is a living, breathing example that change is possible and that there are always opportunities to learn and to engage in education and open conversations. Society and skating alike need to be open to listen and learn and the way forward can be a truly healing experience for all involved.

_______

Clayton Sandy is a member of the Sioux Valley Dakota First Nation. He was recently awarded the 70th Queen’s Jubilee Platinum Aware for his community contributions. In June of 2023 he will also be awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg.

This June as we celebrate National Indigenous History Month Skate Canada would like to thank individuals like Clayton Sandy for sharing their story with us and progressing our narrative and understanding of what has transpired so that we can move forward in a more positive and constructive manner with our Indigenous partners. Throughout the month, Skate Canada will host several initiatives dedicated to raising awareness and supporting the Indigenous Community.

For more information on upcoming events, click here.

References

  1. British Columbia, U. O. (n.d.). Sixties Scoop. Indigenous Foundations Arts UBC. https://indigenousfoundations.arts.ubc.ca/sixties_scoop/