Pride Profile: “I believe the world is changing but I know there is still more work to be done”

June is Pride Month and an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the LGBTQI2S+ community. Skate Canada has done and is continuing to do substantive work in relation to LGBTQI2S+ inclusion but we know there remains critical inclusion work to be done moving forward.

To support an inclusive environment this Pride Month we are sharing personal stories from our skating community. Below is the story of two-time world champion Eric Radford.

When I first watched figure skating on TV, I was instantly enamoured. It seemed as though the skaters could fly and as a kid, I was obsessed with planes and being able to fly. At that moment, I had no idea that skating would bring so many incredible experiences into my life, but also many challenges.

Being the only male figure skater in a small northern community where hockey was the most popular sport was not easy. There was a lot of name calling and bullying. I couldn’t understand why the other kids hated me so much because I liked this amazing sport. As I got older, and I started to have more success, the bullying never completely disappeared, but it diminished.

When I was 17, after a lot of internal struggle, I finally accepted that I was gay. My closest friends at the time were my training mates and when I came out to them, they were nothing but supportive and positive. Their acceptance and support of who I was, made a profound impact on me and was the catalyst for the self-acceptance and freedom I began to feel.

Fast forward 13 years and the opportunity to show the world my true self was presented. When I decided to come out publicly, it conjured up the same fear and anxiety I had when I came out to my friends and family. What if this changed everything? What if it affected my chances at success? Again, I was lucky to have so many wonderful friends and family supporting me, but the biggest and best surprise was the messages and support I received from people I didn’t even know.

Young athletes wrote me about their struggles and related that sharing my story had helped them. This made any fear and anxiety I did have totally worth it. I received so much support from around the world and from within the skating community.

A special moment for me was at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, where at the end of the long program, there were pride flags waving in the stands. I believe the world is changing but I know there is still more work to be done for the LGBTQI2S+ community and for LGBTQI2S+ athletes. I would love a future where an athlete’s sexuality is no longer news and that they simply feel free and comfortable to share details about their life that they otherwise would want to hide. As athletes in figure skating and other sports continue to share their stories about being their authentic selves, let us take a moment and appreciate how far the LGBTQI2S+ community in sport has come.

Happy and safe Pride everyone!

Skate Canada thanks to Eric Radford for sharing his story and bringing awareness to the skating community. If you are a member of the LGBTQI2S+ skating community and are interested in sharing your personal story please send us an email at [email protected].

COMMUNITY PROFILE: “FINDING ONE’S IDENTITY”

June is National Indigenous History Month and an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the Indigenous community. Skate Canada has done and is continuing to do substantive work in equity, diversity and inclusion but we know there remains critical inclusion work to be done moving forward.

To support an inclusive environment this National Indigenous History Month we are sharing personal stories from our skating community. Below is the story of Clifford A. Mushquash, a member of Pays Plat First Nation in Ontario.

***

When I started out in skating, I didn’t connect very deeply with my Ojibway identity. I was raised in a bi-racial family in Sioux Lookout but I did not have the deep cultural understanding growing up as I do now. Language and traditional teachings weren’t passed along in my family.

The importance of understanding one’s identity and history wasn’t discussed in my formative years as it is now—especially in the skating community. I became a member of the Canadian Figure Skating Association in 1991, when my parents enrolled me in a Learn to Skate program offered by the Sioux Lookout Figure Skating Club. My ice show debut was as a yellow chickadee performing the Bird Dance—yes, the Bird Dance! I have the fond memories of learning to skate and participating at Ice Shows. Now, my involvement in skating is as an assessor/official.

As I grew up, I began to connect with my identity and truly understand my people’s history.  Finding my identity and learning my culture wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took many years of listening to and learning from Elders and knowledge keepers before I really understood my Indigenous self. It was through academic study and engaging in difficult conversations that I came to understand what colonization is, and how my family and I have been impacted by it.

Today, I am a proud First Nations person, but acknowledge I have more to learn in order to live mino-bimaadiziwin (live the good life). I’m a trained social worker (with a BA Sociology and Honours Bachelor of Social Work from Lakehead University) and am currently completing a Master’s of Public Health, with a specialization in Indigenous and Northern Health. I work as an administrative assistant for the Indigenous Language Instructor’s Program at the Faculty of Education at Lakehead University. This program trains and qualifies fluent Ojibway, OjiCree, and Cree speakers as Indigenous Language Instructors. This program is aimed towards language revitalization by using Indigenous teaching and learning methodologies. My work and education place me face-to-face with culture and the realities of Indigenous people in Canada. It can be emotionally tiring to do this kind of work but knowing that I am learning while I’m helping brings me fulfilment and energy to continue.

We are at a moment as a country and a sport where we are holding a mirror up to ourselves and taking a real close look at what we need to do so that our sport and society can be more equitable, diverse, and inclusive for everyone. To me, it means I can bring my learning and lived experiences to skating and have it appreciated and embraced.  It brings me joy when other officials and volunteers approach me with questions about Indigenous culture or Canada’s colonial history because they genuinely want to deepen their understanding so we can do better together. Skate Canada has a great opportunity to be a leader in how anti-racist and anti-colonial education and action can be done well. Officials and volunteers in the sport can take learnings from equity, diversity, and inclusion education in the skating community and bring it into the other areas of their lives. The organization has set a precedent for other sporting organizations and has offered collaboration, which is the beauty of this work. It makes me hopeful going forward.

Together, we can be champions of this cause.

***

Skate Canada thanks Clifford A. Mushquash for sharing his story and bringing awareness to the skating community. 

 Skate Canada is pleased to announce an Indigenous Stories in Figure Skating Initiative and invites you to share your story. This initiative to collect the stories of Indigenous peoples in figure skating in Canada is informed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission “Sport and Reconciliation” Calls to Action (#87-91). We aim to create space for stories of Indigenous peoples in figure skating. Your stories will provide a better understanding of the lived experiences of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples within the sport of figure skating in Canada. Your stories will also support efforts by Skate Canada to increase visibility of Indigenous peoples in figure skating. 

 Thank you for considering participation in this initiative. Click here to learn more.

 

SKATE CANADA ANNOUNCES BID TO HOST THE ISU WORLD FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS® 2024 IN MONTREAL, QUEBEC

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada will formally submit a bid in April of 2021 to host the ISU World Figure Skating Championships® 2024 in Montreal, Quebec. If successful, this will be Canada’s 11th time hosting the championships. Montreal was set to host the ISU World Figure Skating Championships® 2020 but was cancelled a week prior due to the pandemic. Canada last hosted the illustrious event in 2013 in London, Ontario.

The ISU World Figure Skating Championships® is the pinnacle event of the annual figure skating season moving around the globe, attracting more than 300 million television viewers worldwide and showcasing the 200 best athletes from 50 countries in four disciplines: men’s, ladies, pair and ice dance.

“We are thrilled to put forth Montreal as the host city for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships® 2024 for consideration by the International Skating Union. Canada has an exceptional hosting history, and we would be honoured to hold the 2024 event,” said Leanna Caron, President, Skate Canada. “With all the diligence that went into planning the 2020 World Championships, the entire team is ready to welcome the world to Montreal in 2024.  We have confidence that working with all government and municipal partners together with Patinage Quebec, we will deliver an excellent event in Montreal.”

“The ISU World Figure Skating Championships are a staple event. I am thrilled that Montréal was chosen to be the Canadian candidate to host its 2024 edition. I would like to underline Tourisme Montréal’s contribution to this success as well as to the mobilization of the community. This much-anticipated international competition promises to be highly successful and to provide an excellent showcase for our metropolis,” stated Valérie Plante, mayor of Montréal.

In accordance with ISU regulations, Skate Canada will submit Montreal as the host city along with supporting documents in April 2021. The 2024 host will be determined by the ISU Council and a decision is expected later this year.

Previous Canadian host cities:
● 1932 Montreal ● 1960 Vancouver ● 1972 Calgary ● 1978 Ottawa ● 1984 Ottawa ● 1990 Halifax ● 1996 Edmonton ● 2001 Vancouver ● 2006 Calgary ● 2013 London  ● 2020 Montreal Cancelled

 

Gilles, Poirier ready to seize the moment in Stockholm


Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier feel this is their time.

The reigning Canadian ice dance champions head into this week’s ISU World Figure Skating Championships ready to make a run at the podium, 17 months after celebrating their first ISU Grand Prix title at the 2019 Skate Canada International in Kelowna, B.C.

A few months later, after seven podium finishes in eight years at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, Gilles and Poirier left nationals with gold medals draped around their necks for the first time.

Now, after a challenging 14-month hiatus from the international scene caused by the pandemic – including the cancellation of the 2020 world championships in Montreal – Gilles and Poirier can’t wait to press play and resume the next chapter of their story.

“I think right now, we kind of feel we’ve earned that spot to be the number one (Canadian) team,” Gilles told reporters shortly before leaving for Stockholm. “To be honest, it doesn’t feel much different. It does help knowing we’re going in as national champions. I think we’re more proud and more confident having that title.

“At this point, Paul and I know what we need to do. I think we just need to expect the unexpected and do our job.”

“We’re so excited after almost 14 months of not competing to finally get back out there,” added Poirier. “We’ve been very clear throughout all of last season and this season that our goal is to be on the world podium. We’ve done all the training required to do that.”

Gilles and Poirier, one of three Canadian ice dance teams at these world championships, have assumed a leadership role for the national team. With several Team Canada skaters making their worlds debut, including women’s competitors Madeline Schizas and Emily Bausback, the pair tandem of Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud as well as fellow ice dancers Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, Gilles and Poirier are excited to help guide their younger teammates through this first world championships experience.

“It’s an absolute honour to be even considered the leaders,” said Gilles. “I feel like even at events the past couple of years, we started to feel like we are moving into that leadership role a little bit. You know your journey and how you’ve got to this point, and it’s really cool to see the young ones come in and begin their journey and figure out their way.”

Gilles and Poirier know the importance of mentors. They came up during an unforgettable era in Canadian ice dancing, led by the legendary tandem of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and three-time Canadian champions Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

The reigning Canadian champions have taken the torch and are grateful for the paths their predecessors blazed for them.

“I think it’s hard to know how exactly your career trajectory would have been different should some or other people not have been there, but I think in the end, I don’t think we would change the way that we approach our skating, the way that we approach our selection of our music, the way that we present ourselves, the artistic choices that we make,” said Poirier. “I think those are so quintessentially us.”

“We had some great role models,” added Gilles. “We’ve learned a lot from those guys (Virtue and Moir, Weaver and Andrew Poje). They’ve really been leaders for so long, it’s been nice to watch them and figure out how they’ve dealt with it and managed. Every athlete has their own journey. They were a part of ours.

“Now it’s our time.”

The 2021 ISU World Figure Skating Championships get underway Wednesday, March 24. For start orders and results, please visit the ISU website.

 

 

 

 

Messing leaving chainsaws, car batteries behind as he embraces Team Canada reunion at World Figure Skating Championships


Keegan Messing’s definition of “reining it in a bit” is probably quite different than that of the average person.

As the skating world gets set to gather in Stockholm for the 2021 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, Messing, the charismatic Alaskan who holds Canadian and American citizenship, will proudly represent Canada as the lone entry in the men’s competition, which gets underway Thursday at the Ericsson Globe.

Messing, the life loving, cowboy hat-wearing three-time Canadian men’s medallist, has put his abundance of spare time to good use over the past year, hiking, climbing and just taking in all Mother Nature has to offer.

In recent months, as is his annual tradition, Messing has turned his attention to building and maintaining his backyard rink to help him get through the frigid Alaska winters. This winter, he has doubled the rink in size and, because his backyard has a downgrade slope, Messing built up one end with ice to create an even plane. He also added a few ramps for an extra adrenaline kick.

With the world championships on deck, those ramp jumps will have to wait.

“I was going for a full backyard Crashed Ice course,” said Messing with a laugh. “I just wanted to get the course built. I built some pretty sweet features out there, then I got named to worlds, and it was like ‘well, it looks like I am not going to be able to do any of these features yet.’”

“I am putting some of my wild side on the low burner and keeping myself reined in a little bit. It’s a little bit difficult for me to do.”

Reining it in will likely be the norm for Messing in the coming months, as he and his wife, Lane, are expecting their first child in July.

Like the rest of the world, Messing has had to deal with restrictions over the past year. While the lockdown lasted only a couple of months in Alaska, Messing was hesitant to return to his local gym when his community reopened.

So, he did what he does best. He improvised with, as he calls them, “random odds and ends devices.”

As part of his workout routine, he hauled a pair of 36-pound car batteries from under car hoods to use as weights while doing squats. When he needed a heavier weight for an exercise, he grabbed a chainsaw.

Yes, a chainsaw.

Not your typical home gym, perhaps, but more than enough for Messing to break a sweat.

That training will be put to good use this week when Messing reunites with his Canadian teammates for figure skating’s crown jewel event.

Five months ago at Skate America, an emotional Messing dedicated his bronze medal to his teammates who had their Grand Prix season wiped out due to the pandemic. The gesture was so real, so genuine, so heartfelt.

So Canadian.

“Skating for the team at Skate America, it was one of the best things I feel like I could have done,” reasoned Messing. “I took the ice and, even re-watching the video, I can see right before I took my pose, I can see it in my face on when I thought of the team and I was like ‘this is for you guys.’”

“I really feel for the Canadian team. I really feel for last year’s worlds team, and especially them. They had worlds taken from them, they had Skate Canada (international) taken from them and then they had nationals taken away from them, so it’s like they have been the real MVPs of this fight. I am just really honored I can compete side by side with them.”

Messing is ready for quite the reunion this week in Sweden.

“I haven’t seen the team in over a year,” he said. “Going out to worlds and seeing the team, I’m ecstatic to do it. I can’t wait to go there, see them, catch up and, in reality, skate for them. Skate to make them proud.

“I’m there with them and that, like we can do this. Like, really, we can do this.”

Click here for news, results and start orders from the ISU World Figure Skating Championships

Canadian pair champions Moore-Towers, Marinaro hoping for a chance at redemption in Sweden


Given the circumstances, Michael Marinaro could be forgiven for the faux pas.

On a conference call with reporters prior to departing for this week’s ISU World Figure Skating championships in Sweden, Marinaro and partner Kirsten Moore-Towers, the two-time Canadian pair champions, discussed preparations as the tandem gets ready to step onto international ice for the first time in more than a year.

“This is the biggest positive of the past 12 years, so we’re just hoping to take advantage of that,” said Marinaro.

“12 months…past 12 months,” Moore-Towers corrected her partner with a laugh.

It hasn’t been a dozen years. It just feels that way.

One year ago, Moore-Towers and Marinaro were coming off two silver medal performances on the ISU Grand Prix circuit and a bronze at the Four Continents Championships to go along with their second straight Canadian crown in Mississauga, Ont.

Enjoying their most successful season together, the team seemed poised for a run at the podium with the 2020 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, on home soil in Montreal, on the horizon.

Just a few days before the start of the championships, reality hit as the global pandemic forced the cancellation of the championships as leagues and events around the world went dark.

Nothing hasn’t been the same since.

“The momentum we built last year was immense and we were really on a great path,” admits Moore-Towers. “(The worlds cancellation) was a big bummer with a lot of bummers to follow. We thought that was going to be the biggest one and we’d have a couple of weeks of the pandemic, and boy, were we wrong. Life’s a little different now, our perspective’s a little different now.”

Their perspective is understandable, and not just as it relates to skating.

On March 31, nine days after the world championships were scheduled to end in Montreal, Marinaro’s grandmother, Charlotte Jones, passed away without warning after a COVID-19 outbreak spread through a long-term care facility in their hometown of Sarnia. The family loss hit Marinaro hard and a few months later, Moore-Towers suffered a rib injury that kept them off the ice for several weeks.

Now, finally, opportunity knocks once again, and they aren’t letting the moment pass them by.

Unlike many of their competitors they’ll see in Sweden, Moore-Towers and Marinaro haven’t skated internationally this year. But the Canadian champions see it as a chance to make up for some lost time and, perhaps, gain a little redemption.

“There’s adversity, it’s been a difficult road to get here, but some of the most difficult events that we’ve had have turned out to be the most successful,” reasons Moore-Towers. “We’ve thrived on adversity before, and I believe we have the ability to do it again.

“I hope it’s another mark in our story.”

“I’m just excited to get out there on the competition ice again,” adds Marinaro. “Throughout the season, it’s been difficult training without having those clear goals and events to get ready for.

“Before the pandemic, skating had become a little bit of a job for us, and a little bit monotonous. Now, having that layoff has rekindled the love for the sport and the joy of the sport.”

With their competition season being grounded by the pandemic, Moore-Towers admits it has been hard to stay focused, adding the uncertainty has taken its toll, both emotionally and physically.

“There’s a lot to be said for how much mental preparation, never mind physical, but how much mental preparation goes into each event,” she reasons. “It’s extremely difficult to continue to mentally prepare yourself when things continue to get cancelled.

“We are hoping the world heals and we can have audiences back next season.”

Now, with the past year in their rear-view mirror, Moore Towers and Marinaro, in this most uncertain of seasons, have their sights on the road ahead.

That road ends at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm this week.

If they don’t have medals draped around their necks on their return flight to Canada, so be it. Overcoming adversity isn’t defined in glitter.

“If we are proud of our two performances, it will be a success,” says Marinaro matter-of-factly.

“We are ready to lay it down in Sweden.”

Madeline Schizas looking forward to international debut at ISU World Figure Skating Championships

If Madeline Schizas is feeling starstruck as she prepares to step under the bright lights of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships for the first time, she hides it well.

Set to make her debut on the biggest stage in skating next week – in the midst of a global pandemic, no less – the 18-year-old from Oakville, Ont. can’t wait to dip her foot into the sport’s international waters for the first time.

Given the events of the past year, Schizas’s journey to Stockholm has been far from conventional, but she can’t contain her enthusiasm as she gets ready to proudly represent Canada when the ladies short program kicks off the competition Wednesday.

“I think everyone follows their own path, and this was just mine,” said the 2020 Canadian women’s bronze medallist on a conference call before departing for Sweden. “I think that I’m going into this event with a lot of confidence, even without having a lot of international experience. It’s really special to me that I’m getting to compete at Worlds, and I’m excited for the experience.”

It should be an experience unlike any other, on every level.

For most of team Canada, comprised of eight entries and 13 skaters, these world championships will be their first taste of international competition in well over a year. Only Keegan Messing, who holds dual citizenship and lives in Alaska while representing Canada internationally, competed on the ISU Grand Prix circuit this past season, earning bronze at Skate America in October.

Two months ago, Schizas, along with most of her teammates competing in Sweden, were able to get a taste of competition at Skate Canada Challenge, a virtual event where athletes had their performances recorded at their training rinks several weeks before being judged in real time during the event.

Schizas claimed her second straight senior women’s gold medal at Challenge and is hoping to ride that wave of momentum into Sweden.

“My training’s going really well, I feel really well prepared for this event, despite all the crazy things happening right now,” Schizas adds. “My coaches think that I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in in my entire career.”

Schizas and reigning Canadian women’s champion Emily Bausback will represent Canada in the women’s competition at the world championships.

After the first wave of the pandemic subsided and the Ontario lockdown ended late last spring, Schizas returned to train at Milton Skating Club, her home club, from June through December.

As Ontario entered another lockdown phase just after Christmas, her home club shut its doors temporarily. With limited training options due to lockdown restrictions, Schizas, and coaches Nancy Lemaire and Derek Schmidt, went in search of ice time. They found temporary training refuge at rinks in Hamilton and Richmond Hill before Schizas returned to Milton shortly after Ontario’s latest stay-at-home order was lifted in February.

As she prepared for the world championships, Schizas admitted she was happy to have returned to a sense of normal.

Whatever normal is these days.

“For me, it was about getting back on a schedule, and knowing when I was going to skate, knowing where I was going to skate, and knowing when I was going to go to the gym,” she says.

And now, Schizas’s dream of representing Canada at the world championships has arrived. She is trying to erase all the background noise from the past year and isn’t putting too much pressure on herself. These world championships will determine how many spots Canada earns for next year’s Olympic Winter Games, but Schizas isn’t concerning herself on what-ifs.

“For me, a successful world championship would be skating personal best programs, which is something I really think I can do,” she adds. “That will get us however many spots we get (for the Olympics). That part is not in my hands, and that is what I’m trying to remind myself. I know I can skate consistent programs, and that is what I’m focused on.”

Schizas is doing her best to make sure the moment doesn’t get too big for her. She isn’t sure of what to expect from these world championships, but she knows she isn’t the only one facing that uncertainty.

“I’ve spoken with a lot of skaters who have competed at Worlds before, and the thing that they’ve all told me is this year is going to be different for everybody,” she says.

The women’s short program in Sweden is set to kick off Wednesday, March 24. For the full schedule and list of entries, please click here. 

Ottawa to host 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships

OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada is pleased to announce that Ottawa, Ont., will host the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. The week-long championships held at TD Place from January 6-13, 2022 will feature approximately 250 of the best Canadian figure skaters in the men, women, pairs and ice dance disciplines, competing in three levels: senior, junior, and novice.

“Skate Canada is thrilled to be heading back to beautiful city of Ottawa for the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships,” said Debra Armstrong, CEO, Skate Canada. “After a challenging competitive season in 2020-21, we are looking forward to a brighter and prosperous season. The national championships will showcase the nation’s top figure skaters and we look forward to working with our partners in Ottawa to host an unforgettable event.”

“As Mayor of Ottawa, I am thrilled that Skate Canada has chosen to host the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in the nation’s capital,” said Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa. “TD Place at beautiful Lansdowne Park will be an excellent venue to showcase the talent of the world’s best figure skaters for residents and visitors alike.”

The championships are part of the qualification criteria that will aid in selecting the Canadian team that will compete at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China later next year.

The pre-eminent all-Canadian competition will begin with the senior event on Thursday, January 6, and the novice event will begin on Monday, January 10. Athletes vie for spots on the Skate Canada National Team and the Canadian teams that will compete at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, 2022 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, the 2022 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships and the 2022 ISU World Figure Skating Championships.

“We look forward to welcoming Canada’s top skaters to Ottawa for the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships. Skating plays a big role in our community and in the life of many Ottawans and we are excited for the opportunity to host the best of the best in national skating,” says Michael Crockatt, President and CEO, Ottawa Tourism. “Large scale sporting events like the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships are not only important to boosting our local economy, but also give Ottawa the opportunity to emerge from these unprecedented times with enhanced exposure on the national stage.”

“We are proud to be hosting the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skate Championships here at The Arena at TD Place,” said Mark Goudie, CEO of the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. “After a long, brutal period of time without the being able to share the emotions that come with live sports, getting these marquee events back on the calendar gives us all a sense of optimism and excitement.  Lansdowne will also be the perfect place for us all to celebrate world class skating and time back together again.”

Ottawa is no stranger to hosting the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, as 2022 will be its 12th time hosting the flagship event. Previously, Ottawa has hosted the event in 1922, 1940, 1949, 1953, 1958, 1987, 1996, 1999, 2006, 2014, and 2017.

Event ticket information for the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships will be released in the spring.

Canadian champions Sadovsky, Gilles & Poirier golden on final day of 2021 Skate Canada Challenge

A pair of reigning national champions struck gold Sunday as the curtain closed on the 2021 Skate Canada Challenge virtual competition.

Roman Sadovsky of Vaughan, Ont. captured the gold medal in the senior men’s competition, while Piper Gilles (Toronto, Ont.) and Paul Poirier (Unionville, Ont.) capped off the competition by taking top honours in ice dance.

Skate Canada Challenge, held over the past two weekends, was intended to be the qualifying event for the 2021 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships next month in Vancouver, but the national championships were cancelled last week.

The event, which featured a unique format, was the first national figure skating competition to be held in Canada since last year’s nationals in Mississauga, Ont.

In the junior ice dance competition, Natalie D’Alessandro and Bruce Waddell, both from Toronto, Ont., won gold.

Leading Team Canada teammate and close friend Nam Nguyen by just over five points after the short program, Sadovsky, who won his initial national crown last year, landed his first of two quads to start his emotionally charged free program to Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. The 21-year-old never looked back, scoring 167.58 for a 262.01 total. Nguyen, from Ajax, Ont., was second at 256.43.

Corey Circelli of Toronto, the 2020 Canadian junior men’s champion, won bronze with a 235.50 total.

“It was disappointing every time an event was cancelled, although it was always the right decision,” said Sadovsky. “I train day in and day out with a destination in mind. There’s always an end goal. Having a season without any events, you lose sight of that target.”

“We can only play with the cards we are dealt. We just do the best that we can. It’s been a tough year, but I am grateful we were able to compete this week.”

A year after his triumph at the national championships, Sadovsky is still basking in the glow of his first Canadian title.

“It was a really, really special moment and something I will never forget,” he added. “It was life-changing.”

Performing their free dance to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now, Gilles and Poirier skated a spellbinding performance that earned them 135.37 points and a 223.33 total.

Laurence Fournier Beaudry (Montreal, Que.) and Nikolaj Sørensen (Montreal, Que.), returning to competition for the first time since Sørensen suffered a knee injury in late 2019, were second at 206.91, followed by Marjorie Lajoie (Boucherville, Que.) and Zachary Lagha (Saint-Hubert, Que.), with 200.42.

Gilles and Poirier spent Sunday watching the event’s live stream from their own homes.

“It was a very strange event for us,” admitted Poirier.

“Piper and I were texting while it was happening, which is something we normally wouldn’t do when we’re competing,” he added with a laugh.

“When you’re watching a video, you have zero control over what happens. It was really nerve-wracking watching the competition unfold and watching ourselves skating.”

“I’m so used to having Paul around, and not having him around made it even more strange,” Gilles admitted. “I don’t know if my texts were very clear. My hands were shaking. It was all nerves and adrenaline.”

In the junior free dance, D’Alessandro and Waddell, leaders after the rhythm dance, performed a sparkling free dance that earned them 101.79 points and a 169.87 combined score. Miku Makita of Anmore, B.C. and Tyler Gunara of Burnaby, B.C. took silver at 166.17 followed by Nadiia Bashynska and Peter Beaumont (162.23), both from Markham, Ont.

Waddell watched himself skate twice Sunday – once with D’Alessandro, and also in the senior men’s competition, where he finished 12th.

“It was definitely a new experience,” he said. “I was just nice and comfy watching at home.”

“I was definitely nervous, more nervous than I thought,” added D’Alessandro.

With most of the figure skating season wiped out by the pandemic, Gilles and Poirier are looking ahead to next year – and may have a little something special in store for fans.

“It’s just a culmination of our programs for the people that we’ve been doing for the past couple of years,” said Gilles. “It’s where we should be.”

“We have something very special in the works that’s almost ready,” added Poirier.

To view final results, visit the Skate Canada Challenge event page.

 

 

 

Unique format, engaging broadcast highlight 2021 Skate Canada Challenge virtual competition

OTTAWA, ON: The nation’s premier junior and senior figure skaters return to the competitive circle for the first time in months later this week at the 2021 Skate Canada Challenge.

Due to the pandemic, the 2021 Skate Canada Challenge event will be held as a virtual competition that will determine berths for the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in February.

The event will be staged over two weekends, with the senior pair, junior pair, junior men and junior women competition kicking off the event January 8-10. From January 15-17, the junior ice dance, senior ice dance, senior men and senior events will be staged.

“These times are unprecedented, but we also understand the importance of giving our athletes the opportunity to get into a competitive environment so they are as prepared as they can be when things return to normal,” said Skate Canada CEO Debra Armstrong.

“For more than a century, skaters have pursued their dreams of competing at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, and we are once again giving these athletes the opportunity to qualify for this prestigious event at Skate Canada Challenge.”

As could be expected, Skate Canada Challenge will have a different look.

Prior to the start of the competition, skaters declared their performances from either their respective sectional championships or a section-organized challenge skate. Just like a live competition, once the music started, there were no second chances. Videos of these performances were submitted to Skate Canada to be judged in real time during the event.

Once the event is completed, the top two flights in each discipline will qualify for the 2021 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, to be held February 8-14 at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver, B.C. Twelve competitors in men’s and women’s, 10 teams in ice dance and 8 teams in pair, at both the junior and senior level, will advance to the Canadian Championships.

Most of the Canadian national team, including reigning national champions Roman Sadovsky, 20, Vaughn, Ont., (men), Emily Bausback, 18, Vancouver, B.C., (women), Piper Gilles, 29, Toronto, Ont., and Paul Poirier, 29, Unionville, Ont., (ice dance) and Kirsten Moore-Towers, 28, St. Catharines, Ont., and Michael Marinaro, 28, Sarnia, Ont., (pair) will compete.

Like the competition, the live streaming broadcast of Skate Canada Challenge will be unique and innovative.

Not only will the entire competition be live streamed on SkateCanada.ca, but the broadcast will feature unique, engaging content including features and interviews with current and former athletes, coaches and Skate Canada leaders.

“While we are unable to host our events in the traditional sense at this time, we want to interact with our fans and bring the event to them, in the comfort of their own homes,” added Armstrong.

For more information, please visit the Skate Canada Challenge event page.

National champion Bausback looking ahead, not behind

Even in a world that seems to be standing still at the moment, Emily Bausback can’t help but move forward.

Literally.

Confined to quarantine in her first months as the reigning Canadian women’s champion, the 18-year-old from New Westminster, B.C. took up several hobbies during the shutdown, including a newfound passion for cycling.

Bausback has found her own personal escape from the unpredictability of the new skating season, often climbing on her bike and getting away for hours at a time. Sometimes her travels take her to the University of British Columbia campus, but more often than not she pedals down to the Seawall in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, offering her a picturesque view of the majestic Vancouver skyline, and some quiet time alone to reflect on an unusual nine months.

One day, Bausback did a round-trip 60 kilometres, but she thinks her personal best is closer to 80.

She can’t say for sure.

“My watch died halfway through, so I couldn’t really track how far I’d gone,” says Bausback with a laugh.

“I love it. It’s just me and my bike. It’s allowed me a lot of time with my thoughts,” she adds. “Cycling helped me get some time to myself to reflect on last season and everything that has happened since.”

And what a season it was. A year that started on the Junior Grand Prix circuit culminated at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., where Bausback and coach Joanne McLeod were targeting a top-5 finish in the senior women’s event.

They did a little better than that, finding the top of the podium at the Hershey Centre.

“Becoming a national champion is everyone’s dream, but we weren’t sure if we would progress that quickly and win it by end of the season,” Bausback admits. “When I did end up winning, it was absolutely incredible. I can’t describe the feeling. It was surreal.”

“I’m just trying to stay positive. This is my first time as a national champion, so everything is new to me. There’s not a year I can compare it to.”

One thing is for certain – it has been a year of firsts for Bausback.

In June, she graduated from high school in the most unconventional of ways, as these strange times dictate. Her graduation ceremony was held online and, the following day, Bausback and her fellow graduates were invited to the school in groups of 20, adhering to strict social distancing guidelines. Her school set up a makeshift stage, which she was able to walk across in a mock ceremony, and she was able to enjoy the time-honoured graduation traditions of getting photos taken with her parents and strolling the halls of her school one last time.

She is now enrolled in her first year of the Kinesiology program at Simon Fraser University, taking her classes in a virtual setting. Bausback had originally planned to take a gap year from Simon Fraser so she could compete internationally, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed those plans.

“It’s been an interesting year,” she says. “Winning in Mississauga was probably the greatest moment of my entire life, but what’s happening now, it’s almost hard to remember what the world was like pre-COVID before everything shut down.

“I was looking forward to competing internationally and having my debut on the Grand Prix circuit. But I know there will be another chance. I’m optimistic nationals will happen, and I am motivated every day to defend my title.”

With her home rink at Champs International Skating Centre of BC still closed in April, Bausback found ice time in nearby Abbotsford until Champs re-opened their doors a couple of months later. Working with McLeod and choreographers Lance Vipond and Neil Wilson, she will debut two new programs once competition resumes, skating her short program to The One I Love by Ellen Krauss and her free program to the spiritual Italian piece Alla Notte (Adagio) by Miriam Stockley.

It may not be the way she envisioned spending her first year as a national champion, but Bausback is grateful to all those who helped her get to the top of Canada’s figure skating mountain.

“My parents, my family, my skating family at Champs and Joanne, who has been with me since the beginning, I owe so much to them,” she says.

“It feels like we won this together.”

For now, it’s one day, and one step, at a time. Bausback hopes when her skating journey resumes, it will lead to Beijing 2022.

“We aren’t going to change anything in our plans,” she says. “Our goal is to make the 2022 Olympics, and we’re going to stick to that.”

In every sense, Emily Bausback is looking ahead, and not behind. She knows the best is still in front of her.