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.
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.
Even in a world that seems to be standing still at the moment, Emily Bausback can’t help but move forward.
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.
For just the second time in its storied history, the arena lights will be dark during the week of Skate Canada International.
Facing the same uncertainty as many sporting events around the globe, the 2020 Skate Canada International, scheduled to be held October 30-31 in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario, was recently cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only other year that Skate Canada International has not been held was way back in 1979 due to a pre-Olympic figure skating competition in Lake Placid, N.Y., host city for the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.
While TD Place will be empty this week, Skate Canada has skating fans covered. We are reaching back into the SCI vault all week long, with highlights, polls and unforgettable performances in Skate Canada International’s renowned history.
Skate Canada International was a part of the ISU Champions Series from 1995-1997, which eventually became the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series in 1998. Skate Canada International is now the second competition in the annual ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series.
We kick off the week with a historical timeline looking back at one of Canada’s premier annual international sporting events.
1973 – The first Skate Canada International takes place in Calgary, Alberta. Canadians Toller Cranston and Lynn Nightingale win gold in men’s and women’s, while Hilary Green and Glyn Watts of Great Britain take the title in ice dance. Pair competition was not introduced until 1984.
1977 – A four-year reign atop the podium for Canadian men ends as Robin Cousins of Great Britain wins in Moncton, N.B.
1979 –Skate Canada International is cancelled due to Flaming Leaves, a competition that took place in Lake Placid, N.Y, as a pre-Olympic event. The decision is made not to hold Skate Canada International to allow skaters to compete on Olympic ice.
1983 –Brian Orser wins his first of three Skate Canada International men’s titles in Halifax, N.S. Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall of Canada capture gold in ice dance while East Germany’s Katarina Witt wins the women’s crown.
1984 – Held in Victoria, B.C., this is the first year that pair skating is included at Skate Canada International. Elena Bechke and Valery Kornienko of the USSR win gold.
1984 – Midori Ito of Japan wins the women’s gold medal in Victoria. She would go on to capture the 1989 world title and Olympic silver in 1992.
1985 –Russian pair legends Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov win gold in London, Ont. They would win gold again eight years later in Ottawa.
1986 –Elizabeth Manley of Canada tops the podium in Regina, Sask. Two years later, she would win Olympic silver in Calgary.
1988 –Kurt Browning wins his first Skate Canada International gold medal in Thunder Bay, Ont. He would add SCI titles in 1990 and 1993.
1989 – Before winning Olympic gold, Kristi Yamaguchi of the USA is a Skate Canada International gold medalist, winning the women’s event in Cornwall.
1989 – A fours competition is held at Skate Canada International for the first time. Fours is held the next year before being permanently removed from the schedule.
1990 – It’s a golden sweep for Canadians in Lethbridge, Alb., with gold in all four disciplines: Kurt Browning in men’s; Josée Chouinard in women’s; Isabelle Brasseur and Lloyd Eisler in pair; and Jacqueline Petr and Mark Janoschak in ice dance.
1994 – Canadian ice dancers Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz start their gold medal winning streak winning streak in 1994 in Red Deer, Alb., their first of five consecutive golds at SCI. Bourne and Kraatz would also win in 2001.
1995 – Saint John, N.B. hosts Skate Canada International for the first time. Michelle Kwan of the U.S. wins her first of three SCI gold medals. Kwan’s other SCI titles also came in the Canadian Maritimes – 1997 in Halifax, N.S. and once again in Saint John in 1999.
1997 – Elvis Stojko wins his last Skate Canada title in Halifax, N.S.. He also won the title in 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1996.
1996 – Germany’s Mandy Woetzel and Ingo Steuer strike gold in pair in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. Two years later, they would become Olympic bronze medallists in Nagano, Japan.
1998 – Skate Canada International joins the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating, becoming one of six events held annually.
1999 – Alexei Yagudin of Russia wins his first of three consecutive Skate Canada International gold medals in Saint John, N.B.
2000 – Back-to-back winners in 2000 and 2001, Jamie Salé and David Pelletier debut their Love Story at Skate Canada International before sharing it with the world at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
2004 – Cynthia Phaneuf wins the women’s title in Halifax, N.S., at just 15 years old.
2004 – Canada sweeps the men’s podium in Halifax. Emanuel Sandhu wins gold, followed by Ben Ferreira (silver) and Jeffrey Buttle (bronze).
2005– Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy win their first of four Skate Canada International pair crowns in St. John’s, Nfld.
2006 –Canadian Joannie Rochette wins her first Skate Canada International gold in Victoria, starting a run of three titles in four years.
2007 – Canadian ice dance legends Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir win their first of seven Skate Canada International titles.
2010 – Kevin Reynolds of Canada becomes the first skater to land two quadruple jumps in a men’s short program, landing a quad Salchow, triple toe combination, and a quad toe in Kingston, Ont.
2011 – Javier Fernandez of Spain wins silver in the men’s competition, his country’s first-ever medal on the senior ISU Grand Prix circuit.
2012 – Making her senior Grand Prix debut, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond wins the women’s crown in Windsor, Ont.
2013 –As the 40th year of Skate Canada International is celebrated in Saint John, N.B., it’s double gold for Canada as Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir finish atop the ice dance podium and Patrick Chan holds off young Japanese sensation Yuzuru Hanyu in the men’s competition.
2014–Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje claim ice dance gold in Kelowna, B.C., while fellow Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier earn silver. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford capture gold in pair, their first of four consecutive SCI wins.
2015–Canadians earn gold in three of the four disciplines at the ENMAX Centre in Lethbridge, Alb. Patrick Chan beats Yuzuru Hanyu for gold in the men’s event, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford finish in top spot in pair and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are golden in ice dance.
2016 –The Maple Leaf is flying high in Mississauga, Ont. as Canadian athletes capture seven of 12 medals, highlighted by gold medals for Patrick Chan (men), Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dance) and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (pair).
2017 –It’s triple gold for Canada in Regina, Sask. as Katelyn Osmond (women), Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (pair) and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dance) finish in top spot. Shoma Uno of Japan wins gold in the men’s event.
2018 –Japan’s Shoma Uno wins SCI gold for the second straight year, while Elizaveta Tuktamysheva of Russia is the women’s champion. The U.S. team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are crowned ice dance champions. Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro (pair) and Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (ice dance) take home bronze medals.
2019 –In what is believed to be the largest margin of victory in ISU Grand Prix history, Yuzuru Hanyu wins the men’s event by 59.82 points, landing six quads over his two programs. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier capture the gold medal in ice dance, the 13th time in 15 years that a Canadian team has won the ice dance event at Skate Canada International. Russian sensation Alexandra Trusova wins gold in the women’s competition, while fellow Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii finish atop the podium in pairs.
2020–Skate Canada International, scheduled to be held in Ottawa, Ontario, is cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is only the second time the event will not be held since 1973. The 1979 edition of the event was not held due to a pre-Olympic competition that was held in Lake Placid, N.Y.
As the most uncertain of skating seasons dawns over the horizon, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro have found a silver lining in these challenging times.
Now back on the ice tuning up for a season that has more questions than answers due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the two-time Canadian pair champions are staying optimistic and looking forward to picking up where they left off when the 2019-20 season was abruptly halted in March.
“We’ve been back on the ice for a while now, and we’re getting ready as best we can,” says Moore-Towers from their training base in Oakville, Ont.
“We’ve always known what our goals are, and we know we are capable of achieving them. The time away really gives you a chance to think and evaluate how you can improve. It’s easy to remember why we’re here and why we are doing this.”
“Right now, we are not exactly sure which events we are training for, but eventually that opportunity is going to come, and we want to be ready for it,” adds Marinaro.
Coming off a 2019-20 season in which they captured their second straight national title and added a pair of silver medals on the ISU Grand Prix circuit, the tandem is preparing for a new season as they normally would.
Right now, uncertainty is the new normal.
“Regardless of the state everything is in, we have to believe we will compete somewhere,” says Moore-Towers.
“That is the mindset we take into training each day, so when that happens, we will be prepared. We only have a couple of years left in our career, so we want to spend our time doing what we enjoy doing.”
“With all the uncertainty, we are just looking at taking a couple of steps forward each day,” adds Marinaro. “We’re just trying to grow together and improve. This time away just reinforced that we have to enjoy the process here and reconfirms that we love what we do.”
Even during these trying times for our world, Moore-Towers and Marinaro prefer to look at the glass as half-full.
After all, sometimes perspective, as painful as it may be, is a gift.
It has been almost seven months, just after the quarantine started in March, since Marinaro put in a FaceTime call to his grandmother, Charlotte Jones, an avid skating fan and one of his biggest supporters. On the call, Marinaro noticed his grandmother was having some difficulty breathing, but he didn’t give it more than a passing thought.
It would be his last conversation with her.
The following day, Charlotte Jones was taken to hospital and, one day later, on March 31st, she passed away from complications of COVID-19.
Just like that, she was gone.
“It was unexpected, and a huge loss for our family,” says Marinaro. “It really did put things in perspective. Sports took a back seat. This whole situation over the past few months is so much bigger than sport.”
“It was a loss for Mike, and I agree, it really did put everything in perspective,” adds Moore-Towers. “You realize what is truly important in life.”
“It was a low time not only for Mike, but for a lot of people, but it’s been nice to see people sharing their gifts and talents around the world. I saw a lot of positivity with people coming together in a way I hadn’t seen before.”
When the quarantine was first implemented, Moore-Towers and Marinaro, like many others, figured the hiatus would be short-term, perhaps only a few weeks. As time went on, both knew they had to find things to do with their surplus of spare time.
“I did a lot of teaching,” says Moore-Towers, adding she was grateful that Skate Oakville conduced virtual sessions to keep skaters active, both mentally and physically. “I was joking I was excited for quarantine to end, so I could be less busy. It gave me the gift of understanding where my passions lie and what I’m good at.”
Marinaro took advantage of the time off to get outdoors and spend some time with Mother Nature.
“After being locked up in an arena for the past 25 years, I had a chance to get outside during the quarantine and do a lot of camping and outdoor activities that I don’t normally get an opportunity to do,” he says.
Marinaro also took up Frisbee golf.
“I’m still not very good yet, but I’m trying to get better,” he adds with a laugh.
Along with their newfound perspective comes the reality that they are likely heading into the twilight of their competitive careers. Moore-Towers and Marinaro feel there is still some unfinished business to take care of and they don’t want the moment to pass them by.
And in these dark times, they’ve found a beacon of light.
“We’ve always had a clear, concise idea of who we are as athletes and as a team,” says Moore-Towers. “When that is stripped away, you start to think of these other things that will determine who you are as an athlete to complement who you are as a human being.
“We’ve been working on this our whole lives. But suddenly, everything you’ve been working for is unclear. This time has given both of us the opportunity to be well-rounded individuals and understand what we want to do when this is all over.”
But for now, that can wait.
OTTAWA, ON: Skate Canada is pleased to announce the 2020-21 National Team. The team is consisted of 18 members, which includes three men, three women, two pair teams and four ice dance teams.
To be named to the National Team, a skater must finish in the top three in senior men, women, pair and ice dance disciplines at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships and/or a ranking of top 24 in the ISU World Standings, and must be competing in the 2020-21 season. Athletes can be added at the discretion of Skate Canada based on new partnerships of current and former national team members.
Their appointment to the national team is effective from September 1, 2020 through to June 30, 2021.
Skate Canada also announced the three teams that will make up the Skate Canada Synchronized Skating National Team. The Synchronized National Team comprises those teams finishing in the top three in senior discipline at the 2020 Skate Canada Synchronized Skating Championships.
Piper Gilles, 28, Toronto, Ont. & Paul Poirier, 28, Unionville, Ont.
Marjorie Lajoie, 19, Boucherville, Que. & Zachary Lagha, 21, Saint-Hubert, Que.
Carolane Soucisse, 25, Chateauguay, Que. & Shane Firus, 26, North Vancouver, B.C.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry, 28, Montreal, Que. & Nikolaj Sorensen, 31, Montreal, Que.
More than a decade later, you realize the smile never really left Bill Boland’s face.
Flash back to the summer of 2010, and Boland, a driving force behind the bid to bring the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships to his adopted hometown of London, Ont., is elated, almost euphoric, after the southwestern Ontario city is awarded figure skating’s crown jewel event.
Over a volunteer career that spanned four decades, it is certainly one of his proudest moments.
Boland, who passed away August 26th after a courageous battle with cancer, is being remembered as a former Chair of the Western Ontario Section, Skate Canada Board Member and Finance Chair, Honorary Member of Skate Canada, and a tireless figure skating volunteer who spent much of his life giving back to the sport.
Each time those 2013 world championships were brought up in conversation, Boland’s face would beam with pride. The affable, charismatic insurance executive had a personal connection to London 2013 and would go on to chair the event that was an undeniable success for Skate Canada and the city.
“While he led his team to establish Worlds in London as a pinnacle event still talked about today, Bill epitomised the spirit and will of a true volunteer – passion, commitment, longevity, and selfless engagement. He helped shape the Skate Canada we know today”, stated Skate Canada President Leanna Caron.
“Bill carried the respect of the volunteer community and a sound business acumen to our organization. It is because of people like him, who give so much to our sport without expecting anything in return, that Skate Canada is one of the pre-eminent figure skating organizations in the world. He will be missed by all of us in the Skate Canada family.”
Boland’s work in bringing the 2013 world championships to London led him to being honoured as London’s 2014 sports person of the year award. He was also the recipient of the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Citizenship Award in March 2013, just before London hosted the world championships. He also received an Ontario Sports Council Award for lifetime commitment to the sport.
He is survived by Maureen, his wife of 50 years, daughters Tammy and Traci Lynn and granddaughter Hailey.
Boland joined the London Skating Club’s Board of Directors 40 years ago, moved on to serve as Western Ontario Section Chair and then sat for many years on Skate Canada’s board of directors and many of its committees. In his quiet manner, his sense of fairness, financial skill and business acumen enhanced all deliberations assisting these bodies to successfully further the sport of figure skating.
As well, through his encouragement, he helped pave the way for top figure skaters, including six-time Canadian champion Jennifer Robinson and world and Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
In January, Boland attended the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, where he saw Robinson inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame. Boland, an avid sports fan, was also a long-time supporter of the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights.
He was always there with a handshake, a smile and, more often than not, a story.
“Bill gave so much to our sport and always did what was best for Skate Canada and our athletes,” says Skate Canada High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk.
President Leanna Caron adds: “Bill shaped an environment for youth, for champions, for people”.
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 in relation to race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, religion, class, size, and ability, and their intersections.
To support an inclusive environment this Pride Month we are sharing personal stories from our skating community. Below is the story of Dr. William Bridel.
I began skating when I was four years old. The goal at the time was to learn basic skills so I could go on to play hockey when I was older. Playing hockey never happened. I fell in love with movement and music that skating offered and had, before I knew how to stop, taught myself how to jump and spin…and shake my booty to, well, Shake Your Booty.
Growing up as a male figure skater in the 1970s was pretty lousy. The 1980s weren’t much better. Neither were the ‘90s to be honest. I know I’m not the only male skater who got bullied and I also know that boys across the country continue to face ridicule because of their involvement in the sport. But when you’re gay and you experience being called “queer”, “f**got”, and “sissy” on a daily basis because you figure skate, it cuts deep. It’s not something you can easily shrug off because people are wrong in the assumptions they make about you because you—gasp—don’t play hockey. When you know that you’re gay or queer and you’re being called all those names, when you’re being pushed and shoved and kicked and worse, it sits with you. It festers. It makes you wonder if there is something wrong with you. Because, after all, these are clearly terrible things that you are being called. No one should want to be any of those things. But, you know you are. And when there is silence in the sport that you love, when no one talks about the fact that there are other gay skaters, when you don’t have any role models to look up to…it’s torturous. That’s what I grew up knowing. That’s what I grew up experiencing. And it was really, really shitty.
But I loved skating. I still do. I’ve been involved in the sport in many different ways from my shaky beginnings at the Aurora Skating Club (I say shaky because of the aforementioned booty shaking, but also because I managed to fail in my first attempt at the Beginners badge: insert face palm here). Since that time, I competed at a few national championships and one international event, passed four Gold tests, judged, evaluated, volunteered, worked at the national office, and have been doing various research-related projects with Skate Canada over the past several years. I’ve (almost) always been a fan of the sport as well. There were definitely times over the years when being passionate about the sport wasn’t the easiest; but there are also many, many good memories. This is one of them.
My last year of competition was the 1992-93 season. By this point in my career I had competed in singles and pairs, but in the summer of 1991, I tried to re-invent myself as an ice dancer. My partner in my final season was Kristin Borger, and we represented Manitoba. We narrowly missed qualifying for the national championships, finishing fifth at Divisionals (remember when?!). Kristin was an incredible partner because she had such “joie de vivre”; training was fun, competitions were fun, socializing was fun. I was by this point in time, completely open about my sexuality with friends, family, and with coaches and skaters with whom I trained, a slow and careful process that had begun four years earlier.
But there still remained a tremendous silence in skating about sexuality, and even more silence around the many amazingly talented young men in our sport who were dying of AIDS-related causes. That is until Tracy Wilson and Brian Orser, and many others from the skating family, organized an ice show called Skate The Dream, a fund- and awareness-raising event held in memory of the great Rob McCall, who had passed away in 1991. I remember attending the show at Varsity Arena in Toronto with my mom and a couple of friends. It was an incredible evening and I was in awe of the skaters who were involved. I remember thinking that night that maybe the silence had been lifted. But that was, in hindsight, only temporary.
So, where do ice dancing and Kristin fit into all of this? In May 1993, Kristin and I were invited to participate in the Manitoba Bursary Show, held at the Winnipeg Winter Club. I had an idea and broached it with Kristin. Without missing a beat, she agreed. See, Kristin is what we would now refer to as an “ally”; that term didn’t necessarily exist back in those days, at least not in the way we use it today. An ally to the LGBTQI2S+ community not only loves and supports LGBTQI2S+ persons in their lives but takes action to make strides toward equity, speaks out against social injustices, and makes public their support of their queer friends and family. That was Kristin all the way back in 1993. My idea? I wanted Kristin and I to perform to a song that Elton John had released in 1992 called The Last Song. John’s lyrics tell the tale of a father making amends with his estranged son, who is gay and dying of AIDS-related illness. We wore all black and donned red ribbons, a symbol of solidarity for people living with HIV/AIDS. It likely was all a bit too subtle, but at the time it felt like a way to make a statement from a personal place about the grief and sense of loss I was experiencing and the helplessness I felt. Kristin supported this idea and we choreographed the piece together; she never questioned why it was important to me. She just knew. I don’t know that I ever properly thanked her or let her know how essential that moment was for me in my life. It turned out to be my last “amateur” performance and it remains with me today as one of my proudest memories in the sport.
I often find myself wondering what amazing contributions those young men that we lost to AIDS would have made to our sport and to our world. I hope that some of you do as well; they deserve that.
And Kristin, to you, a long overdue but emphatic “thank you”!
Skate Canada thanks to Dr. William Bridel for sharing their 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].
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 in relation to race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, religion, class, size, and ability, and their intersections.
To support an inclusive environment this Pride Month we are sharing personal stories from our skating community. Below is the story of HM.
I started out in skating after watching the 1988 Olympics and insisting to my mother that I wanted to ‘fancy skate’. Being the supportive and encouraging parents they are, my parents put me in recreational lessons then into CanSkate, where I quickly fell in love with our sport.
It was encouraged at our club to hire a private coach around the Novice I level of CanSkate, in the hopes of building a strong relationship with your private coach prior to moving up to Junior. I chose a fun loving yet serious man who pushed me hard at a young age and insisted on my best effort at all times. I loved him dearly and was hopelessly attached by the end of the first lesson.
Sadly, this coach-skater relationship was ended before even a full year had passed. Despite many parents (including my own) and fellow coaches’ objections, his contract of many years was not renewed for the following year when the club board of directors somehow became aware of his sexuality. Being so young at the time, this was not shared with me, and it was years before anyone told me the truth. To this day I’m sure I’m missing some of the story, and I haven’t been able to track him down since. I do remember saying goodbye – I was in hysterics and my mom had to carry me to the car. She says he left crying, too.
I almost quit skating after that first summer. I remember my parents sitting me down to try and help me choose a new coach, to try and convince me to keep skating. I remember looking at the list of coaches, recognizing them all and being sure of none. I knew I wanted a coach who was firmer with their skaters, but I also knew I wanted a coach who would care about me at least half as much as my first coach had. In all honesty, I didn’t want a new coach, I wanted MY coach. In the end, we reached a compromise – I would skate until Christmas with my new coaches, and if I still didn’t want to skate anymore, I could quit then.
My new coaches were a husband and wife team. I chose them simply because they seemed strict; they were very no-nonsense and their skaters worked hard. On paper, their roles were very defined. He was my dance coach, with the odd free skate lesson thrown in here and there. She taught me figures and later skills, alongside the majority of all my free skate. The two of them became my second set of parents. Throughout many of my formative years, more waking hours were spent with them than with my parents. I was just as excited to tell them about my life as I was my parents and strove for as much, if not more, for their approval, praise and affection. I remember having a ‘3 things’ rule put in place in elementary school – I could tell them 3 things a day before having to focus on the lesson. I would tell them about school, my friends, my family, my life. I wanted to tell them everything. I loved them deeply and owe them a huge debt – without their efforts to win me over that first fall, I would have left skating, likely forever, and my life would have taken an entirely different course. We spent years together, from my first Preliminary tests through to double Gold. I passed my final Gold dances on my coach’s 55 birthday, and still have a collection of photos and a love of champagne from that day. I spent my teenaged summers at the arena for 8+ hour days, biking an hour to and from the arena in order to be able to spend as much time possible there with them skating, training and helping anywhere they would let me. I was given opportunities, responsibilities and a deep sense of belonging and acceptance that made the arena the place in the world I felt I fit best without knowing why I already felt “different”. I was blessed to have had a great relationship with them that built a large part of who I am today, as both a coach and a person.
I was in eleventh grade before I came out to myself and began coming out to others. After witnessing other friends experience rejection from their adult mentors, teachers and coaches I wasn’t sure I could survive it if it happened to me and couldn’t risk it with mine. This comes across as dramatic, but in truth was probably pretty spot on. I made the decision to change coaches to a younger, less experienced coach in order to not feel any possible negative (or perceived negative) reaction as acutely. To avoid any disappointment in myself as a person from people whose respect I couldn’t stand to lose. In effect, and to my own skating’s detriment, at the end of my personal skating career, I abandoned them before they could me. To be clear, I didn’t have an inkling of how they’d react. I just couldn’t muster up the courage to risk them finding out. I remember my female coach hiding her tears and thinking that at least she was disappointed in me for something I chose rather than something I couldn’t. I remember the last hug from both of them and running out of the arena sobbing hysterically – I knew I’d made a huge mistake but I wasn’t willing to rethink my decision because it was still easier than the alternative that might never and probably wouldn’t have happened anyway. Both of them left our club very suddenly immediately afterwards, moving full time to the other club they taught at. They had been staying until I graduated and moved on; I was their ‘last’ at our club. When I left them, they left, too.
I never made amends with either of them. A few years later I would run into them regularly at competitions with my own skaters throughout our section. While always cordial and polite, we never even came close to reconciling. I respect and love them both even still and I think the hurt I caused them was far worse than any negative reaction I could have ever had to live through, especially since to this day neither of them has any idea of the true reasons I chose to spend my final year of skating with someone else. I hope if either of them sees this almost 20 years later, they can forgive me for any hurt I caused them and know how valued, important and loved they were and are.
I now coach across the country from where I grew up, at a small club with young competitive athletes who have very big dreams. I am out in my everyday life and the majority of the families I work with are aware of my sexuality and my partner is welcomed at events such as award ceremonies and as a volunteer when appropriate. Though my technique has changed over the years, I find my coaching style is extremely similar to that of my past coaches. I often wonder how they would have reacted had they known the truth.
Pride month brings forward how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go. Personally, I feel the olive branches extended during this month often fall short as the seasons change but with new initiatives, follow through and education, we can make sure that our athletes, coaches, members and volunteers are happy, supported and secure in their places within our organization.
Happy Pride, Skate Canada.
Skate Canada thanks to HM for sharing their 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].
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 in relation to race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, religion, class, size, and ability, and their intersections.
As part of that work, Skate Canada would like to share the following ways to make skating more inclusive to the LGBTQI2S community. We would like to thank Dr. William Bridel for putting this information together for us and for the continued work he has done to educate and provide guidance as we strive to achieve an inclusive environment for all.
- Listen to LGBTQI2S members and persons in your community with empathy, respect, and compassion. Their stories are valid and important sources of information and knowledge!
- Educate yourself, educate others. There are many excellent resources available that provide general and sport-specific information on LGBTQI2S inclusion that are available through Skate Canada’s website at https://skatecanada.ca/safe-sport/. As one specific example, encourage coaches and volunteers to participate in a Canadian Women & Sport Leading the Way webinar or book a workshop for your club, region, or Section (https://womenandsport.ca/).
- Think critically about your own ideas about gender, gender identity, and gender expression: are some of your taken-for-granted ideas about femininity and masculinity impacting people in your life? For example, as an official, are you familiar with the revised costume rules in the sport? How will you be supportive of choices that skaters, coaches, and/or their parents/guardians make?
- Don’t make assumptions about people’s identities or people’s relationships and never “out” anyone; someone’s story about their gender identity or sexuality is their own to share, unless they have given you explicit permission to speak about them to others.
- Commit to using inclusive language and images. For example, honour people’s chosen pronouns and names. When creating documents use, for example, “they” instead of “he/she” and “skaters” instead of gender-specific terms. You can use words such as “folks” or “everyone” in place of “Ladies and Gentlemen” and groups should never be addressed as “guys”. If you need to ask for information about athletes’ parents, use the term Parent/Guardian and provide space for two or more names to be listed; avoid using the terms mother and father as families come in all shapes and sizes!
- Display LGBTQI2S symbols such as the Canadian Women & Sport “I Support Positive Space in Sport” poster (https://womenandsport.ca/) or Skate Canada Pride stickers on a club bulletin board, a website, the window of a skating office or coach’s room, or on your person (e.g., coffee mug, water bottle, skate bag). Why not participate in local Pride parades as a club or Section? Representation matters!
- Address dressing room/locker room requests and questions. Best practice guidelines are available for sport from the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (www.cces.ca). Skating-specific recommendations are in development and will be made available on Skate Canada’s website when finalized.
- Collaborate with other organizations in your community to offer learning opportunities to your members (e.g., PFLAG, Pride organizations, anti-bullying organizations, schools, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s #OneTeam Program, You Can Play, etc.)
In general, work to create inclusive space before you know you need to. Be willing to be brave: challenge others when they say something LGBTQphobic or you read it on social media. Seek to create spaces that are safe. Everyone benefits when sport is welcoming, inclusive, and people are allowed to be themselves in their pursuit of personal excellence.
Prepared for Skate Canada by Dr. William Bridel (Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary)
In these uncertain times for our organization, our communities and our world, we want to assure our Skate Canada family that we are all in this together.
Thank you for taking the necessary precautions and doing what you can to limit the spread of COVID-19. By working together and going the extra mile, as an organization and as neighbours, we can make a difference.
It’s hard to believe a few short weeks ago we were preparing to welcome the world to Montreal for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships® 2020.
To the athletes, coaches, officials, staff, volunteers and fans from all over the world, we are grateful for all your hard work and dedication in the three years of planning leading up to the world championships, one we know would have been a tremendous success. When our lives return to normal and the doors once again open in rinks from coast-to-coast-to-coast, we will look back on Montreal 2020 as the greatest skating event that never happened.
Our world has changed since then. Right now, we are facing a reality that not only transcends sports, but our everyday lives. Like the rest of the world, we are adjusting and adapting to suit the situation. We have risen to the challenge with flexibility, resilience and compassion, and will continue to do so for as long as we must.
In difficult times comes an opportunity to be there for each other, help each other and care for each other.
It is also a time reflect and be grateful.
To the world’s best skaters, thank you for inspiring us by showing that in order to grow stronger, we must, at one time, conquer adversity.
To all sections, clubs, skating schools, coaches and officials at every level, thousands of Skate Canada volunteers, office staff and fans from all over the world, thank you for your dedication to our sport, our athletes and our organization.
Our thoughts are with all those affected in communities not only in Canada, but around the world. We are grateful for the healthcare workers, first responders and others on the front line. It is truly in times like these in which heroes are born.
This is an unprecedented time for all of us. There is no playbook to refer to. We need to follow the lead of our government officials and health care authorities and do our part to overcome this challenging time.
Even at this difficult hour, we must remember this is temporary. Our lives and our organization will return to normal. We will learn from this and be stronger for it. Until then, be safe and be there for each other.
From all of us at Skate Canada, stay healthy and #StayHome.
Brighter days are ahead. And we will get through this together.