Celestino ready for the World Scene

When Daniel Beland was 16 years old, he blazed a significant trail on the world scene.

Back then, in 1977, he was the first Canadian man to win a world junior championship title. There have been three others since: Dennis Coi in 1978, Andrei Rogozine in 2009, and Nam Nguyen in 2014.

In taking that event, Beland was also the first French Canadian skater to win a gold medal at an international competition. Ever. As Quebec sport has gained power over the years, so have its figure skaters.

In the years that have followed, Beland has quietly been working as a coach in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., giving seminars, teaching skills, and now he has a 17-year-old student, Edrian Celestino with a sensitive touch that could, if he continues on this path, become quite goose-bump worthy. Celestino says he would love to become the Canadian junior champion this year and earn a trip to the world junior championships.

Ask a fresh-faced young guy what he likes most about skating, and he might very well answer that it is about the jump, that soaring feeling, risking it all, landing on a thin edge. What fun.

Ask Celestino the same question and his answer is: “I love edges, stroking, footwork.

“I could probably spend the entire session just doing edges,” he said. “There are so many things you can improve or enhance a little detail, to pointing your feet, the way your free leg is stretched, even your fingers, your arms. It’s endless.”

Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that Celestino’s favourite part of Skate Canada’s 2015 Development Camp in April was the session with Tracy Wilson, a former ice dancing champ who teaches the skill of the blade—right up Celestino’s alley.

“She was explaining so many things I never thought about,” he said. “Such as the way you apply pressure on your blades. And how a simple lean can make a complete difference in the way you accelerate on the ice.”

Celestino attended the 2014 camp as well, after he had finished second at the novice level to Joseph Phan – while winning the freeskate. But that experience was short-lived. Celestino was injured and could not participate, bundling out the door on the first day with his coach. Because of that, Celestino flew under the radar of high performance director Michael Slipchuk, who quickly became reacquainted with Celestino’s qualities at a Quebec summer skate, handing him his first international competition, a Junior Grand Prix in Estonia, in September of 2014.

“He brings a lot of good qualities,” Slipchuk said. “He’s a strong technical jumper, very good skater, good edges, good flow. But what really stood out for me this year was ice coverage. When he did his short program, he just filled the rink. The basic skating of the athlete is so important because as they move up, everyone is doing the same jumps.”

Celestino earned his way back to the camp this spring because he had won the bronze medal at the Canadian junior championships. “It was my first year in junior and I wasn’t expecting too much,” Celestino said. “I just wanted to have fun and gain experience. But at Challenge, that’s where I really surprised myself. I came out at the top. I thought: ‘You know, this hard work is really starting to pay off.’”

Going off to the national championship was more stressful because, as Celestino says, it’s nice to win, but much harder to maintain first place. He was nervous.

Celestino has been to the Canadian championships only twice. At his first appearance in 2014, he moved from eighth place to second with an excellent free skate.

Beland began to coach Celestino six years ago and he noticed right away that the tiny youngster had great knees. No big surprise that he used to be an ice dancer, paired up with Vanessa Bui.  He had good jumping action, too, and good spins. “He had the wow factor,” Beland said.

Currently, Celestino has all of his triples but the Axel. In April, he got a new pair of boots, and then began to work on the Axel, with the help of the “fishing pole,” or harness. Like Denis Ten, Celestino is very sensitive about his feet. He needs to feel comfortable in his boots. ”If there is a little bit of discomfort, I’ll take them off and adjust my socks,” he said.

Both of Celestino’s parents were born in the Philippines, moved to Canada and met while studying. In the beginning, Celestino’s father could speak no English. He now has a degree in aerospace engineering. His father used to play in the Filipino basketball league. His mother was always serious about school. Celestino’s 9-year-old brother, Earl Jesse Celestino, is also starting to skate.

“He has a great family,” Beland said. “You would like to have a family like this all the time. We talk about the year all together and we decide what to do.”

Last season, Celestino worked with top choreographer David Wilson. It seems as if he only skates to beautiful music, not surprisingly. His short program was to Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto No. 2 in C minor.

His free skate during the 2013-2014 season was Puccini’s “Nessum Dorma” – one of the best-known tenor arias in opera. Imagine, skating to this powerful song at age 15! Last season, however, when vocals were allowed, Celestino amped up his game: he skated to a version sung by Liciano Pavarotti, who had elevated the aria to pop status during his career.

He’s looking to have his short program choreographed for the coming season by Shae-Lynn Bourne. Stay tuned for something exquisite.

Baldé finds his roots in West African Guinea

On a blistering, hot February day in Africa, Elladj Balde looked into the eyes of his 99-year-old grandfather for the first time and discovered who he really was.

Balde, 24, had never set eyes on his grandfather, Elhadj Mamadou Oury Balde, who is an imam in Tombon, a tiny village in the mountains of Guinea in West Africa, a town where there is no electricity or running water, cattle and goats wander everywhere and the good folk of the town grow their own food. Need some water? Grab a bucket, lower it into a deep hole, pull it back up and good luck.

Mind you, there is no pollution in this remote village, largely untouched by the development of civilization and big businesses. It’s nature at its purest. Everywhere there were banana trees, mango and orange trees. “It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen,” Elladj said.

Yes, Elladj is named after his grandfather, because after all, he’s the first son of his father, Ibrahim, who was the first son of Elhadj, all highly emotional and critical points in this culture.

This brings us to the grandfather, the reason for this unprecedented pilgrimage that was taken despite Government of Canada warnings to avoid travel to Guinea, the epicenter of the Ebola crisis that erupted in 2014. There were also security advisories, warning of political, social and economic unrest, rampant corruption, rebel activity and armed robberies, particularly if you travel to outlying areas. Still, Elladj and his father had to go.

As an Imam, Elhadj was a man of renown, not only in Tombon but also in all of northwest Africa, as the priest of the mosque, the teacher of young Imams, the holy man. So exalted was his status, that convention dictated a holy reserve: Elhadj didn’t hug people like figure skaters do. He was untouchable.

His firstborn son, Ibrahim, had much to live up to, and he did. From age four, he was always at the top of his class. Being tops meant that you received support to go to the next level. When Ibrahim finished first in his university class in Guinea, he earned an expenses-paid scholarship to the Soviet Union, Tashkent actually, which is now the capital city of an independent Uzbekistan.

Ibrahim was given six months to learn the Russian language, and applied himself the way he always had. While studying medicine, he was tops in his class once again. (Elladj remembers his father urging him always to do hours and hours of homework, and when he’d finish an assigned chapter, to read the next one too. “You always have to be ahead of the rest,” he said. Elladj said he has inherited his father’s drive.)

Ibrahim met and married Marina, who was studying meteorology in the Soviet Union, and they had a daughter, Djulde, who at age seven, fell ill with leukemia. Elladj was born in Moscow and when he was only one year old, the family moved to Bonn, Germany to get medical help for his older sister. A year later she died. But the young family had a difficult decision to make: how could they return to the Soviet Union which, in the meantime, was disintegrating, as well as perhaps Ibrahim’s scholarship? And they just didn’t feel it was safe to return.

So off to Canada they went and settled in Montreal, a world away from Guinea. Still, Elhadj’s fondest wish was to see his grandson, Elladj, before he died. However in December, he fell into a coma and it appeared too late.

Miraculously, two weeks later Elhadj awakened from his coma. It was then that Ibrahim knew he had to travel to Guinea to see him one more time. He booked his flight immediately to leave Feb. 22.

Elladj begged him to wait, because at the time, he had nationals coming up, and he had hoped to go to Four Continents and the world championships in February and March. But Ibrahim could not wait. “I don’t know how long he is going to live,” he said.

At the Canadian championships in Kingston, ON, all of Elladj’s skating dreams fell apart. He finished sixth and not only missed a trip to the World and Four Continents championships, but he lost a spot on the national team with all of its funding.

However there was a bigger issue on his mind. The day of his disastrous long program, Elladj booked his flight to Guinea. “I’m coming with you,” he told his father. “I’m a strong believer that everything happens for a reason.”

Many, including doctors, warned Elladj not to go, because of Ebola. Elladj finally reasoned: “If I die of Ebola, then I’m meant to die of Ebola.”

It was a long, exhausting and expensive journey. The Baldes flew from Montreal to Paris and then to Guinea’s capital city of Conakry. When they deplaned, 50 people from Tombon – all relatives (Ibrahim has 29 siblings who are still alive; his father had four wives), all-weeping with joy. Somehow, despite their remote location, they had heard of this figure skater with a Guinean name. They had followed him. Elladj also met the Minister of Sport in Guinea.

Their journey wasn’t over yet. It took 10 hours to drive to Tombon. They drove up into the mountains where there were no roads, only rocks. For two hours, they couldn’t go faster than 5 miles per hour.

Finally in Tombon, Elladj sat down in the house of his grandfather and this man who never hugs anybody, took Elladj’s face in his hands, exclaiming: “Thank you god. Thank you god.” Over and over again.  “It was one of the best moments of my life,” Elladj said. “We held each other for a long time, maybe five minutes.”

Others were looking on in shock, at the Imam’s embrace. “I can die in peace now,”said Elhadj, frail of heart, but sharp of mind. “God can take me.”

“He was so proud of who I was,” Elladj said. “As a human being, not as an athlete. He was so happy for who I was and what kind of person I am. I realized so many things.”

The 11-day experience in Tombon has changed Elladj forever. They were happy people, although they had little.  “It changed me deep inside,” he said. “It does something to you that you don’t expect. It was the best experience of my life.”

In May, Elladj’s grandfather died.

He knows now what really counts. His relationships with his family have changed. He’s back at home in Montreal, now living with his parents and training with Bruno Marcotte and Manon Perron. His skating has changed, because now he appreciates his opportunities in life. (He has a cousin in Conakry who has been looking for a job for six years.) He now skates with joy.

Elladj’s African experience, he says, has rooted him to the ground. He’s become part of the world, of its nature. He saw the origins of time, where his blood had come from and finds family ties are powerful.  “At the end of the day, we are not so different,” he said. “We all strive for happiness. And it’s all that matters.”

Stojko Returns to Canada Healed and Ready to Help

Elvis Stojko is back.

Mexico is in his rear-view mirror and so are the tangerine and papaya trees of Ajijic, where he lived for 12 years.

He’s come home to Canada a happy man, married to Gladys Orozco for five years, and a career that now takes him in multiple directions: skating, race car driving, acting, singing. And he’s tying himself again to Skate Canada, on board to conduct some seminars for developing skaters and donating some proceeds from the sale of his new wine, Quad, to the association.

Three-time world champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist Elvis Stojko has much to offer budding skating stars, including his warrior attitude during competition. Stojko was the ultimate competitor, never backing down from a challenge. And at no time was that mindset more tested than at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, when he skated with a groin injury.

Stojko is a problem solver and he had plenty of problems to solve in Nagano. Some proved beyond him, ultimately.  He had already stressed his groin at the Canadian championships that year, but the morning of the men’s short program at the Nagano Olympics, he tore a muscle in his groin at an early morning practice. He went into emergency mode.

He pushed himself hard to win that silver medal. But the aftermath of it all, and of everything that had happened to him that year, came back to haunt him. At the very end of that epic, courageous long program, Stojko felt something break inside of him. Call it his will or his spirit. “It just broke and I was never – after that point, no matter how much I tried to train or skate – able to have that same feeling again,” Stojko said. “And that was my strength.”

“I went through my bout of major dark times,” Stojko said.

He had overextended his incredible will. “I guess my faith snapped or my willpower snapped,” he said. “From that point on, I was broken. I was heartbroken and I was broken.” He didn’t know it at the time, because he had been so programed to train and go to the rink, work for next year’s programs, go through all those important steps.

Stojko continued to skate, to give it another shot. He came back stronger than ever, with two quads. But he still wasn’t even close to being mentally the same as he was in early 1998. He figures he skated at about 65 per cent of his capabilities. He made it to 2002, then quit, and fell into a deep depression that he didn’t even realize he had. It really had started after the 1998 Games.

“I went through my bout of major dark times,” Stojko said. “It’s one of the reasons I left Canada. I needed some space and anonymity. I went through some hard times with family issues, after my parents split. Mexico was my place of solitude.”

The athletes that put a lot of heart into their endeavours sometimes find the switch to ordinary life difficult, Stojko said. He once heard Olympic swimming champion Mark Tewksbury talk about life after the Olympics during the 1990s, after he won his gold medal. Tewksbury moved to Australia for a year in post-Olympic depression.

“He had no idea how to move on and how to deal with stuff,” Stojko said. “And for me, it was a hard transition, too. Skaters are lucky in that they still have some shows, if you have a name in skating. Other skaters can go on cruise ships. But it’s not an easy process to go through.”

The worst is that you are caught between a rock and a hard place, Stojko said. You want to do what you feel you want to do. But you need to pay bills. “Then you’re stuck, going after something you may not want to do,” he said.

Financially, Stojko was okay, but his entire life had revolved around skating from the time he was four. It was his grounding place. He never thought about what comes next.  “I could only see myself as Elvis Stokjo the skater,” he said. “Everyone saw me as that. I needed to find out what’s going to make me happy as a complete person. And it took a long time to figure that out.

“I wasn’t depressed because I was leaving skating,” he said. “I was depressed because of the huge buildup and what I went through mentally with that injury. That injury just socked me bad.”

For Stojko, it wasn’t so much the fact that he didn’t win gold in Nagano. “It was about not being able to reach that peak that I knew I could do,” he said. “I had a lot of weight on my shoulders. Everybody thought I could win it. I showed up and knew I was skating on one leg.”

But Stojko has figured it all out. In Mexico, the fog eventually lifted. And then he met Orozco.  And now racing cars has allowed him to tap back into his Terminator self. “I feel from that, I’ve let go from that [stuff] in 1998,” he said. “I’d say it took me at least 10 years to clear all that air of what happened in Nagano. My leg healed, but my soul didn’t. My soul took a lot longer.”

What makes him happy now? Spending time with his wife and his dogs. It’s his happy place these days. Now that he’s back in Canada, he’s spending time with his best friend, Glen Doyle, his sifu during his martial arts days.

He takes his hat off to Orozco, who told him that she does not care where she lives, as long as she is with him. She’s already endured one horrible Canadian winter and it’s okay. The couple knew they had to move back to Canada because more opportunities awaited them than in that growing retirement community of Ajijic, near Guadalajara. Stojko is searching for sponsors for his racing endeavours. Orozco, with her exotic look, has modeling opportunities in Toronto.

They sold off everything in Mexico a year ago and left with the bare essentials, their three dogs, clothing, some knickknacks. They held a couple of giant garage sales in Ajijic, sold the house furnished, and drove their truck to Canada. A friend drove it back to Mexico to sell it.

Now the couple is living in Richmond Hill, Ont., where Stojko grew up and they are starting anew. “It was kind of cool,” Stojko said of divesting themselves of possessions. “It was refreshing.”

Skate Canada CEO Dan Thompson giving back during Pan Am Games

Skate Canada CEO Dan Thompson is giving back to a sport – and a community – that has given him so much.

With the 2015 Pan Am Games currently in full swing in Toronto and the surrounding GTA, Thompson, a former Olympic swimmer himself, is volunteering at the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Aquatic Centre, the Games’ official swimming venue.

Allan Gordon, a member of the Skate Canada Communications team, is also giving his time as a volunteer during the Games.

Like skating, swimming is in Thompson’s blood, even to this day.

In fact, the names of his two dogs? Splash and Ripple.

“There should always be a passion in your life, and you should embrace that passion and always give more than you take,” Thompson says. “Swimming has been an integral part of my life, and this is my way of saying thank you and giving something back.”

“It’s been a great time so far.”

For Thompson, the swimming venue is a perfect fit.

Thompson, a member of the Toronto 2015 sports program and legacy committee, was a double silver medallist at the 1979 Pan Am Games (100 m butterfly, 400 m men’s relay) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

These days, Thompson is at the helm of the Skate Canada ship, but still manages to find time to experience the joy of swimming. Not unlike the joy of skating – just water at a different temperature.

Last summer, Thompson claimed gold in Montreal in both the 50 and 100 metre butterfly events at the FINA World Masters Championships. He was also a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning 200-metre medley relay.

Pan Am swimmers.During the Pan Am swimming events, Thompson, who sits on the UANA technical swimming committee, works behind the scenes in the “ready room” as the athletes prepare to compete. Those moments are a throwback to his competitive days, as Thompson is with the athletes in their final moments before they step into the pool area. The surroundings allow a unique opportunity to watch world-class athletes attempt to find their focus and get into their zone.

These Games have also afforded Thompson a chance to get an up-close look at how other sports organizations operate.

“Learning comes from anywhere, and this has been an educational experience, as well,” Thompson adds. “You get a chance to get out and see how various organizations run their sports and organize their events. There are great ideas all around, and maybe I can even take one or two back to Skate Canada.”

It’s about the only thing Thompson will take this week.

Everything else is about giving back.

How Ice Intrepid went from Synchro Startup to University of Manitoba Mainstay

The year was 1999 when Megan Maxwell and her friend Ashley Renard, both students at the University of Manitoba, decided to put together a Synchro team as a way to get people together and enjoy skating.

It was a bumpy start. How do you attract members? Who will coach? What are the goals … the costs ..? What about a name?

With both women understanding that forming a team would take hard work and daring, Ashley came up with the name, Ice Intrepid, characterized by the “fearless fortitude” they both knew it would take to make the team successful.

As for who would take on coaching duties, all signs pointed to Megan who had been coaching recreational Synchro for two years in her hometown of Oakbank, Manitoba, east of Winnipeg. At first the thought of coaching the new university team was overwhelming … until her former coach Krista Hanson stepped in to help, agreeing to share choreographic responsibilities, something that helped build Megan’s confidence and opened the door for her to set some ambitious goals.

Megan Maxwell

Megan Maxwell

In the 16 years since Ice Intrepid was born, Megan has been its cornerstone, coaching the team, planning its progress and leading the way in its continued development. At the same time she also earned a Bachelor of Physical Education degree while continuing to dedicate herself to synchronized skating. She is an NCCP Level 3 certified coach in Synchro, a Synchro Technical Specialist and sits on the Synchro Committee for Skate Canada Manitoba. In her “spare time”, she works full-time for Parks Canada.

After three years on the team and graduating in Exercise and Sports Science, Ashley moved to the States where she too has become a leader and Master Coach. She is the originator of the first youth synchronized skating team in Philadelphia and now, as Director of Synchro at the Wissahickon SC, she is overseeing 100 skaters on 8 teams.

These two dynamic women shared a vision.

Thanks to them some 125 skaters have passed through the Ice Intrepid organization, most while pursuing a university degree, each one sharing their founders’ enthusiasm and learning from Megan’s ever-evolving coaching education and philosophy.

“I believe integrity is important.” says Megan. “I aim to be honest, fair and consistent in an effort to provide a place where my skaters can trust and know what is expected of them. From a team perspective, integrity is key to our unity, solidarity and strength.”

While Megan concentrates on developing great skating, her team’s training also includes the opportunities to learn many of life’s important lessons … and she is the consummate role model.

“I believe in being professional. As a coach, I arrive prepared at each practice and event with a plan. I aim to be competent in identifying errors and providing constructive corrections. As a team, I expect members to become skilled and polished skaters. I also aim to create an inclusive team environment where all team members are respected and valued.”

As the organization has grown, the team has taken on new ideas and expanded their goals. What began as a recreational activity for most participants has now evolved into a serious commitment where members are motivated to compete at the highest levels.

To get there, Megan knew some tough decisions had to be made despite the hurdles of geographic distance and costs associated with access to top teams and coaches from Ontario and Quebec.

“Over the last 4 seasons, we’ve had Nexxice skaters, in particular, Lee Chandler and Jennifer Critchton (Beauchamp) to help us with program lay-out. Their world-level quality skating has taught and inspired us to improve our knee bends, flow and artistry. Adding to those skills has been Wendy Coates who was living in Winnipeg in 2007-2008 and helped us realize the importance of designing programs that build momentum and speed.”

On the artistic side, Kayleigh Nichol of London, Ontario joined the team in the fall of 2010, skating for one year and then volunteer coaching for 3 years.

“With her Synchro experience and her background in theatre, Kayleigh has been a great addition,” offers Megan. “Kayleigh really developed the interpretative and expressive side of our team and helped us believe that more was possible.”

Megan has left no stone unturned in the search for the tools to improve by encouraging each member to take ownership of their individual progress. She requests monitoring feedback from Technical Specialists in Alberta via video footage, asks team members to evaluate weekly videos of practice sessions posted on-line, and has the team involved in regular stretching and yoga programs.

Remarkably, as the team began to believe in itself and embrace the idea that performing difficult routines with quality skating skills was truly possible, their move up the Synchro ladder to one of the top teams in the country has been sure and steady.

Over the years, their love for Synchro has continued to climb too. When World Synchro events are held in North America, many team members take advantage of the opportunity to watch Synchro at its best … and learn. This year in Hamilton at Worlds, seventeen past and present Ice Intrepid members were on-site to celebrate the sport.

“It was fantastic to look around and see how many current and former skaters from the team were watching,” says Megan. “After so many years, we were all thrilled to be together seeing new ideas unfold … and with Canada winning the gold medal, I felt like a proud parent!”

Not only have their individual Ice Intrepid experiences been positive, members all claim that Synchro has added to their lives. Of the 17 skaters photographed in Hamilton, (see photo: from left to right, members lined up in order of their time on Ice Intrepid), at least 12 are still actively involved in Synchro, either competing, coaching or directing programs.

Ice Intrepid
What is it about the sport that ties people to it for life?

The Hamilton delegation was quick to respond. Making best friends, travelling, building confidence, learning organizational skills, teamwork, cooperation, goal setting and leadership were some common themes.

Heather Baron who competed with Ice Intrepid for 4 years while completing a degree in Agriculture adds, “I loved all the daily laughs … and ‘secret buddies’, the selfless acts from one member to another to make their day a little brighter.”

Meghan Sprung, a 5-year member while earning a degree in Human Ecology, continues “It was my first trip to Nationals when my eyes were opened to the broader Synchro community and to all the possibilities that come with training and hard work.”

During her 6 years on Ice Intrepid, Jessica Watson worked toward her degree majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Math. For her it’s the cherished memories. “Lots of traveling, lots of random inside jokes, all the traditions, breathing exercises, hand stamps, hugs and ‘Can I get a woot, woot?’ …”

Human Nutritional Sciences grad, current Synchro participant and skating coach, Joelle Enns, sums it up perfectly. “Along with the skills, I also gained life-long friends and memories that will stay with me forever. All of that fueled my passion for the sport of Synchro and brought me to where I am today. Without Intrepid, I wouldn’t have made it this far in my skating career.”

Ice Intrepid, the University of Manitoba legacy lives on …

Skating Community Celebrates Toller’s On-ice and Off-ice Artistry

Toller Cranston, skating champion, artist, bon vivant, and force of nature, would have been positively bursting at the sight of it: a posh party honouring him. Surrounded by old friends, chocolates, and best of all: at the Art Gallery of Ontario, a place he was never able to professionally penetrate in his life.

But finally he has, with a vast array of his works from the start to the finish of his career, graciously loaned by various patrons of his fantastical art (mystic symbolism, he once called it) under the swooping eaves of the gallery. Beneath large screens where Cranston’s skating performances played and played again, perched a long row of his paintings, forged with colourful strokes from his imaginative world of Silk Road.

Now the brushes are still, but Cranston will live on, if not in many hearts, in a legacy he would cherish.  Through the Canadian Olympic Foundation, a charitable foundation affiliated with the Canadian Olympic Committee, comes the new Toller Cranston Memorial Fund. It’s meant to help those of Cranston’s ilk, skaters with artistic promise. The fund will help young skaters aspire to the Olympics, and artistry counts.

It wasn’t always easy for Cranston in his early days, because he had no such financial aid. Coach Ellen Burka first spotted him in tears after he finished fourth at the 1968 Canadian championships, and missed the Olympic team. She felt compelled to comfort him, telling him: “Don’t worry. Your time will come.”

Two weeks later, Cranston called her to tell her that he had been told to forget about the sport, and that he was too old at 18, but he loved it and wanted one more shot at it. Would Burka coach him?

Burka said she had to think about it, but the next day, he was at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club. “He looked pretty overweight,” she recalled, holding court in the AGO as she told her story. “He didn’t look so hot.” She wasn’t impressed after he had done his routines for her. “He stood there sweating,” she said. “Steam was coming off his hair. I’ve never seen that before.”

But Burka gave him the goods, that he needed to lose weight, that he needed to improve his conditioning, and that she didn’t like his program or his music. And she told him he wasn’t properly dressed for the ice. “He was wearing a brown jumpsuit with a zipper from here to here,” she said. “And a belt. And everything was hanging out.”

Cranston turned and left. But two days later he was back, telling Burka, “I will do anything you tell me.”

He showed up at patch the next morning at 7 a.m., but also with a huge portfolio of his work. Burka had no idea he was an artist. “They were beautiful,” she said. And then she discovered that he had been thrown out by two landlords, who weren’t fond of the smell of turpentine, and Cranston had no place to go. He also hadn’t eaten.

Burka told him he could stay with her for seven days until he found another place. He stayed for seven years.

The memorial was a blizzard of sport icons, but also fascinating people from Cranston’s life. Ludmila and Oleg Protopopov sent a note, regretting they could not attend, but writing: “We loved Toller, because his soul and mind were close to us,” they said. “Toller was an artist. We will forever keep the memory of Toller.”

Cranston’s dear friend Ken Taylor shuttled from New York to make the party. He is best known for his role in helping six American hostages escape from Iran while he served as Canada’s ambassador to Iran in 1979.

Norman Jewison, film director for Academy-award winning movies such as “In the Heat of the Night,” “Moonstruck” and “Fiddler on the Roof” also showed up. Olympic champions Dorothy Hamill couldn’t miss it; neither could Jo Jo Starbuck, Sandra and Val Bezic, Barb Underhill, Lynn Nightingale, Donald Jackson, Shae-Lynn Bourne, Petra Burka, choreographer to the stars, Sarah Kawahara and Ron Shaver, Cranston’s nemesis, the man who made it difficult for Cranston to win his final Canadian title and then go on to take the Olympic bronze medal in 1976.

Organizing the whole soiree was Cranston’s sister, Phillippa, known as a university professor who taught a film course so well that nobody would ever skip class. “Toller was my brother,” she said. “I have been proud to call Toller my brother every day for more than 65 years.”

She was there with husband Dan Baran, twin brothers Guy and Goldie Cranston and “some of the most handsome and talented nieces and nephews and cousins that anybody could ask for.”

“I am the baby brother,” said Goldie, with piercing blue eyes, who admitted that he failed at stick figures and, sadly, at finger-painting as well.  (Gus is 10 minutes older.)  “Many of you here have no doubt experienced firsthand what I am to share with you: the Toller Challenge, or the Toller Inquisition.”

“He would relish putting people through the hoops of his choosing,” Goldie said. “He would challenge any number of people on any number of subjects in which he was extensively well versed: art, skating, current events, books, politics – anything in which he felt he had the upper hand.”

Goldie’s challenge was, ironically art. Toller figured he had a good eye. He’d drag Goldie to all sorts of art galleries, and say: “Okay, what’s the good stuff and I want to know this minute.”

“Apparently I passed because I stand before you here today,” Goldie said.

“As brothers, we weren’t particularly close, as you probably all know,” said Guy. “There’s no particular reason. We just weren’t close. We were no different from any other family.

“But he was family, and families do what families do. They come together. And so we have come together to ensure that his legacy lasts a very, very long time, with your help.”

Cranston’s best friend, Haig Oundjian took center stage, wearing a familiar red jacket. It had belonged to Cranston (“always wear bright colours,” he once said). Cranston had given it to him and then told him he bought it for $10 at a thrift store. Cranston was forever frequenting thrift stores, finding treasures and when he did, he would “Tollerize” them.

The partygoers heard about his penchant for being a generous host, and his lack of knowledge of technology and finance. At 3 o’clock early one morning, Oundjian got a call from Cranston, who blurted: “I’m ruined.  I have nothing.”

“’Could you just email me?’” Oundjian said.

“What’s that?” Cranston said. “I don’t do those things.”

Oundjian had to fly to Mexico, and asked Cranston to show him his accounting process. It meant putting a hand down a vase to see what you can find. “There would be electrical bills, gas bills, all unpaid,” Oundjian said. “He had no concept of those things. He would say: ‘I’m an artist!’”

The memorial also heard how Cranston neglected his health and needed dental work. He also suffered a hernia, which became infected, and he did nothing about it. The result? He ended up in hospital, seriously ill. “He was within hours of death,” Oundjian said.

He loved Monty Python.

A few Tollerisms? Do not tolerate mediocrity. As you age, it is better to skate backwards. (Better for a receding hairline.) And the Oscar Wilde gem: “I may not always be right, but I am never wrong.”

The day Cranston died, Loreen Harper, wife of the Prime Minister, took the flag that fluttered that day at Parliament Hill in Ottawa and reserved it for the Cranston family. It found its way to the memorial. Normally there is a 20-year wait following a request. Cranston would be delighted to have jumped the queue.

Federal sport minister Bal Gosal presented the flag to a young generation of Cranstons.

“He was fearless, courageous and uncompromising, when it came to life on his terms,” brother Guy said.

Skating is all about the exits and the entrances, Cranston once said. He made all of them memorable. This one too.

Social Media Skates into the Spotlight

When former figure skating competitor Lorne Edwards from Winnipeg started his own Facebook page during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, he had no idea he had a tiger by the tail.

“It had a figure skating thread that was becoming too long” admits Lorne. But it prompted him to think about skating as a whole new opportunity to build community.

The page has reconnected hundreds of people who haven’t seen or talked to each other in decades

After attracting skating friends Lorne hadn’t heard from in over 30 years, he decided to start another Facebook group called “Manitoba Figure Skating in the 70’s” that in just over a year has grown to over 200 members from all across Canada and the US … and yes, everyone has some connection to figure skating in Manitoba.

Lorne’s proud of this skating initiative. “Members regularly post old photos, skating programs from past events, and photos of medals and badges earned at competitions and on test days, as well as costumes that were worn that many still have hanging in their closet!”

The page is not only for communicating with competitors … judges, administrators and parents can also share their memories of skating at certain arenas and traveling to various competitions, as well as stories about the people who encouraged and supported them.

“The page has reconnected hundreds of people who haven’t seen or talked to each other in decades,” says Lorne, “although it’s certainly not restricted to only those who skated in the ‘70s. It’s really for anyone with a connection to skating in Manitoba.”

Out of the group page came the idea of a Manitoba Figure Skating Reunion.  According to Lorne, “Plans are in the works to have the reunion on April 16, 2016 in conjunction with the annual Bursary Banquet and Ice Show featuring performances from the year’s bursary winners.”

Former skaters will have the opportunity to greet old friends and support today’s top Manitoba competitors through the Manitoba Grassroots Bursary Trust founded in 1983 by a well-known Manitoba figure skating judge, Reta Barber.

“Pay it forward” is certainly one goal for Manitoba’s Alumni but Lorne and the other organizers are also looking to provide more first-hand skating opportunities for the reunion participants.

“What skating reunion would be complete without some skating?” asks Lorne. “A bunch of us from FB became inspired when we came across an event that’s been held at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club for 47 years called Toronto Ice Dance Weekend. Why can’t we do that here in Winnipeg?”

Shuna Heeney, the volunteer organizer of the dance weekend in Toronto agrees it is a huge success and a phenomenal program for keeping everyone active on the ice regardless of their age or ability. “I’m very passionate about promoting social ice dancing. Being able to skate all the Compulsory Dances is an activity that’s growing in popularity around the world. Just here close to the Toronto area, there are similar programs in Hamilton, London, Kitchener and Richmond Hill.”

When Shuna took over the TCSCC Dance Weekend six years ago, awareness of the event was waning. But similar to Lorne’s experience in Manitoba, as soon as she started using Facebook to promote it, interest in participating has triple Axeled. “For the last number of years our numbers have been steadily climbing. Part of it is through growing awareness but we’ve also tried to modernize the experience by using vocal music instead of dancing to repetitive ‘test’ music. Now we’ve created a music library that really livens up the environment and motivates the skaters.”

With more than 100 participants ranging in age from 13 to 87, social dancing at TCSCC offers skaters of all ages the opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie the sport offers.

“Our participants are having fun dancing without being judged,” says Shuna. “We have a wide variety of skill levels and ages. Some are competitors, some are beginners, but regardless of ability, everyone skates with everyone.”

Next year’s event at TCSCC is scheduled for Feb 26-28, 2016.

Back in Winnipeg and following the example set by TCSCC, a reunion committee has been set up with Co-Chairs Lois Howard and Lorne, as well as Leanne Howard, Colleen Woods, and Don Brown leading the planning. Lorne has even booked ice time. “Here’s a chance for former Manitoba skaters to lace up again, remember the dance steps and have some fun.”

And word is spreading fast through social media.

“The list of those confirmed has grown to over 120!” boasts Lorne. “A reunion website is in the works but in the meantime, simply search Manitoba Figure Skating Reunion. It’s all about continuing to enjoy the sport and then passing it on.”

During next year’s Manitoba reunion, the Ice Dance portion of the weekend will be held April 17, 2016 in Winnipeg, the day after the Bursary Ice Show, giving attendees the chance to see the current crop of up-and-comers and then to skate with people they haven’t seen for 30 years or more!

For any other skaters interested in social dancing, Shuna has some advice about how to test out this exciting initiative. “A group called IDOL (Ice Dancers on Line) organizes a database of social ice dancing events in North America to help spread the word. There are lots of social media opportunities through Facebook and Yahoo if anyone wants to find out more.”

Whether you’re in Winnipeg or Toronto, social dancing may be a perfect way for you to continue exploring skating throughout your lifetime.

No partner is required … just come and dance!

New coaching award unveiled in honour of former Skate Canada COO Bethany Tory

Bethany Tory’s passion, drive and commitment to excellence will be honoured with the unveiling of a new coaching award in her memory.

Skate Canada Chief Executive Officer Dan Thompson announced the creation of the Coach Education Scholarship, in honour of Bethany Tory, the organization’s Chief Operating Officer, who passed away suddenly in April.

“We are extremely proud to introduce this award for our dedicated and passionate coaches in honour of Bethany,” stated Dan Thompson.

“Our coaches and Bethany shared the same dedication, passion and commitment to Skate Canada, and we are honoured to pay tribute to her memory. Bethany was a champion for positive change and alignment within the organization, so it is only fitting we name this award in her memory.”

A former skater and coach, Bethany embraced her Skate Canada COO role with energy and determination, and was extremely supportive of all Skate Canada coaches and officials.

Over the next three years of this quadrennial, the Coach Education Scholarship will be awarded to coaches who meet the following characteristics: embrace a skate for life philosophy; exemplify the values of integrity, fairness, courage, and generosity; and are dedicated to improving their coaching skills through expanding their academic knowledge.

Skate Canada will award up to five $2,000 scholarships to Skate Canada coaches who meet the application criteria and requirements. To be eligible for the award, applicants must be currently enrolled or participating in a post-secondary program at a recognized college or university and be pursuing a degree or diploma that is applicable to their role as a skating coach. During the inaugural 2015-2016 year of the program, special consideration will be given to coaches currently teaching CanSkate.

“Our coaches teach far more than skating skills,” added Thompson. “Coaches have a significant impact on the lives of young skaters, teaching life skills and encouraging them to remain active through our Skate For Life initiative.”

Please click here for more information on the Skate Canada Coach Education Scholarship in honour of Bethany Tory.

OH, CANADA! Elvis Stojko back on native soil, working with young Skate Canada athletes

Elvis Stojko is home again.

After more than a decade living in Mexico, Stojko has returned home to Canada, the country he won a trio of world titles for two decades ago.

It wasn’t planned, the exodus south of the border. Growing up at the mercy of Canada’s relentless winters and training daily inside frigid, damp arenas, Stojko admits he had grown weary of the cold, but there wasn’t a grand plan to escape to a warmer climate. But during a trip to Mexico to visit a friend back in 2001, Stojko decided to buy an apartment on the spot.

As fate would have it, a few years later, he met Gladys Orozco, a former Mexican national figure skating champion. They were wed five years ago.

The couple lived in splendid hillside villa in the village of Ajijic, about an hour outside of Guadalajara. Stojko, always a very private person, welcomed the seclusion and the warm temperatures.

Eventually, though, Canada called Stojko home.

“To be back on a full-time basis feels great,” says Stojko, who moved back to Canada a year ago. “I loved living in Mexico, it was a great experience. But everything was just starting to pull my wife and I back here.

“This is home.”

Elvis Stojko teaches kung fu.

Photo – Gladys Orozco

Not only has the 43-year-old returned to his native country, but there is a second homecoming of sorts, as Stojko has established a working relationship with Skate Canada.

Recently, Stojko took 14 skaters and their coaches under his proverbial wing at the Skate Canada National Performance Centre in Toronto. Eighteen years after his last world title, Stojko still commands a presence when he walks into a room.

Even today, when the three-time world champion, seven-time Canadian champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist speaks, people take notice.

“It feels awesome to reconnect with Skate Canada, work with the kids and be accessible,” Stojko adds. “I have so much information and experience but unless I transfer it, it just dies with me. To be able to pass it on, that’s evolution. That’s how we all learn. In a selfish way, it feels good. As I teach, I also learn.”

“Elvis was one of Canada’s most-focused athletes throughout his outstanding career, and his ability to stay in the moment to maximize performance is legendary,” stated Skate Canada Chief Executive Officer Dan Thompson.

“We are so honoured that Elvis has decided to give back in such a tangible way and we look forward to building our relationship through these camps for a long time.”

At the National Performance Centre, Stojko spent part of the day stressing the importance of mental preparation and being aware of the body at all times. He also spent over an hour on the ice with the skaters and coaches, working with the young athletes on their jumps and landings.

Stojko, a noted martial arts expert, also offered a kung fu training session, including various breathing techniques and exercises designed to activate different muscle groups.

“Most people look at the physical aspect of kung fu, but it is the mental aspect (that is most important),” he says. “It is being able to utilize it as a focusing aid. It is for the confidence and killer instinct to help push them past a certain limit where they don’t think they can get.”

Monica Lockie, Skate Canada’s National Performance Centre Director, says the lessons the young athletes are learning through Stojko are invaluable.

“It’s funny, a lot of these kids were born after Elvis’ career was over,” says Lockie. “A lot of them can’t fully appreciate just how strong he was, and how many obstacles he had to overcome. I think a camp like this is essential for our skaters, our future champions, to let them know it is OK to go through your own challenges.

“In the end, it’s going to be how tough you are mentally that will determine how far you go physically.”

“Elvis had a great career, but he really is an icon for mental toughness and perseverance. He is trying to empower the skater to build his or her own confidence and not just look to other people. Elvis succeeded because of his own drive.

“In the end, it’s going to be how tough you are mentally that will determine how far you go physically.”

Stojko is a busy man these days. When he is not working with Skate Canada, Stojko continues to chase his own dream of kart racing, as a competitive racer at the national and international level. With the karting national championships set to go later this summer, Stojko is focused on making the world team.

Last year, Stojko also wrapped up his Broadway debut, starring as manipulative, smooth-talking lawyer Billy Flynn in Chicago: The Musical.

“It’s a lot of fun,” says Stojko of his karting passion. “I take it very seriously and really want to make the world team. I think it is a very realistic goal for me.

“I really like doing this seminar work and working with a lot of kids. I like the consulting thing, and want to do it on my own schedule.”

Stokjo also looks forward to strengthening his partnership with Skate Canada.

“That’s where we’re headed,” he says “If they like the work, and the kids like it, we’ll continue.

“It’s what I love to do.”

Skate Canada and The Mark Lowry Memorial Sport Excellence Fund Committed to Leading Edge Sport Science Initiatives

OTTAWA, ON: As part of Skate Canada’s strategic plan, the high performance program has set sights on integrating leading edge sport science into the training and monitoring of Canada’s top figure skaters. The Mark Lowry Memorial Sport Excellence Fund has allowed Skate Canada to work on motion analysis, one of the sport sciences being integrated through a generous grant.

The Mark Lowry Memorial Sport Excellence Fund is an influential leader in high performance sport in Canada, which works off Lowry’s original vision: To allow our athletes to have the very best in all aspects of their training.

Integrating full motion analysis in figure skating without losing the important intricacies of choreography and musicality has meant challenging the science beyond that typically used in other sports. The funds provided by the foundation will allow key aspects of full-rink motion analysis to be completed so that Canadian athletes can access the best motion analysis. The new initiative will be available at the Skate Canada National Performance Centre in Toronto as early as October of 2015.

Monica Lockie, National Performance Centre Director has highlighted the importance of this technology being available as a service at the centres, “As our skaters aspire to maintain their top ranking in the world, it is essential to be able to give them as many advantages as possible in their training. Using a state of the art motion analysis system will allow our skaters to evaluate more key performance indicators to hone their technique both at the top level and on the development pathway. Being able to offer this service at our National Performance Centres is ideal for athlete growth in the in the critical area of motion analysis.”

Skate Canada High Performance Director Mike Slipchuk stressed the importance of this new technology, “Giving our athletes valuable feedback through the motion analysis system will be critical in the success of our program leading into the 2018 and Olympic Winter Games and our next generation athletes striving for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and beyond. We are thankful for the support of the Mark Lowry Memorial Sport Excellence Fund and look forward to seeing this program come to fruition.”

Skate Canada also wishes to acknowledge the continuing support of outstanding partners like Sport Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), and Own the Podium (OTP) with whom we strive together for excellence in high performance.

Kraatz honoured for his impact in Canadian Sport

Victor Kraatz hadn’t expected to be inducted into the Hall of Fame of the British Columbia/Yukon skating section on May 2. The memories fluttered back from long, long ago. It was a great honour.

In recent years, he’s been out of the loop. He’d moved on, left figure skating behind. He hasn’t set foot in a figure skating rink in about 2 and a half years, since he began teaching skating skills to young hockey players all over the lower mainland of British Columbia.

But the glittery Hall of Fame night came, the crowd gave Kraatz a standing ovation, and of course, everyone had to watch a video of Kraatz and partner Shae-Lynn Bourne, in green garb, skating to their signature routine, the high-energy “Riverdance” from the 1997-1998 season.

Kraatz’s 4-year-old son, Henry, tugged at his father’s sleeve and said: “That’s not Mommie. Who is that woman?”

Kraatz is married to former Finnish ice dancer Maikki Uotila, and has two sons, Oliver, 8 and Henry. ”My oldest understands that there was a figure skating background of some sort,” Kraatz said. “And that I may have accomplished something. He’s not quite sure.”

“But the little guy just thinks I play hockey. That’s all he’s known of me. I coach hockey. I work with kids all the time. I’m on the go, so the little guy was really confused.”

Kraatz’s new world doesn’t necessarily realize that he was a 10-time Canadian ice dancing champion with Bourne, a three-time Olympian, and a world champion in 2003. And that this unforgettable duo brought hydroblading to the vocabulary of skating, that they dared to be different with their Riverdance routine, in which they transferred a stationary dance to the glide of the blade with blinding footwork.

On learning of his induction, Kraatz’s mind immediately went to the people who had input into his skating career and his life.

Born in Germany, Kraatz started out as a hockey player when his family lived in Switzerland. But that all ended when a coach bluntly told him that he was too short. “You’re done,” he was told.

He learned his first skating skills with former Swiss pair champions Mona and Peter Szabo, who taught him the fundamentals and all sorts of caring life lessons. Kraatz moved to Vancouver at age 15, and coach Joanne Sloman played a major role in teaching extra skills sessions. Kraatz invited her to the Hall of Fame ceremonies.

During the early 1990s, Kraatz moved to Montreal to train with Eric Gillies and Josee Picard, also instrumental in his career.  He loved Picard’s tough work ethic. “I liked her style and I liked who she was as a person. I really respected her,” Kraatz said. It was tough for him to leave, he said.

A relationship with Uschi Keszler, was also important: she was “relentless” in having he and Bourne show communication between the two and that they remain true to themselves. Tatiana Tarasova took the team to a new level.

Most of all, there was Bourne, who Kraatz called the most important person in his life at the time. They were completely different people, Kraatz found. “I just loved the freedom that she had,” Kraatz said. “There were no boundaries. She wanted to experience the joy of life. And I was very set.

“She would always say: ‘Let’s have fun.’ And I would go: ‘No, fun in German means just not working hard. Fun is fun. And work has to be work.’ She’d say: ‘Canadian fun means just enjoying it.’ For the longest time, I never understood that having-fun part of training.”

By their final year together, Bourne’s life force rubbed off on Kraatz. Kraatz learned to trust his training and relax. It worked.

But it all ended a short time after Bourne and Kraatz won the world title. Today, Kraatz acknowledges that the breakup of the team was his fault. He had been so driven to work, even on breaks and vacations; he’d head straight to the gym. “I personally did not have the release,” he said. “I never wanted to be out of shape. I always wanted to be on the top of my game, because that’s who I wanted to be.”  Things fell apart.

Today, Kraatz has huge admiration for Bourne, who has made a career of being a world-class choreographer. “She was such a wonderful person,” Kraatz said. “It’s unbelievable what she brought to the table. I was very lucky that I skated with her, that I was able to spend that much time with her. We always had a great professional relationship and I’m so grateful for that.”

In 2003, Kraatz needed something else. He moved back to Vancouver, and taught skating for a while. But to truly forge his own path, he went to school and studied marketing. But it wasn’t easy, when all of his credentials were as an athlete. He found work at a marketing agency in Yaletown, when one day his life changed on a fluke. A friend told Kraatz he was going on a break and could he look after his hockey team? Sure, said Kraatz and promptly went out and bought hockey skates, a helmet, a stick and a puck.

His first session with the hockey players “went really horrible,” Kraatz said. But the coach said: “We want you back. You’ve got to come back tomorrow.” About 2 and a half years ago, Kraatz decided to ditch the marketing career for the open arms of hockey.

These days, Kraatz moves with ease in his new life. It allows him to contribute, to create. He has some 6-year-olds that are doing well. He has some teenagers. He has a player who was on the roster for a Junior A team in Kelowna. Like Szabo, Kraatz tries to teach life lessons to his young charges. And he has gone back to the gym, to meet the increasing physical demands of his new work.

“I’ve come full circle,” Kraatz said. ”It’s something as a kid I always wanted to do and I didn’t have the chance to do it.” When he pulled the hockey skates on, all of his muscle memory came back from his teens. The boots felt light.

He feels like he used to when he was a figure skater: he wakes up every morning and it doesn’t matter if he feels tired. He also feels energized. “That feeling is back,” Kraatz said. “I’m finally back. I’m finding myself. I am myself again.”

It’s been a long road for Kraatz.

Jeremy Ten on his own terms

Click click. Click. Click…Send.

And with that, listening to the sound of the ocean on vacation in Mexico with his skating friends, Jeremy Ten finally wrote the end to his competitive skating career, telling Skate Canada by email that he was ending his miraculous final season on a high note.

Yes, Ten has retired, after a marvelous season in which he exceeded all expectations. Contemplating retirement a year earlier after missing the Sochi Olympic team, Ten finally decided to take one more year to skate the way he wanted to with certain goals: to get a quad in his arsenal, to get a Grand Prix (he got two) and to show up at nationals in front of noisy Canadian fans, attack his programs and skate with his heart on his sleeve. And he did.

But the season went so well – he earned the Canadian silver medal and a trip to the his second world championships after a five-year hiatus, and to the World Team Trophy, an event he had always wanted to do – that he felt the urge to continue, do more of this.

“There was a part of me that said: ‘Oh just do one more year, really have fun with it, keep going,’” Ten said. And then he thought about the welfare of his 26-year-old body. And reason reigned.

“I thought about the state of my physical being,” Ten said. “I just knew it wouldn’t work. Trying to learn a quad at my age, when you’re competing against kids who have been doing it since they were 17 or 18, and didn’t have to go through injuries, it takes a toll.”

Ten did get his quad at a stately age, during this past season (delayed because of a few seasons of serious injuries) and it came far more easily than his triple Axel. In fact, it was a lovely one, and he could do it with a triple toe loop in practice. But doing it in a competition setting was another story. During the six-minute warm-ups for Nationals, Four Continents and World Championships, he took hard falls to his left hip while attempting the quad. Always that left hip.

The jump was still new, and the smallest detail could throw it off kilter. Throw in a little adrenalin and a pumping heart in a compressed time frame of a warmup and down he went. While training the quad, he had never fallen like that.

“It’s one of those falls where you land sideways on your blade and you don’t know where you are, and you come down and you smack your hip on the ice,” he said. “As the season progressed, it was starting to bother me more and more.”

After a hard fall in the warm-up for the long program at Nationals, coach Joanne McLeod came up to Ten and told him: ‘We went to Autumn Classic without a quad and you did great there. I don’t think you should do it here.”

But Ten had trained all season to get that quad and he wanted to stick to the plan. He fell on it during the long program. Still, his performance was a triumph. When his marks came up, he saw that he was second in the free, and then he saw that he was first overall (with Nam Nguyen still to skate). “I thought I misheard it,” he said. “And then I saw the screen and then I just dropped everything. I think I threw my water bottle at one point.” McLeod burst into tears into his chest. “I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” she said. Their reaction to Ten’s achievement was some of the best theatre of the event.

Ten’s best attempt at landing the quad was at NHK Trophy in Japan. At worlds and Four Continents the warm-up falls on the quad bothered him more. And he started to feel the wear and tear on his body. “I do want to walk in the near future,” he said. “I don’t want to get hip surgery before I’m 30.”

And the falls rattled him a bit, especially at the World Championships, because it was such an important event. He took out the quad for World Team Trophy, an event he said was “the funnest competition I’ve ever done.”

His short program – clean – at the World Championships in Shanghai was a triumph. “This whole season was about me trying to live out my potential and I feel that going to worlds and skating that short program was it for me,” Ten said. “I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I wanted to do. And that made it easier.”

Just because Ten is leaving behind his competitive career doesn’t mean he will be standing still. On Friday, June 12, Ten graduated from Simon Fraser University with a degree in health sciences and a minor in kinesiology.

He’s currently dabbling in choreography, with hopes his career will head in that direction. He feels music and enjoys it and his forte was his artistic side. Ten is also coaching on the side, doing clinics, workshops and seminars. Last weekend, he did a seminar for the Alberta Provincial Team. A few weeks ago, he did another one in Canmore, Alta. and before that, he travelled to New Brunswick to offer up his knowledge there. He’s trying to book some shows, too.

“It’s time to grow up,” he said. He leaves the competitive side of the sport with no regrets now. He feels that he’s in a happy place and has a lot of opportunities coming his way. “I feel like I’m leaving the sport because it’s my choice and not because I’m being pushed out of the sport,” he said.