Tag Archive for: natasha purich

New pair team Natasha Purich and Drew Wolfe set to take on Cup of China

Just when you thought pair skating (alas, everywhere) was down at the heels, tattered and torn and riddled with defections, along has come a little herd of intrepid risk-takers.

Like Natasha Purich and Drew Wolfe.

They – and other new and relatively new faces – are going to make the pair event at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships a fiery contest, come January in Kingston, Ont.

The Purich and Wolfe partnership just seems right. They are buddies from Alberta, (she from Edmonton, he from Calgary), now both training in Montreal. (As luck would have it, they both were in French immersion schools.) They met each other skating sectionals in Alberta, from about the age of 10 or 11.

They have come at pair skating from oddly different directions: Wolfe has been a singles skater and for the last four or five years, an ice dancer. In Wolfe’s hand, Purich glows. At their first event, the Skate Canada Autumn Classic Intern ational, they finished third in the short program with a throw triple Lutz, a combo spin that earned a level four and an excellent death spiral, too.

That Wolfe can do a death spiral is an event in itself. Before he hitched up with Purich six months ago, he had never skated pairs. “When I was younger, I thought there’s not a chance that I’m going to put this girl over my head,” he said. “That just seems way too dangerous. “ Coach Richard Gauthier says he’s never seen a pair skater learn such skills so quickly. He shocked all of them, with what he could do in the first three days.

Okay, so what was hardest for both? Purich wants to say the twist. After all, the male not only has to throw the partner, but catch her as well. However, Wolfe says it’s that deadly death spiral. “It was a weird feeling to get used to the force that another skater would pull on you that much on an edge,” he said. The first one he did went okay. He figures that was beginner’s luck. The second one, not so much. That has changed since, however. They got a level four on their forward inside death spiral in the short program at the Autumn Classic.

As for Purich, who skated last year with former world bronze medalist Mervyn Tran (now off to skate for his third country), she has had to up her game with skating skills and edges to match the ice-dancing crafts of Wolfe.

Seemingly improving by leaps and bounds, they will further show off their wares at Cup of China, their only Grand Prix event.

Wolfe had been skating singles at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club in Toronto with Ghislain Briand – and soaking up the influences of skating in the same rink as Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez – when he thought he might like try pairs. “I’m a big tall guy,” he said. Briand and Gauthier are friends. The next thing Wolfe knew, he was in a tryout with Purich, doing some stroking and elements.

“Of course this was all new to me,” he said. Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte were welcoming and supportive.

“It seemed like they had some faith in me,” he said. ”It’s kind of unexpected, but it seems like the right fit. We both came from different sides of the sport.” And, he said, it’s been very motivating to skate in the same rink as two-time world bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.

“Honestly, he’s just a natural,” Purich said of her new partner. “It’s kind of weird. I think we were doing double twists in two days.”

Because of his dance background, Wolfe said he knew how to place a partner in the right spot. Not everything went smoothly. They had their peaks and valleys. Working also with Syvie Fullum, Julie Marcotte and Cynthia Lemaire, nothing is left untouched in the school, Wolfe said. The learning environment is very positive. All of the teams push each other.

Goals for a new team? Their focus had been just to get to nationals and develop a solid base together. They hadn’t expected even the Autumn Classic. It was a big deal. Style will come with time. They want to be unique.

And it helps that Wolfe loves music. “I adore it,” he said. “Music is my favourite.” He likes to perform, to entertain. Three or four years ago, he skated to Santana and Colin James because his Alberta coach thought it would be a good fit for his style. Wolfe has always had the final say in his music choices. This time, he left it to Julie Marcotte, and made himself trust her. He planned to keep an open mind.

When Marcotte gave them a blues for their short program – “Three Hours Past Midnight” by Colin James – Wolfe just started to chuckle. “I guess I had no reason to worry,” he said. “It was pretty hilarious.” They skate the free to “The Artist” – and that’s a perfect routine for Purich. The programs are very different.

“It’s big and it’s broad and it’s also subtle,” Wolfe said of “The Artist” soundtrack. “There is a lot of variety and you can play with it and you can be powerful with it. And it’s really what Natasha does.”

So no, pair skating in Canada does not look so desolate as it did six months ago. “It makes it fun for us and the good thing is, it gets people interested,” Wolfe said. “New faces bring interest.”

Purich and Tran crack top-five at Four Continents

TAIPEI – Natasha Purich of Sherwood Park, Alta., and Mervin Tran of Regina climbed from seventh to fifth place in pairs on Friday at the ISU Four Continents Championships figure skating competition.

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China took the gold in front of three American couples.

Purich and Tran didn’t match their best scores earned at a Grand Prix in Paris in November but still made a big move to post their best international result in their first season together.

“Our long program wasn’t as good as we would have liked,” said Purich. “But we fought to the end and didn’t give up. We know we can be better.”

Margaret Purdy of Strathroy, Ont., and Michael Marinaro of Sarnia, Ont., were seventh.

In men’s singles, all three Canadians produced clean free skates. Jeremy Ten of Vancouver was ninth, 15-year-old Nam Nguyen of Burnaby, B.C., was 10th and Elladj Baldé of Pierrefonds, Que., 11th. Takahito Mura led Japan to a 1-2 finish.

Ten set a personal best international score of 208.51. ‘’I fought through like I always do,’’ he said. ‘’I’m happy with my performance and I have a lot of positives to take away with me such as my short program and being in the last flight.’’

Nguyen also earned a personal best international score of 204.69. ‘’I feel great because I was able to accomplish my goals that I have set coming into this competition,’’ he said.

Baldé gained two spots in the standings and landed his first quadruple jump in competition in a long program. Still he admitted it was difficult to recharge the battery after the intensity of the national championships three weeks ago.

‘’It was hard to find the strength and inner power to compete,’’ said Baldé, 13th after the short program. ‘’I had a tough short program but I was pleased to come back back this strong for the long. There’s still a lot to work on but it’s nice to finish here on a positive note.’’

Competition ends Saturday with the women’s free skate.

Full results: http://www.isuresults.com/results/fc2014/index.htm

Mervin Tran dons the maple leaf with new partner Natasha Purich

It’s nothing new for a skater named Tran to navigate unexpected turns in his life and his career.

From September 25 to 28, Mervin Tran will find himself at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany with his new pair partner, Natasha Purich, a fiery redhead from Alberta who will compete in only her second senior competition. Nebelhorn will mark their first competition together and the start of a promising career.

The good news is that Tran, a world bronze pair medalist for Japan at the highest levels, is now skating for Canada. It’s where his heart is.

Tran is the son of a Cambodian mother and a Vietnamese father, who came to Canada as refugees, unable to speak English. Mervin was born in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Figure skating wasn’t at the top of the family plan. Obviously the Trans had cleverly clued into the fact that in Canada, boys play hockey, so young Tran took up hockey in Regina. When coaches told Tran he needed to learn how to skate first, and suggested he enrol in CanSkate, Tran took the road less travelled and became a singles skater.

He competed in singles until 2007, when he reluctantly became a pair skater. Tiny Japanese skater Narumi Takahashi had been tugging at the sleeve of Montreal pair coach, Richard Gauthier for a couple of years, asking for a pair partner from Canada (pair coaches and male pair skaters in Japan being as scarce as mittens on a Miami beach). As luck would have it, pair coach Bruno Marcotte was driving from Vancouver to Montreal for a new job working with pair coach Richard Gauthier, and remembered Tran along the way.

Tran wasn’t at all interested. He told his coach in no uncertain terms: “No.” He thought pair skating was a sport for competitors who couldn’t cut it as singles skaters. “I was close-minded,” Tran said. His coach, however, advised Tran not to knock it until he tried it. The Montreal coaches convinced him to come to the Quebec City at least for a good shopping experience. That worked.

In Montreal, Tran fell in love with the speed of pair skating. Once he tossed Takahashi into a throw, he was hooked. And after five years with Takahashi, skating for Japan, the twosome won a surprise bronze medal at the 2012 world championships in Nice, France. “It still feels like a dream,” Tran said. “It all happened really fast.”

Their success bred new dreams: What about the Olympics? At first Tran had no intention of getting his Japanese citizenship, required of an Olympic competitor, because it also meant he’d have to renounce his Canadian passport. Then Takahashi and Tran had helped Japan win a World Team Trophy – and the Japanese team had always had to depend only on its strong singles skaters. Now they had a world class pair. And there was to be a new team event at the Sochi Olympics.

Tran tweeted: “I will continue to think critically about my decision as I would very much like to go.” Japan had been supportive when things were tough. But another wrinkle in the plan: rules required that Tran would have to maintain residency in Japan for years to get citizenship, and considering that the pair trained in Canada, it seemed impossible. The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee said he would make a special request to the government to help Tran become part of the Olympic team.

Tran weighed how long it would take him to become a citizen of Canada again after the Olympics were over. “I do want to live the rest of my life in Canada,” he said. “I love this place.”

After looking into it for a while, Tran found the difficulties were insurmountable. Takahashi found a new Japanese partner in February of 2013 while recovering from shoulder and knee surgery and by March, Tran hooked up with a very Canadian Purich.

The breakup wasn’t easy for their fans, because Takahashi and Tran had developed a relationship over the years and “people won’t forget that soon,” he said. “But Natasha and I are starting something new. It’s only been six months. We haven’t been able to build that yet, but we’re hoping to go forward many, many years.”

Ironically enough, Tran will meet his old partner, Takahashi, at Nebelhorn with her new partner, Ryuchi Kihara, a junior-level skater who had been tenth at the 2011 world junior championships in singles. Takahashi and Kihara train in Detroit under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen.

Purich has spent her career as a promising junior in both singles and pairs and she’s taking a big step into the big leagues. “It’s a whole new ballgame,” she admitted. “It’s exciting to be able to compete at this level with somebody who has been there. I got really lucky.”

Purich is only Tran’s second partner, but they knew each other. Purich was already skating in Montreal with Sebastien Arcieri, with whom she won the junior national silver medal last season. In women’s singles, she finished fourth at the junior level, missing a medal by only .14 points.

Purich has competed at the senior level only once before with pair partner Raymond Schultz, when they finished eighth at NHK Trophy during the 2011-2012 season.

At Nebelhorn, they will also meet the current world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia. There are 19 pairs at the event, 13 of them trying to qualify for Sochi. Canada has already qualified a maximum of three pair spots for Sochi, so Nebelhorn will be about experience for Purich and Tran. Takahashi and Kihara will need to qualify a spot for Japan at Nebelhorn.

“We want to show that we are a competitive team,” Tran said. “Our main goal is in the long run. We’d love to do the Olympics, but we are looking four to eight years down the road. We feel like we have nothing to lose. It’s going to be an exciting year.”

Beverley Smith