It's not all that often that the first and the last come together as one.
That said, it's entirely possible, nay, probable that the first Canadian Figure Skating Championship that Mikayla Fabbro would attend will also represent the last trek to the cross-country event for Sudbury Hall of Fame coach Wendy Phillion.
Though the results might not have been quite what the 15 year-old grade 10 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School was looking for, it's a very safe bet that the memories of the trip will forever be etched in her mind.
To accomplish the feat of qualifying for nationals while battling through the hurdles imposed by a global pandemic is admirable, at the very least, with the Sudbury Skating Club representative acnowledging the roller coaster nature of COVID-19.
"I found it really hard to go months without skating, once the arenas were shut down," said Fabbro. "I felt that I sort of lost myself for a while. But then I figured out how to do a bunch of at home workouts and that really motivated me."
"Watching past competitions, videos, reminded me that one day, I would be able to skate again."
True enough, though one might expect a gradual adjustment period, a stretch of time where the athlete is simply allowed to get back up to speed, to regain the form that they were displaying, pre-pandemic.
Fabbro got there in a hurry - and beyond.
The key, or at least one of the keys, was perfecting the element most likely to sway her performance from good to very good. "At home, I was using my treadmill and running outside, just because I need that endurance, and I was also practicing my jumps off-ice, especially my double axel, because that was the jump I really wanted to work on once we got back on the ice," Fabbro outlined.
Come time for Sectionals in November, she was ready to give her jump a good spin.
"Sectionals went a lot better than I ever could have imagined; I landed the double axels in both my long and short program," she said. "That put me in a great spot going into nationals."
That would come in early December in Regina, the 2022 Skate Canada Challenge serving as the de-facto national championship meet for all pre-novice skaters across the country. It was setting unlike any that Fabbro had experienced before and, not surprisingly, it presented some challenges.
"Before leaving for nationals, I was landing my double axel super consistently," she noted. "Once I got there, I noticed I was backing off a little bit. I think it was mostly in my mind; my body knew what to do, but I was just holding back a bit in my mind."The discouragement of a couple of falls lasted a day or two. But just a few days back in Sudbury and Fabbro had shed the disappointment in favour of a renewed focus, one aimed at learning from the experience, using it to better herself in competitions moving forward.
"Skating with the best of the best really motivated me when I got home," she said. "No matter how good my training is going, there are always people who are pushing themselves even harder - and I just got to skate with all of those skaters."
Upcoming practices will include more perfecting of the double axel, but also, she hopes, the introduction of a triple salchow in time for provincials come the end of January.
And if she needs a smile on her face to help overcome the failed jump attempts in local rinks that eventually lead to soaring through the air at the time that it matters the most, Fabbro will close her eyes and think of the woman who has been at her side virtually every step of this journey.
"I really enjoyed spending so much time with Wendy at this event, getting to know her even better," said Fabbro. "Travelling with her is something I will always remember from this competition."
Chances are good that is a sentiment that will be shared and echoed by her long-time coach.