Changes to the Skate Ontario model have certainly made navigating the local landscape of figure skating that much more challenging in recent years.
Throw in the effects of the pandemic which coincided with a general decrease in skaters for some of the clubs in the outlying areas and one has a sport that must now be covered far differently than it was when I first jumped into the realm of local sports reporting some twenty years ago.
At the very core of figure skating, however, as is the case with pretty well every athletic endeavour under the sun, the basics have not changed: young athletes pushing themselves to the limit with hopes that it all comes together at just the right time.
For the 17 local youngsters who travelled to Sault Ste Marie this past weekend, site of Provincial Series #6 (Lake Superior), that was the end goal – though given the lack of competition through much of the fall of 2020 to fall of 2022 period, as well as the injection of very young talent into the local ranks, there is also a very large emphasis on simply benefitting from the experience that competition provides.
One of five young women representing the Copper Cliff Skating Club, Brooke Campeau was a gold medal winner in both Star 5 Artistic and her Elements events, though that wasn’t what she was most pumped about as she made her way home on Sunday.
“I was more happy about getting on the podium with my solo,” said the 16 year-old grade 11 student at Confederation Secondary School, referencing the event in which she added a bronze medal to her weekend hardware collection. “In Garson (competition in December), a lot went wrong with it and I wanted to prove to myself that I could improve in such a short time and show that I could do what was in my solo.”
Starting her skating career in Valley East but making the move to the CCSC four to five years ago, Campeau has endured the ups and downs that came with Covid-19, all while retaining very modest and personal visions for her sport. “I skated all the way through,” she stated. “There were times when it was kind of frustrating, but I pushed through it.”
“Ever since my mom put me in skating, it was never about wanting to be a Canadian champion,” Campeau added. “That was never my goal. I kind of just liked the challenge of getting new jumps and new skills and trying to create my own skills.”
Her free skate featured a pair of double salchow jumps which she landed, one as part of a combination with a single loop on the end. Conversely, after landing her double toe loop in the warm-up, she under-rotated it slightly in competition – though she did note that there is not always a correlation between the pre-event practice and the competitive program that might follow it only a few minutes later.
“I think it’s more of a mind game,” said Campeau. “I know some skaters who have had a bad warm-up and still get to the podium and some other skaters who had a bad warm-up and it gets in their heads. For me, I try and look at it as though I am getting all of my falls out of the way before my actual routine.”
Campeau was joined in the Sault by fellow CCSC skaters Beth Jewitt (silver medal in gold artistic), Jenna Eastman (gold medal in Star 5 Artistic NQ), Emma Chateauvert (bronze medal in Star 8 Women’s Free Skate) and Lacey MacKinnon, who finished just one slot back of Chateauvert in the free skate.
The remaining locals – Sasha Gilchrist, Elodie Goupil, Rebecca Ryan, Samatha Clarke, Emily Guillet, Lana Cruikshank, Maya Gilchrist, Penelope Tibble, Katelyn Ryan, Lachlan Cruikshank, Merik Demoré and Gabrielle Charette – were all representing the Nickel Blades Skating Club in Garson.
Given some of the afore-mentioned changes within the Skate Ontario (and Skate Canada approach), formal results for any category below Star 4 are no longer listed, but the trio of Nickel Blades Star 5 competitors walked away with half of the top six placements in the Star 5 artistic event (Sasha Gilchrist - 3rd, Elodie Goupil - 5th, Rebecca Ryan - 6th), with Gilchrist adding a bronze medal in the Star 5 U13 grouping to her resume as well.
Like many of the other Sudbury skaters, Lana Cruikshank also competed at the Provincial Series #2 event, which as luck would have it was hosted by her home club in Garson. When it comes to figure skating, ice familiarity, apparently, can be a huge benefit.
“I would say that I was way better in Garson because I have a technique for skating,” explained Cruikshank, an 11 year-old grade six student at Northeastern Elementary. “There are certain lines and then a move for each specific spot. Every line helps; it helps me get to my exact spot, to do it in the way I would like to do it.”
“The Sault Ste Marie lines and circles were a little different, so it was a little bit harder.”
With her next meet set for Toronto in late February, Cruikshank will be spending plenty of time in practice working on both her flip jump and most notably her lutz. “It’s a tricky jump because you start backwards and you’ve got to put your toe in pretty far and then spin and jump.”
“It’s a hard one.”
As for the Sudbury Skating Club, their young athletes bypassed the competition this past weekend in favour of the upcoming Star 1-4 Huntsville Skokie Skate on January 21st and 22nd.