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Triathlon opens doors to Skate Ontario Championships

With the Skate Ontario Championships slated for Sudbury from March 18th to the 20th, local competitors are pulling out all stops in order to qualify in at least one discipline that will be contested.

A relative newcomer to the world of figure skating, the “Skating Triathlon” seems to be garnering more interest with every passing year, and representatives of the Copper Cliff Skating Club are not at all immune to the phenomenon.

Combining sessions of free skating, interpretive and skills, the Triathlon attempts to cover a number of bases in a format that is markedly different than the strictly free skating road to nationals, with its strong emphasis on athleticism through jumps.

A native of Manitoulin Island, Karissa Merrylees opted to make her initial foray into the world of triathlons in this, her eighth year of skating, introduced to the figure skating version earlier this fall at “Skokie Skate”.

“It was a little rough, to be honest,” acknowledged Merrylees. “It was my first time competing in triathlon, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But I learned a lot, and I’m re-working my skills routine, putting together a completely new routine.”

“I was lacking in my double jumps, compared to other skaters, so I’ve started working on my double axel. My skills program wasn’t very elaborate, kind of basic stuff,” continued the 17 year-old skater.

“Now, I have to try and find some unique things that I can do, something that is going to catch the judges’ eyes, show more strength in my skating skills.”

The attraction of the Triathlon, for many, lies in a heavy focus on musical interpretation, that ability to make the music that accompanies the skater come alive on ice.

It’s an area where 16 year-old Elizabeth Vaillancourt excels. In fact, the young lady who is also competing in the junior silver women division this year, has enjoyed success during her past few visits to Island Skate, and one unique competition that is offered in Little Current.

“They have the creative event, which is where you don’t know what the music is going to be,” explained Vaillancourt. “You get to listen to it twice, and then you go skate. Normally, I do well there.”

Blessed with above-average height, Vaillancourt notes the pros and cons of working with that body type on the ice. “I like the interpretive and skills rather than free skates, because I’m not really a jumper,” she said.

“I find, personally, that it’s hard for me, because I’m tall. Flexibility and spins are my thing. What I need to try and improve on is my jumps, because I find the other girls are a lot better at jumping than I am. The other stuff is equal.”

“My biggest struggle is psyching myself out before I go into a jump,” added Vaillancourt. “But now I’m getting into a better area, where I am flowing into the jumps a lot more.”

Merrylees and Vaillancourt will join dozens of other local skaters in Copper Cliff, January 16th and 17th, when the CCSC plays host to the 2016 Rainbow Country Interclub figure skating competition, eventually moving on to Festival of STARS in Sault Ste Marie in February, looking to qualify for provincials.

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