The Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex will be a beehive of activity this weekend. More than 350 young figure skaters from across the province are in town, participating in the Skate Ontario Championships, a field that includes a solid contingent from three local clubs.
Twelve year old Addison Elliott is one of three skaters who will represent the Walden Figure Skating Club. This marks the third straight year that Elliott has qualified for provincials, but it will be her first time enjoying the event quite so close to home.
“I’m excited for it to be in Countryside, because that’s where my solo was actually put together last summer,” she said. “I had a lot of practice with the bigger arena. I like the extra width, because it gives you more jumping area, and the extra length is helpful too.”
"It will be a little different because all of my friends and family will be able to come out, instead of just my sister and my mom being there for me." As for the competition itself, Elliott is truthfully concerned only with the facets of the event that are within her control.
"I want to try and do my best, do a clean skate, a really good skate that I'm proud of," she said. "I don't care where I rank, as long as it's good for me."
Jayme Palys (14) began the season competing in the Bronze Triathlon grouping, switching over to Star Five a little over a month before the qualifying Festival of Stars competition in February in Sault Ste Marie. Thankfully, her musical accompaniment from the Broadway musical Chicago quickly put her at ease.
“My coach picked it out for me, because the solo I had last year was slow and graceful, and it didn’t really suit me,” said Palys. “I get to express more of myself in this piece.” Still, the notion of qualifying for the all-Ontario showdown was not necessarily front of mind as she stepped out onto the ice in the Lock City.
"I was not very confident," Palys acknowledged. "It was a new program, and I was a little shaky on it. But the skills part of my Triathlon training really helped for Star Five - my footwork, transitioning skills, rockers and counters and brackets."
Both Palys, along with Walden clubmate Marina De Paolis, are taking part in the Skate Ontario Championships for the first time. A 15 year-old grade nine student at Lockerby Composite, De Paolis believes that her road to provincials actually began with something of a rocky start at the Rainbow Interclub event in January.
“I didn’t skate as well as I would have liked to skate,” acknowledged De Paolis. "But it was a good run through to see where I needed to improve for Festival in the Sault. I worked on fixing up my choreography between elements, to help make it flow more. And I was working on just trying to get my jumps more consistently.”
Like so many of the young athletes who will compete in Sudbury this weekend, overcoming self-doubt was right near the top of the list of challenges for De Paolis. "Mostly, it's been self-confidence, just believing in myself that I could do everything, and focusing on just enjoying my skating more," she stated.
Taking part in Festival for the third time, and advancing through to provincials for the first, 14 year old Alexis Leblond suggested that her success had far less to do with technical excellence, and far more to do with a positive portrayal of her routine.
“It was mostly the interpretation,” said the member of the Copper Cliff Skating Club. “Some of the other skaters just did what they had to do. There was no facial expression, there was no happiness. I just said to myself that I was going to make the judges smile.”
While Leblond, like the others, is thankful for the opportunity to perform at Countryside, she also recognizes that the additional comfort can be something of a double-edged sword.
"I think it's a bit of an advantage in Sudbury, because I skate regularly on the ice that we will be competing on," Leblond explained. "But I also think it can be a disadvantage, because it kind of feels like a practice."
The theory will be put to the test, beginning on Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m., and continuing right through to the final event on Sunday afternoon. The remainder of the local contingent is comprised of Kiara Falvo, Breanna Baxter, Kya Weiman, Erica Gomirato and Cassandra Bilsborough from the Sudbury Skating Club, as well as the Copper Cliff tandem of Rowan McCaffrey and Taegan Penney.