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Local skaters look to qualify under new provincial format

Perhaps, in the end, change will be for the good.

In the meantime, figure skaters and coaches in the north will continue to work with what they have, lobbying for the necessary alterations as everyone involved deals with the ripple effects of a fairly significant overhaul of the Skate Ontario competitive stream two years ago.

"I don't like how they have added extra dances and changed all of the skills and stuff," suggested 13 year old Alexa Kneblewski. "But they have a reason for it, and I'm pretty sure it's for the better."

Kneblewski joined a number of her Sudbury Skating Club teammates, along with local representatives from the Copper Cliff Skating Club, Nickel Blades Skating Club, Walden Figure Skating Club and Verner Figure Skating Club in Sault Ste Marie earlier this month, site of one of the many Super Series events being staged right across the province.

Where these competitions were few and far between, north of Barrie, in the year immediately following the move away from regional showdowns in 2017, the current skating season is sprinkled with at least a handful of events in these parts, including one in Sudbury, as the Nickel Blades play host to skaters from 36 different clubs on the weekend of February 21st to the 23d at Countryside Arena.

Although she would not better her personal best scores in the Sault, Kneblewski still ranks 15th, in the province, in the Star 7 O12 bracket, looking to make one final jump up the ladder at home next month.

"We're working on my double lutz and aiming for that February competition, but it's kind of sketchy," said the talkative grade eight student at C.R. Judd Public School in Capreol. "It's just a weird jump and it's always been an off jump for me. Even the single (lutz), when I was younger, was hard to get."

Beyond the technical aspects of her jumps, Kneblewski has also worked hard on her mental approach, focused on overcoming the challenge of perseverance when all is not going as well as anticipated during a routine.

"Usually, if I am starting to fall on an element, I tend to just give up," she acknowledged candidly. "But in the Sault, I was trying to fight to stand up and stay standing. It's a tough habit for me to break. I've gotten in the bad habit of just sitting down if it's not good, because I'm such a perfectionist."

"But I've learned that even if it's not perfect, you can still get good marks for it." Musically, there is a clear contrast between the short and long programs that Kneblewski will perform, though she admits that the carry-over of the music from her interpretive routine last year to her short program this year has left her longing for a change.

"If I didn't have it for my interpretive, I probably would like it better than my long program," she said. "It's fun, it's really jazzy. It's just really upbeat. You need to get into the music, you need to feel the music. My long (program) feels really graceful, with a really slow song, and then it gets a bit faster with my footwork."

"My short is pretty much fast throughout the whole thing."

Myla Weiman (Star 8 women) had no issues with her marks in Sault Ste Marie.

Bumping her personal best score in her long program to 29.09, the Sudbury Skating Club veteran has moved all the way up to ninth place in her grouping, with 18 skaters expected to make the cut in this category to attend the Skate Ontario Provincial Championships in Belleville at the end of March.

"At my last competition in November, in Keswick, I was sick, so that didn't help my scores much," said the 15 year old grade 10 student at College Notre-Dame, who is also an accomplished competitive soccer player with the GSSC Impact.

"That wasn't my best skate, but I think I've improved a lot this year - and I wasn't sick this time."

While the Star stream maxes out at the all-Ontario level, this competitive environment is near perfect for Weiman, who foregoes a year-round devotion to skating in favour of the more broad based multi-sport approach.

"I think the soccer helps my cardio for my skating, helps my stamina," she said. "It also helps with agility, I guess."

Having endured a growth spurt last year that triggered some challenges on the ice, Weiman is hoping to qualify for provincials for the third time, armed with a greater self-assurance as she readies for the local event in February.

"Last year, I wasn't as good, but this year, I feel more confident, I feel that I am better," she said. "My jumps are definitely better. I think I'm jumping higher, using my knees more."

Ironically, her successful long program came after a short program did not go as well, with Weiman having to regroup before hitting the ice for a second time that weekend. "Before my long, I reminded myself to take deep breaths, and that helped a lot, just to calm me down a little bit."

"And my first jump (double salchow double toe combination) is key, because it boosts my confidence if I land it. If you don't start well at the beginning, it just affects your whole program."

While there are still a good number of Super Series events slated for this winter, such that many skaters who currently show as making the cut for provincials could still be bumped, following are other locals who are well positioned, at the moment:

Mikayla Fabbro (Sudbury SC - Juvenile Women - U14) - 9th - 28.07
Alexa Kneblewski (Sudbury SC - Juvenile Women - U14) - 27th - 22.67
Chelsea Chateauvert (Copper Cliff SC - Star 10 Women) - 25th - 26.25
Mikayla Fabbro (Sudbury SC - Star 9 Women - U14) - 7th - 24.45
Gillian Dwyer (Sudbury SC - Star 6 Women) - 50th - 20.23
Vanessa Major (Sudbury SC - Star 5 Women - O13) - 17.30
Sophie Caza (Sudbury SC - Star 5 Women - O13) - 16.88
Logan Bain (Verner SC - Star 5 Women - U13) - 17.07

The bulk of these skaters will also compete at Super Series #14 being hosted by the Nickel Blades, with clubs from Gloucester, Marathon, Barrie, Wawa, Renfrew, Chapleau and Hearst among those sending representatives to Sudbury, creating a gathering of nearly 300 skaters, for the weekend.

Orendorff and Associates