Figure skating

On a typically sweltering late-August day last week, it was business as usual for a group of figure skaters gearing up for their annual end of summer test.
In the chilly Sports Centre arena, the 15 skaters–wrapped in woolen sweaters, mitts, and scarves–traversed the ice practising their jumps, spins, and footwork.
Many were using the last few hours of ice time to fine-tune their routines, with the help of the club’s seven coaches. The next day, they would be performing the dances before two judges trained by Skate Canada.
Border Skating Club coach Treena Wallace noted Thursday this kind of test is a good experience for the young athletes, because it gives them an idea of how they measure up compared with other student skaters across the country.
“The judges will be testing them against a national standard,” she said, adding “The tests allow them to take their skating to the next level. It sets them up for competition.”
The dedicated bunch take whatever ice time they can get, even during the summer. For the past month, they’ve been on the rink four evenings a week, training intensively for two hours.
“This is the first year that we’ve had a four-week (summer) program,” Wallace noted. “We usually have one or two weeks and we’ve had to work around the hockey school.”
Even during the skating season in fall and winter, figure skating plays second fiddle to hockey, and club members are left with some rather unappealing early morning practice times.
Testing levels for the skaters range from preliminary skills testing to the gold level for more advanced athletes. Following their performances, skaters are given “report cards” outlining how their performances rated against both technical and artistic criteria. The judges also discuss with each skater what areas of their performance need improvement.
Eighteen-year old Faith Armstrong, who’s been figure skating for 10 years now, insisted the evaluations aren’t as nerve-wracking as they sound.
“I don’t get as nervous anymore,” she said.
This year, Armstrong prepared four “gold level” dances for the judges, including a Viennese Waltz.
“It’s good exercise. I find it lots of fun,” she said of skating, adding that her parents had no part in her decision to take up the sport.
“I always wanted to be a figure skater. I kinda talked them into it.”
But it’s also a lot of hard work, she stressed. After the skating season officially begins September 30, Armstrong will be out of bed and on the ice by 5:45 a.m., four days out of every week, all before attending a full day of high school.
“At first it’s hard, but you get used to it,” she remarked, adding slyly, “The hockey players get all the best times.”
Registration for all winter programs at the Sports Centre, including the Border Skating Club, will take place Sept. 5 from 4-7 p.m. and Sept. 8 from 10-1 p.m.