One month ago, Yukon figure skater Katie Blaker wanted to quit. The 14-year-old athlete had had enough and was ready to hang up her skates for good.
It was her family, coach and fellow skaters who convinced her to try out and compete at these Arctic Winter Games.
And after a silver-medal performance Tuesday in the short program and a fourth-place skate in the long program Wednesday, her passion for the sport has been renewed.
“This was a definitely a big boost for Katie,” said AWG coach Lori Austin after Wednesday’s long program.
“This is a brand new program, the first time I’ve done it in competition, and I think I did really well,” added Blaker in the dressing room minutes after her performance Wednesday. “I’m happy again and I think I’ll continue. I’d like to try for Canada Games.”
Figure skating is loaded with pressure and emotion and while AWG are pegged as a fun, friendly week of sports and culture, the competition can be fierce.
“I am very surprised by the level of competition here,” said Austin. “We have a pretty new team, only three veterans, so these Games have been pretty up and down. It’s been good overall.
“These competitions are always emotional because most of these girls go out expecting a perfect performance, and it isn’t always there.”
While for some, the long program was capped with tears over missed steps or mangled jumps, Yukoner Samantha Jarvis was beaming when she got off the ice.
“I got third; I can’t believe it,” she exclaimed minutes after checking the results.
That means a bronze ulu, which, she said, she’ll display proudly in her bedroom.
“I’m very, very surprised,” she said. “I was really sick before and, personally, I didn’t think I had a very good skate, so I am actually really surprised.”
Wednesday’s routine was a new one for the 12 year old and included an axel, several loop combinations and a stag-toe-loop combo, among other things.
“I can’t watch the people who skate before me because I just think, ‘Oh man, I can’t do that,’ so I just concentrate on my own routine and drink lots of water,” said Jarvis.
Jarvis is using this, her first Arctic Winter Games, to meet new people and learn about new cultures.
Blaker, however, has focused on skating and not much more. Skating in Level 4, the highest at these Games, Blaker was the last to skate in her group on Wednesday.
“It was actually kind of nice because I get to see what everyone else is doing and going last means you can leave a better impression with the judges if you skate well,” she said.
After the Games are all over, Austin is hoping that even if her skaters don’t go home with an ulu they will have taken a lot away from their week in the Kenai.
“If you’re disappointed, you have to be a gracious loser and if you win, you can’t gloat, so this experience teaches them good sportsmanship,” said the coach.
Here are the final results from Wednesday’s long program.
1st Celina Farmer, Alaska
2nd Sarah Ayiku, NWT
3rd Samantha Jarvis, Yukon
4th Sydney Stark, Alaska
6th Jade Reed,
3rd Lisa Do,
10th Sydney Litwin, Alberta
1st Ellie Gottstein, Alaska
2nd Jacquoline Burns, NWT
3rd Suneeta Whiteside,
4th Arcacia Miller, Alberta
5th Sarah Elke, NWT
6th Jodi Neufeld, Yukon
7th Karin Sederberg, Yukon
8th Melissa Cunniff, Alaska
1st LeAnna Jagger, Alaska
2nd Jocelyn Ribar, Alaska
3rd Brianna Antypowich,
4th Katie Blaker, Yukon
5th Amelia Austin, Yukon
6th Tara Kaip, NWT
7th Errika Kritsch, NWT
8th Kayla Spragg, Alberta