Skaters learn from the best

Hopefully, some of Karen Magnussen’s success will rub off on local skater Kevin Caron. As Caron’s career starts to take off, he’ll…

Hopefully, some of Karen Magnussen’s success will rub off on local skater Kevin Caron.

As Caron’s career starts to take off, he’ll need to draw on her experience and expertise.

Magnussen was Canada’s premier figure skater of the early ‘70s. She won the Canadian championship five times and brought home Canada’s only medal (a silver) of the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.

The next year she won gold at the world championships, the last Canadian woman to do so.

Now, as a coach, she’s helping young skaters, including Caron, reach their potential.

Magnussen made the trip up from her home base at the North Shore Winter Club in Vancouver on Thursday to put on a three-day clinic for Caron and some of the city’s competitive skaters.

This is the first time Magnussen, who coaches several Yukoners, has made the trip.

It’s a welcome reversal to the usual commute that skaters make to train with her.

“I had a couple of days off, because of a hockey tournament at our arena, and everything has fallen into place just beautifully thanks to sponsorship from Pelly Construction and E. Caron Diamond Drilling,” said Magnussen on Saturday at the Canada Games Centre. “It’s been fantastic coming up here.”

“Were trying to get so much done while I’m here,” said Magnussen.

Thursday afternoon, all day Friday and a quick 90-minute skate on Saturday were the only time slots skaters would get with Magnussen until they can return to Vancouver.

“They’ve all responded beautifully to the work I’m doing with them,” she said.

“We’re working on creative moves, footwork, arabesques, spread eagles … all the in-between things that carry you from one jump or spin to another, and are very important for the choreography side of things,” she said.

Although the sport is more athletic than it’s ever been, Magnussen stressed that the performance is equally important in competition.

“You don’t want them to be robots; you want to bring out their individuality.”

Caron has made some remarkable achievements from an unlikely starting point. As the only male skater in the Whitehorse Skating Club, and training without a local coach, he has progressed to the national level.

“It’s been really exiting, I’ve improved so much — more than I ever thought I could,” he said.

“It’s a real credit to him,” Magnussen said of Caron’s solo training. “To have the patience and perseverance to train.

“It’s difficult, it’s not the best scenario. You have to set really high standards for yourself.”

In just a few weeks, Caron will skate in his first Junior Nationals, so the time spent with his coach is extremely valuable.

“I missed a day of school on Friday to skate,” said Caron, not sounding too upset.

He hit the ice at 6:30 a.m. Friday, and skated till 11 a.m., then ran 20 laps of the track, had lunch, and skated again until 6:45 p.m.

That impressive display of endurance may be due to the cross-training work Caron has done with his uncle, weightlifter Scott McCarthy.

“We work out two or three times a week, training the core muscles and the legs, to help with jumping and balance on the ice,” said Caron. 

That speaks to the commitment Caron has shown since he decided to get serious about the sport three years ago.

“In Grade 6, I had to choose between hockey and figure skating, because it was too much for me,” he said. “I was a good hockey player, but I enjoyed figure skating more. I like the jumps, it’s so much fun.”

The financial burden for Caron’s family is heavy, with trips to Vancouver for training or competitions across Canada at least once a month.

“Everything has been on us so far,” said Maureen Caron, Kevin’s mother.

That load may get a little lighter after Kevin’s performance at the Junior Nationals. They have applied for YTG’s Canada Games Best-Ever funding, and are hoping to find some other sources as well.

“Depending on how he does, he will have the opportunity to compete internationally, and those trips will be paid for by Skate Canada,” said Magnussen.

At age 14, Caron will be skating against 16 and 17 year olds in the pre-novice division.

It doesn’t worry him, though.

“I was fifth out of 20 skaters at the Westerns, and the top eight advanced to the nationals,” he said.

“I have a pretty good chance of being at least in the middle of the pack, if not near the top.”

It also means he’s got a few more years as a junior to polish his game.

“I’ve got a really good chance of getting further than some of the older skaters,” he said.

The Skate Canada Junior Nationals run February 1st through 4th in Moncton, New Brunswick.