Testing the ice

For figure skaters, there’s no such thing as home-ice advantage. “It’s a lot harder skating at home in front of family and friends…

For figure skaters, there’s no such thing as home-ice advantage.

“It’s a lot harder skating at home in front of family and friends — in my career it probably was the hardest place to skate,” said former world champion Karen Magnussen, who now coaches Yukon skaters Kevin and Teneil Caron and Amelia Austin.

“It’s just that little bit of added pressure that you don’t have when you’re away.”

Competing at home is a brand-new hurdle for Yukon skaters, and they dealt with it for the first time during the Canada Games Test Event this weekend at the Games centre.

The first competitive figure skating event ever held at the centre saw 85 novice and pre-novice skaters from the western provinces take the ice.

It’s early in the season, but Whitehorse’s Kevin Caron looked good. He finished fourth overall, missing the podium by less than a point.

Caron managed to shake off the hometown jitters Sunday after they got to him the day before in his short program.

“The first skate I didn’t do so well, I was trying too hard,” said Caron after finishing his free skate.

“Today I just wanted to skate for myself and have fun.”

His second skate moved him up to fourth from fifth spot.

“It was good, it was the first time I landed my triple loop in competition, so that’s good. I could have skated a little better, but it’s the beginning of the year.”

Caron posted a strong finish three weeks ago at Summer Skate in Vancouver, where he placed first in his short program and second overall.

Magnussen said that any skater in the pre-novice men’s division could medal, and that no one really dominates.

“Each one of the boys have won the short or long program at least once during the season, they’re all really good competitors and it’s really close,” she added.

With over thirty skaters, the pre-novice women’s division was the largest.

Five Yukon skaters competed, but BC swept the medals in this category.

The top Yukon finisher was Katie Blaker, who finished 19th.

There were no local skaters in the novice division or in the dance competition.

In a Canada Games year, the test event is usually combined with some kind of sectional or division competition. But because of Whitehorse’s remoteness, this event is a stand alone, one-time competition.

That means local skaters get some extra exposure to top-level skating without the travel expenses.

It’s likely that many of the same faces will be back in February for the Games. Although provincial teams will be smaller, there will be nearly double the number of competitors and a lot more coaches and officials, so it was crucial for the Games host society to test its readiness.

“It’s gone excellent,” said Carenn Kormos, Canada Games sport chair for figure skating.

“We’ve had a few minor glitches, and we’re learning tons about where we need our volunteers and where we don’t need them.”

Although other sports like badminton and table tennis have hosted test events at the Canada Games Centre. This is the first time that the host society has put its volunteers in action.

“Security people, medical people, signage,” said Kormos. “We’re a few months out now, and there’s still time to make changes.”

The scale of the competition was not too overwhelming as well.

“We’re using just half of the building, and the number of competitors is manageable,” she added.

The general consensus has been good, and Kormos is encouraged by the feedback she’s getting from coaches and officials about the centre’s preparedness.

“All the coaches are really happy with condition of the ice, which is the first thing they look for. They’ve said many positive things about the facility.”

Although things ran well, more help is always welcome. Anyone interested in helping out is encouraged to step forward.

“We’re still looking for volunteers, and we hope to have our figure skating schedules in place by the end of November,” said Kormos.

Results:

Novice women

1st Rika Inoda, BC

2nd Sara Horcoff, AB

3rd Kai Yi Pang, BC

Pre-novice women

1st Mandy Nguyen, BC

2nd Gloria Chong, BC

3rd Rebecca Pickles, BC

19th Katie Blaker, YT

21st Amelia Austin, YT

25th Teneil Caron, YT

Novice men

1st Robbie Harrison, BC

2nd Mervin Tran, SK

3rd David Shoults, AB

Pre-novice men

1st Stuart Ure, AB

2nd Liam Firus, BC

3rd Dylan Archambault, BC

4th Kevin Caron, YT

Novice dance

1st Helen Ramful / Justin Mohr, AB

2nd Tara McCashin / Jeff Williams, AB

Pre-novice dance

1st Melissa Scott / Peter Ahluwalia, BC

2nd Elizabeth Hadwell / Jason Cheperdak, BC

3rd Brittany Blair / W. Bryce Bartel, SK