Yukon’s skaters glide on home ice advantage

Brides get rice. Bullfighters get roses. And figure skaters, well … they get stuffed animals.

Brides get rice.

Bullfighters get roses.

And figure skaters, well … they get stuffed animals.

Plush toys littered the ice at the Canada Games Centre on Monday as fans showed their support for the skaters by tossing bright red lobsters, plump bears and stuffed Games’ mascots on the rink.

Along with some of the loudest cheers of the day, Yukon skater Kevin Caron also bagged the biggest haul of toys.

“I’ve got a whole closet full of stuffies at home,” he said after coming off the ice after skating in the men’s pre-novice short program.

He was red-faced and smiling as he clutched a giant stuffed monkey under his arm.

As Caron took the ice a few minutes before cheers filled the arena: “Go Kevin!” “Yea Kevin,” “My Hero!” chanted fans in the stands.

Dressed all in black, the 16-year-old skated a lap to loosen up and then took his starting position at centre ice with his arms opened wide at shoulder length.

Caron’s music was dark and ominous. It sounded like the kind of tune that an evil army might march to.

Although he slipped on a couple of his jumps, Caron was confident of his footwork gliding across the ice and making complicated manouevres with practised ease.

After the music faded off, Caron glided over to the kiss-and-cry where his coach gave him a hearty pat on the back.

The skate landed Caron in ninth place in a field of 16 with a score of 22.36.

“It wasn’t too bad; I could have done a little better but it’s just getting used to all the people in the stands at Whitehorse,” he said of his performance.

A few minutes later, British Columbia’s Rhys Anderson finished the pool with a strong skate that earned him a 30.49.

“I’m feeling good, I felt confident out there — it was a good skate,” said 16-year-old Anderson.

“I was excited just to come here.”

Monday’s skate left Anderson in second position going into Wednesday’s longer free skate.

Despite being in a strong position to medal, Anderson and his coaches were not ready to celebrate just yet.

“No, it’s work, work, work,” said the young skater with a laugh.

He planned to spend Tuesday psyching himself up for the next competition, where he’ll be attempting one of his most complicated jumps.

“I’ll be trying a triple Salchow and everything you saw out there — just my best,” he said.

At nearly 8 p.m. Monday evening, an ecstatic Chantal Emond skated an energetic routine to a circus-inspired tune.

“I had the best skate I’ve had in a long time,” said the 16-year-old Yukoner after coming off the ice.

Wearing a blue- and green-checked dress, Emond had a wide smile and was clutching her own cache of “stuffies” in her arms.

“I don’t care about my marks, I just care that I actually skated decent for once.”

Despite the pressure, Emond was enjoying the support of the crowd and the home-ice advantage.

“It was really nice — when I got out there, there was this roar of applause and screaming,” she said.

“The crowd didn’t distract me; I don’t know why, but today I didn’t feel nervous.

“I didn’t have that weird acid that’s usually in my legs.

“I’m like, I’m doing this in my hometown, I might as well just go!”

The skate landed Emond 21st in her field with a score of 15.45, while 14-year-old Yukon skater Amelia Austin finished 19th with a score of 15.45.

The short program only counts for part of the skaters’ final scores.

On Wednesday both the men and women take to the ice again to skate the free program.

The scores for the two skates are lumped together and that final mark will determine who is in line for the medal.

Looking at a figure skating scoring sheet is like reading another language — a 2F is a double flip, and a CCoSp is a combination spin with a change of foot.

Thankfully, sport information officer Renee Bellavance is bilingual.

Each of the short-program’s seven mandatory technical skill are scored separately, then skaters get points for things like footwork, choreography and interpretation, she said while sorting through a few sheets.

A technical panel decides what kind of jump the athlete did, and the judges score the skaters on their execution, style and footwork.

Each fall deducts a half-point from the skater’s final mark.

If there’s a disagreement, the judges go to a video replay.

“It’s something we’re very lucky to have,” said Bellavance.

Scores in the short programs ranged between 12 and 32, but free-program marks are generally higher because skaters can cram more elements into their routines, giving them more opportunities to gain points.

There is no top score in figure skating.

Nationally, the highest score recorded in both programs combined is 88.43, held by BC’s Liam Firus.

Firus also finished first in the men’s short program with a score of 31.79. Anderson was second with 30.49 and Alberta’s Stuart Ure landed in third with 27.43.

Thirteen-year-old BC skater Cambria Little finished first in the women’s skate with 31.70, BC’s Nicole Elli-Yvonne Orford finished second with 30.01 and Quebec’s Alexandra Levy was in third with 29.42.

The men are scheduled to skate again on Wednesday at 1 p.m., while the women will take the ice at 7:45 p.m. at the Canada Games Centre.