From the Backyard Rink to the Olympic Arena
Everyone has skated as a child. What child doesn’t love the sensation of gliding across frozen water? For some children that love translates into playing hockey or ringette, for others it means becoming a competitive figure skater.
A career in competitive skating often begins at an early age on a backyard or community rink. It takes dedication and many hours of hard work. A love of the sport helps but there are other factors to consider.
While there is no specific age to start, the younger the better. Toller Cranston, who is one of Canada’s most influential figure skaters, started skating when he was six.
Jaimie Salé and David Pelletier, who won a gold medal at the Olympics in 2002, both started skating at the age of three. Elvis Stojko, who won three world championships and Olympic medals, started to skate when he was four while Jennifer Robinson, who is a six-time Canadian Champion, began skating when she was eight years old.
Competitive skaters learn quickly so those who don’t begin skating until they are 12 years old, or older, can be at a significant disadvantage. Jaimie Salé was only 16 when she competed in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway while Lloyd Eisler was over 30 in the same Olympics.
Many skaters are in their twenties when they compete at the Olympics and other international events often representing a couple of decades of hard work, dedication and perseverance training to be a competitive skater.
When to Begin
Children aged three or four can start off learning basic skating skills and developing coordination.
Usually by the age of six or a little older, most children are able to handle some maneuvers and are usually ready for some kind of skating program.
Those who are interested in skating competitively will want to join some of Skate Canada’s various programs that are taught by professional coaches. Their CanSkate program is for beginners of any age while their CanPowerSkate develops such things as power, balance, speed and endurance.
Figure skaters who are looking to move to the Olympic arena usually take programs such as STARSkate and CompetitiveSkate.
STARSkate helps skaters develop basic figure skating skills in areas such as Ice Dance and Free Skate. Skaters looking to compete in qualifying Skate Canada events in singles, pairs and dance take the CompetitiveSkate program.
This program offers access to funding programs and the opportunity to be selected to Skate Canada’s teams and possibly an opportunity to represent Canada at international competitions.
Skate Canada members are also involved in off-ice training ensuring that they are in good shape-both physically and mentally.
It’s a long journey from the backyard rink to representing Canada at the Olympics, but it’s one that is sure to create new friends and build confidence as participants enjoy work and play hard. Even those who don’t reach the upper levels of competition can benefit from the joy of participating in a sport they love.