News and Views from the world wanderings of Pj Kwong.  Finally!  A place for all of the things I write and think about!

Posted By SkatingPj

I finally got the chance to sit down for a chat with former Italian Ice Dance champion and current coach and choreographer Pasquale Camerlengo. Truth be told, I saw him first while he was still a skater in the early 1990s and am delighted for his well-deserved success. He got as high as 6th in the world and placed 5th at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France skating with partner Stefania Calegari - so he knows a thing or two about competing at the elite level.

He first started creating a buzz with interesting and original choreography as part of his own programs. When he made the decision to retire after Worlds in Prague in 1993, almost immediately  the late Carlo Fassi contacted him to ask him his plans. Pasquale wasn't sure what  he would be doing exactly but had already thought about coaching. With a gentle nudge from Fassi asking him how much he would charge for choreography, he was put to work the very next day. Pasquale is a thoughtful man; intent on finding the perfect work to express his ideas. I get the feeling that he is the same on the ice; the steps carefully chosen to express the program idea, concept or theme. "The difference between being a skater and a choreographer is: as a skater, everything is done for you. As a coach/choreographer, everything is done for others. You can't be selfish and be a choreographer."

It is because of Carlo and his wife Christa's encouragement that Pasquale thought about the move to the United States. "They always mentioned the US and how great the possibilities would be there because there are many more rinks and many more skaters". He now makes his coaching base in the Detroit area along side wife and coaching partner, two-time World ice dance champion Anjelika Krylova. "I am here because of Anjelika. She built her life here and already had everything: a house, rink, life. Did you know that she is the only one to win world medals in ice dance with 2 different partners?" he says with pride.

It didn't take long for Pasquale's work to catch on as he started with Stanick Jeanette and Georghe Chipeur but in my opinion it was his work with Daisuke Takahashi that really put him on the map. "I got an email from Daisuke's agent 4 years ago asking me if I could do some choreography for him. Anjelika saw the email first - I couldn't believe it when she told me." Focused on his work he says: "I can say that everything really started from there. It was then that I got the commitments from a lot of big skaters."

With the amount of choreography that he is doing, he also finds the time to put coaching front and center and is responsible for Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat among others. "I have learned as a coach to keep the balance on everything and it's a very hard thing. The relationship between a coach and skaters is to keep the balance in work, motivation and to create chemistry."

His advice for skaters? "Listen to your heart. We know what is right and often cannot explain why."

For Pasquale, skating is "about expressing." When asked how he would describe himself, he says: "I am Pasquale. I am myself."

A simple statement about a complex, confident and visionary man. I am sure there is lots more to write in this book. Stay tuned :)


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Posted By SkatingPj

Vaughn Chipeur and Amanda Avila
Last time I saw Olympian Vaughn Chipeur, it was at a social function in Vancouver during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games when he confided in me that he wouldn't be attending Worlds in Torino, Italy. (See?  I CAN keep a secret and for a long time too!) Turns out that he had injured the ligaments in his right foot so severely that it was recommended that he rest it immediately and follow it up with surgery (but only if he wanted to continue walking <lol>) He says: "I landed a triple flip in December of '09 when I was training for Canadians and I heard a pop." Typical Vaughn - he persevered.  He was in so much pain that in the Olympic Village, he had an MRI and recounts: "They said 'it's a good thing you didn't compete because there was no fluid between the joints.' And I said, but I did compete' and nobody could believe it." He managed the Olympics with lots of physio before, during and after his practice sessions. When he really sought a medical opinion, he was advised that competing at Worlds three weeks after Vancouver could mean that he might not continue walking.

Not surprisingly, elite athletes seem to have the extraordinary ability to put aside their physical selves in order to accomplish the task at hand. After talking to Skate Canada people to discuss not competing at Worlds, Vaughn left for home on the Monday after the Games.  He went to the rink on Tuesday and found that he couldn't make it across the ice because of the intense pain. It would appear that once he had accepted that this was serious, he allowed the reality of the pain to seep into his consciousness meaning he couldn;t skate where he had been able to just a few days before. This is a case of mind over matter like so many others in the sports world.

So if your life isn't about Worlds happening in the next 3 weeks and you have to change gears, what will it be? "Now what? At that point, I still didn't decide to retire. I took 4 months off for the first time in my life."

it seems from speaking with Vaughn that the decision to retire happened in stages.  He decided just a few days before scheduled surgery that it wasn't the solution for him. "As much as anything I needed the break." Aside from some "noises" in his feet when he lands jumps, he says now he is in good shape.

Skating is...."my job" and the way that Vaughn now makes his living. Currently on the cruise circuit with Royal Caribbean, Vaughn continues to be a contradiction in terms: from enjoying physical pursuits like sky diving and bungee jumping he is interested in the emotional and is considering an education in psychology with a view to becoming a clinical psychologist.

He would advise anyone pursuing a career in skating "Skating is a long road. Don't get into skating for the short haul." He and coach Scott Davis had a plan that worked for them and that was for Vaughn to "skate as directed." Vaughn says "skating is one of the few sports that noone in the word can do well competitively skating at a recreational level." True enough. So, skating at a competitive level like he did, what was the secret to Vaughn achieving his dream of competing at the Olympics? "I skated as directed." he said with a chuckle.

The best gift skating has given Vaughn? His relationship with singer Amanda Avila pictured here, whom he met on the cruise ship.

More from Vaughn:

Don't forget LOTS more videos on Pj's YouTube ChannelPjKwongWordBroker

Posted By SkatingPj

How many times have I said that working in skating is like being part of a family? A lot! Almost without question, one of the biggest thrills is catching up with a former student; even more so when thay have made it to the national stage. Alexandra Najarro is one of those kids for me. The little girl I worked with about 10 years ago when her mother, Eva, and I coached together in Mississauga was tiny, determined, talented, with a quick smile, an intensity and a work ethic  that would come to define her competitive streak.

For many people, her debut into our collective consciousness came at last year's Canadian Championships where she was dazzling in her Short program and finished in 2nd and in 4th overall.  For many Alexandra was 'the spoiler' and the skater that inspired the competitiveness in the final flight of Ladies at Nationals.

Catching up with Alexandra after the FSB Thornhill Summer Skate competition I got the sense that although there are other aspects to her life, like wanting to become a lawyer at the end of her studies at Toronto's York University, for the moment skating is front and centre. She can easily talk about other hobbies like watching and playing tennis and enjoying crafting while continuing to engage her brain in the 'how to's of improving footwork and adding to her jump inventory in skating.  In other words, despite what else may be going on, she is very 'present' in her skating life, constantly balancing it all by establishing priorities.

In this season,  she was assigned to compete at the Junior Grand Prix in Australia after which she will be focusing on her Senior prorgams in order to be ready for the Challenge and Canadian national events.

"Skating is exhilirating and fun and very exciting for me." says Najarro who continues "I love to move to music. I love to perform."  It shows.

Olympic Champion Yu-Na Kim is Alexandra's role model: "I really like the fact that she has the 'full package.' It is Kim's example that offers her the need for better consistency, stronger focus and a triple/triple combination. 

This year's short program is the same as last but the free is brand new. Alexandra is skating to The Black Swan in a program choreographed by Myke Gilman which should deliver on her ability to perform.

Former Canadian Champion, Tracey Wainman knows a thing or two about performing and provides the base coaching for Alexandra. Between them, they are working on achieving clean and consistent triples including new-ish Loops and Lutzes in competition, footwork at a higher level and skating skills. Alexandra says: "I want to improve from last year as far as my speed and flow are concerned."

I would like to take credit for Alexandra's success at the Senior level from the amazing Ten-Fox  dance lessons I gave her all those years ago...I would like to...BUT...I can't. 

Alexandra Najarro a great example of creating success on her own terms: hard work, dedication and talent.


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Posted By SkatingPj

With day 1 of the new season out of the way - at least at my club - it feels as if the competitions can't be far behind.  Lucky doesn't begin to describe how I feel about getting the chance to talk to some of the 'greats' in skating as well as ordinary people dedicated to doing extraordinary things. Mind you - once you are committed to doing extraordinary things - it kind of takes away the whole "ordinary" thing.

I think if you were to ask him - Canadian and World Champion, Patrick Chan might describe himself as 'ordinary' but with the accomplishments of this past season, nothing could be further from the truth.

In Toronto to receive THREE Guiness Book of World Records - for highest score for the Short, Free and Overall scores - I got the chance to ask Patrick to go 'on the record' about the experience which he did on the spur of the moment and battling jet lag. What a great sport to answer in English and French and although he complained that he was a little "off" in his French, as a Canadian he considers it important to be bilingual.

There are people in the wings that want to help Patrick achieve his goals; appreciating the fact that he is a young man who is willing to "raise the bar" even though he is the one to have set the bar. You have to admire that kind of commitment. In addition to the Guiness Book of World Records presentation, Chan is in town for the Sk ate Canada High Performance Camp as well as a fundraising dinner being held in his honour as part of a grassroots and ongoing campaign. As if all that training didn't keep him busy enough!

He is very happy to be competing at Skate Canada in Mississauga and then the Grand Prix in France and my money is on his return to the Grand Prix Final which will be in Quebec City in December.

How is his new friend? The Quad Salchow is coming along nicely he says with a grin and "thanks for asking".

Anytime :)


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Posted By SkatingPj

Scott Moir with Pj's Book and Pj
Don't know how to break the news BUT Scott Moir is in love! He gushed that there is a new girl in his life: niece Charlotte Grace Moir made her debut last month into the arms of her parents: Scott's older brother Danny and his wife Tessa. (I know - what  are the odds?) Scott comes from a very tight-knit family and credits Danny with being the one who inspired him to get into ice dance. (Thanks Danny - we're all glad you did!)

The joy doesn't stop there. Scott say that he and partner Tessa Virtue are having a great summer and are loving the time they spend on the ice. getting him to comment on this year's free dance to the music from the Hepburn/Astaire movie 'Funny Face', he has this to say: It’s a very cool program for us because we had wanted to play a 'Fred and Ginger' type for a while and everyone knows Tessa loves Audrey (Hepburn). We started moving to the music. and it went naturally for us and I like moving in that old-fahioned way. I also liked that they had to capture what they're doing in one take which is similar to us in skating."  He goes on to say: "Is it fun a lot of fun and probably one of my favourite programs I have ever done. I amazed that every year we find a different direction to go. We get to play all day long every day credit to Tessa and Marina and their creativity."

It's nice to hear the enthusiasm in his voice.

have there been changes since becoming Olympic champion in 2010? Not that many according to Scott with one notable exception: 

"Well in some respects, my life is still the same. when I go home to Ilderton all is the same. What has changed is the responsibility it has given me. I know that kids look up to us and to be able to impact a child’s life and get them to believe in their goals and get them into something like sport that will enrich their life - we take that very seriously. After my skating career, I would like to guide kids into sport and off the streets and away from video games. That is has really changed for me: the ability to change kids' lives and push them in a new direction."

Thick into training, Scott says the best part is the rapport that he and Tessa share. "It's great to have that person to share things with." That camaraderie extends to the golf course where he says Tessa is a huge encouragement. Scott's golf handicap? "That I am not a good golfer!"




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