You are currently viewing archive for August 2010
Posted By SkatingPj
One might think that as Olympic champions it would be difficult for Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to get training for the coming season.Tessa admits to feeling a little surprise at how easily they got back into training and how much they enjoy it.It’s a good thing too as their day at the rink can often go for 8 or 9 hours where they continue to train with Marina Zueva and Igor Shpillband.  Tessa says: “Scott and I talked about it and we want to be having fun training as well as competing.” She goes on to say: “Getting back to skating after a crazy season we know that the challenges will be to come up with innovation and stay within the rules.”
Tessa is the first to admit that with the introduction of the Short Dance, there are expectations of what that is supposed to be.For their short dance, Tessa and Scott have chosen to use tango rhythms on either side of the waltz music that they are using for the Golden Waltz portion of the program. Tessa says: “”The program has a kind of Great Gatsby era feel”. In describing the Free Dance, she says that they are using Samba/Rhumba/Samba rhythms and the two have been having a lot of fun working with ballroom dancers to perfect the expression.Tessa explains: “The music is pretty modern and not really old school. It’s very fast and starts off with a bang.” Is there was a “goose” lift in this year’s program, Tessa said: “We are using all new lifts” she added with a laugh “we will have to wait and see what names come up.”
Their goal for the season is simple.Tessa says “I mean I don’t think it’s a secret. We want to win everything” and they are working towards that end. Will it be a walk in the park? Tessa is pragmatic in her thinking that each season brings with it new challenges and this season will be no different. They will start their season with Grand Prix events in Canada and in Paris and will go on from there.She says: :”We can have fun and compete. So nothing has really changed.”
Have there been any special things that they have gotten to do since becoming Olympic champions? Tessa says candidly: “It is so cool for us because doing what we love to do and that is skate, has given us all kinds of interesting opportunities.” Take having dinner with HRH Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip recently in Toronto. Intrigued, I asked Tessa if she was nervous. She said that both she and Scott were really nervous. “We got invited along with (fellow Olympian) Jenn Heil and we wanted to make sure that we said and did the right thing. It was wild.” She said “they (the Royal Couple) were very nice and kind and made us feel very comfortable.” It was a lot to take in and she and Scott kept looking at each other in amazement. Tessa said they knew what to do and expect from an email that was sent to them outlining the protocol. She did have one moment of panic finding out last minute that she wouldn’t be able to wear the perfect knee length dress that she had selected. The hunt was on and she was able to find a lovely citrus green dress in the correct floor length.
For Tessa, her favourite moment from the Olympics was singing the National anthem on the podium. For me, my favourite moment of them as Olympians is finding out that, with help, they walked away from the Royal dinner with place cards whose names started with HRH.
Just part of the fun they agree has to be part of their skating and their lives.
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Posted By SkatingPj
Cynthia Phaneuf has seen it all in skating. Very early on, she was a National champion and was thought to be “the next big thing”.A catastrophic foot injury, a growth spurt and general life got in the way of fulfilling her potential at that time.I asked her what made her persevere.She says with a certain amount of pride that it is a quality that she has inherited from both her parents who have always fought through any challenges that they faced.Cynthia says: “you need to just go through things.If it doesn’t work you will know that at least you tried.You don’t know what would have happened so you have to go and see what happens.” It is this kind of practical advice that she would offer to younger skaters:“Believe in yourself” She laughs because she says that it’s advice that has been heard a million times before.She says:“I wish I could say something that hasn’t been heard.I would say you are special enough and that even if you are less talented but work more you can get it.I think everyone can do it and be successful in their own way.”
Her perseverance paid off this past season when she finished in 5th place at the Worlds.What about strategy for this season? “I am not going to really change my strategy but I learned a lot of stuff that I am going to use. I learned that you don’t have to be as ready as soon in the season.I want to find the right time to peak for Worlds not to be ready too early in the season.I have found sometimes when you are doing the same thing for 8 months it can be tough.So I want my programs to still be fresh for Worlds.”
David Wilson is the choreographer for her programs:  Toni Braxton’s Spanish Guitar with a remix of a few songs theis the SP .She says enthusiastically:”It’s Spanish and very different from what I have done before.”  The Free program is to Russian classical music whose name she is not sure of. She loves the fact that the way that it’s mixed you won’t recognize the very familiar theme until it jumps out about halfway through.
Part of Cynthia’s success can be attributed to her enduring relationships with the people that make up her team. Her longtime coach (and brand-new Mom of baby Stella) Annie Barabe is still very much in charge and is looking forward to attending both of Cynthia’s Grand Prix events with baby and the dad in tow. In the meantime for the day to day duties Sophie Richard and Yvan Desjardins have stepped forward to fill in the gap.
The Olympics were an amazing experience and that feeling has continued to bolster her self-confidence. She is looking forward to competing at Skate Canada and in Paris at the Trophee Eric Bompard and was delighted to get the text message from close friend Scott Moir that he and partner Tessa Virtue will be at the same events.
Cynthia says she is in great health and laughs off the pesky knee pain that she has when doing triple Salchows.Nobody is able to determine why it hurts so she deals with it in her practical way of taking care and backing off the jump a little when she needs to. What does she love about skating? She says:“it’s hard to say because there are so many things. Every time I go on the ice, even when I am anxious, I go and coming back home I feel better after I have skated. It is part of my life. I love the jumping stuff and the feeling of flying on the ice – I love the training I love to sweat on the ice.”

I, for one, think that this season it it’ll be time to see her competitors sweat.

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Posted By SkatingPj
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have packed a lot of experience into the last four years starting with Kaitlyn’s move to Canada from the United States in July of 2006 to train with Andrew. That first season they both describe as a whirlwind which included a bronze medal at the 2007 Junior Worlds and a trip to Senior Worlds. This past season was a bit of a mixed blessing in that they failed to qualify for the 2010 Olympics by .3.   Olympian Marnie Mcbean, who also didn't earn a spot in her 1st Olympic try,  told Kaitlyn you don't go to the Olympics for experience you go to win. The silver lining to their “Olympic cloud” meant earning the ice dance title at the 2010 Four Continents Championships. They shared a cool story from the 4Cs:during the Free, Kaitlyn felt something slipping along her neck early on in the program. Looking down, she realized that her pearl necklace had come undone so she grabbed it. During the skate, she and Andrew talked about what to do and thought she could throw the neckalce over the boards if they got close enough which didn't happen. She held on to the necklace through not only the dance spin but through the synchronized twizzles changing hands! Finally, during a moment facing away from the judges that she slipped the necklace in her dress: “Once I could feel it against my tummy then I could relax and start skating!”
The team is intent on capitalizing on their momentum from the past 2 seasons. They are slated to compete at Skate America and NHK and can’t wait to get at it. For this year's Short Dance, they are using a combination of Etta James' At last and Frank Sinatra's cheek to cheek.It was only choreographed last month by Pasquale Camerlengo who is one their coaches along with wife Anjelika Krylova with Shae-Lynn Bourne continuing to be their base coach. Kaitlyn says she was skeptical about the Short Dance start with saying “I am probably one of the only people on the planet who liked compulsory dances”. She has long since come around and says that this year’s programs are “quintessential us.”.
The Free Dance is set to music from The Moulin Rouge soundtrack and they both like it because they haven’t heard more then The Tango Roxanne selection used internationally by any other dance teams. Their goal was to try and balance their style with the rules requiring that the music be uplifting, have an audible beat, be danceable and have the program not be solely reliant on a story. (I say Hallelujah! Oops…my outside writing?) They have some new tricks up their sleeves including some really cool lifts. They have been working on one for the last 2 years with a Cirque du Soleil acrobat and they call it “the Rollup”
Kaitlyn says skating for her is one word: “Joy”. For Andrew it has meant a lifetime of experience. Off the ice he likes to tinker with his truck. It brings him back to a time when he used to spend time in the garage with his Grandpa Jozef Kriviansky who was a race car driver. They both talk about their rink in Detroit and the support that the skaters all show each other. That support however may not extend as far as the rink-wide online scrabble game that the skaters are playing one on one against each other. Currently in the lead? Kaitlyn and Alissa Czisny are neck and neck in the current game. Wonder if she can spell success? I can:



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Posted By SkatingPj

I have known editor Giorgio Saturnino and cameraman Carlos  Esteves for about 11 years and some of you may know them as well as the team responsible for the creation of all those really cool figure skating videos that are shown in the rink during competitions.  Giorgio went to see a screening of  Drew Barrymore's Whip-It starring Ellen Page during the Toronto International Film Festival and was immediately taken with the concept of the Roller Derby.  He spoke with Carlos and another friend, Ivan Landers with such enthusiasm that the seed for the proposed TV series Derby Girls was planted.

Their goal was to create a series revolving around the lives of the ordinary women involved in the sport.  They did their research and were lucky enough to enlist the cooperation of a Toronto area team called the GTA Rollergirls.  To start with, we meet 6 of the 8 characters in the trailer.  What the creative team speaks about with pride is the way that the Roller Derby women represent all kinds of different women and who are bonded in a kind of "athletic sisterhood."   Being able to bring real-life characters into the homes of Canadians is very important to Giorgio, Carlo and Ivan; in particular charcaters who have problems with family, jobs, weight, age and everything else in between just like so many others.  The women each had to submit a one page self-examination piece and it was from those stories that the initial characters were selected.They approach the matter with sensitivity and compassion while still allowing the women the freedom to express who they are.

The stories are as diverse as any others you will find anywhere and  cameraman Carlos has been able to take all of those years filming skaters on and off the ice and use it to capture emotional and compelling footgae to tell the tale.

Did you 1930, 93% of American kids rollerskated? 1948, the Dumont TV Network in the US had Milton Berle's show as its' #1 show and was closely followed by Roller Derby in th #2 slot.....Giorgio says that back in the day Roller derby was one of the sports where race didn't matter.

There was a celebration of sorts tonight at Revival on College Street in Toronto where the TV Trailer was being unveiled for the first time publicly.  The hope is that there will be a broadcaster interested in showcasing true stories of these everyday heroines in a series of 13 half hour episodes.  I am keeping my fingers crossed.

If you want to check it out - visit or email Giorgio at

Posted By SkatingPj
You may not know the name Victoria Muniz but I do. As the commentator for CBC’s digital channel BOLD, I get the chance to watch every skater in every discipline at events like Worlds and the Four Continents. As such I get to know the names and faces of skaters who don’t yet find themselves in the final warm-up group for the free.Victoria is part of that bunch of skaters who are no less dedicated and competitive but who are just not as well known.

In truth she has always been athletic.Her parents have told her that she started riding a two-wheeler when she was 2 years old, keeping her balance so as not to need the training wheels.She says with a laugh that she didn’t know what figure skating was until she came to it at her 10th birthday party. Almost immediately she could spin and do jumps. Fast forward to this summer where Victoria and her Mom made the trek to Toronto for coaching and obvious improvement due in no small part to her terrific work ethic. She is the first to have represented Puerto Rico at an ISU Championships which is in itself an accomplishment. The California native made it to made it to US Sectionals in her 4th or 5th year of skating. At that time, the newly formed Puerto Rican Skating Federation had started and was looking for skaters who could represent them. Victoria’s grandparents on her father’s side were from Puerto Rico and with that family connection she could qualify for the tiny country. 

She now makes her base in Los Angeles and is coached by Nedda Soltani and former Canadian champion Charlene Wong. Her summes goal was to try and improve her program component scores from Worlds and benefit from a change of training environment. She arrived with her programs already choreographed by Alex Chang. Her short program music combines Prelude by Jesse Cook with African music and the free program is to Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Movement of the 2nd Piano Concerto. Their strategy this summer has been about helping Victoria to emote more and to reach out to the audience using eye contact. The coaches have helped by placing themselves at various places around the rink and challenging her to make eye contact with them when she skates. It seems to be helping as Victoria talks about having more confidence which is key to success..
The gift in skating has been learning and accepting the lesson that, “whatever is done is done”. She used to take everything so seriously and would hold on to mistakes. She now realizes that as a skater you have to move beyond any errors and wants to “just go for it and not hold anything back.” It is this quality that made her skating idol Michelle Kwan so totally memorable. Victoria says: “There was something about her when she was on the ice; you knew ‘she feels it’” There have even been times that Victoria has shared the ice with Michelle and is thrilled that the more experienced skater has shared her expertise when Victoria was seen to be struggling.
Her goals for this year are to make the top 24 at Worlds and qualify to skate the free program. The advice that she would give a 10yr old girl is the same she applies to herself: “I try to remember that if I miss a jump it’s not the end of the world.” She is also quick to add “Practice makes perfect” and with the amount of practicing she does her version of perfection can’t be far behind.
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