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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.

 

@@@ More Great Videos on Pj's YouTube Channel: PjKwongWordbroker @@@

 


 
Posted By SkatingPj

My best stories always come back to skating and this one is no exception. I have gotten the chance over the last 20+ years of coaching to spend time with lots and lots of young people and many hold a special place in my memories but none more than my current student Sarah J or Sj as I like to call her or sometimes the Sarah-nator and sometimes Sarahsaurus...this is the third season that we will be working together and we initially bonded over the old and trusted adage: "girls rule and boys drool".  As far as girls ruling, this one may just take over the world: she is 8 years old (turning 9 in a couple of weeks) and is set to launch her 4th annual food drive to benefit Toronto's Daily Bread Food Bank - a project she started in Grade 1 when she found out on Thanksgiving that there were people who could be found within a 5 minute drive from her home who were hungry. She told her Mom Lynda that she wanted to help and start a food drive. Lynda copied down what Sarah wanted to say on her posters; things like what she wanted to do and why and that she needed help. Sarah wrote them up and her Mom took the finished flyers to Staples for copying which were then distributed. 

Her target that first year were the families on her street "I knew that lots of people on my street would help. They are very nice." Year 1 they raised 300lbs of food. Year 2, with the help of Sarah's class and daycare, they raised 540lbs of food. Last year, younger sister Claire (now 5) chipped in with help from her senior kindergarten class as the program gained momentum. In 2011, the program will be school-wide at Sarah's Toronto school for the first time. To date, Sarah's Food Drive  has raised 1.3 tonnes of food!!!!

One of the cool things about having a food drive, is you get the chance to take the food to the food bank and see it weighed. Sarah says: "the first 2 years we got a tour and to see how the food is sorted but last year we couldn't because they were too busy."

Sarah, with the help of her family has decided to up the ante this year: "I want to break my record and raise another tonne of food." With Sarah at the helm, they have turned to members of the community for some help. The owners of the Valu-Mart located on Bayview south of Millwood, Rob and Jessi Tremblette, jumped immediately on board to help Sarah. The Trembletts will have paper bags filled with food donations for $10 available for purchase at the checkout and are also planning on making Thanksgiving hampers including more festive food for ditribution through Sarah's campaign. During our interview earlier today, I took Sarah with me to talk to (Prince) Eric Anweiler, our rink Manager at the North Toronto Memorial Gardens and without hesitation he offered up a large plastic bin that will be located in the lobby of the rink to accept more food donations - he also told her to "keep going with this, you're doing a really good thing."

Just imagine - if Sarah can do this at 8yrs old - what can the rest of us do?

Sarah's Food Drive runs until October 8th and is accepting cash donations for the first time this year,  as well as food  and Sarah has set a fundraising goal of $500. Information can be found on their website:

http://dbfb.convio.net/site/TR/Events/General?px=1032281&pg=personal&fr_id=1170

In the meantime, what does Sarah want to be when she grows up? "A figure skater"

My work here is done :)


 
Posted By SkatingPj

Pj and Kevin Reynolds
I was speaking to a coaching colleague the other day and it’s funny but we both agreed that “the year” doesn’t start with the calendar in January but rather in September when the kids go back to school and to the rink and order returns to my life.

 Nothing signals the start of my professional life more than Skate Canada’s High Performance Camp where many of this season’s competitors are brought together in one place. The reason for the camp is two-fold:  to introduce skaters to the media and to have them perform their programs under a bit of pressure for Skate Canada officials who are on hand to evaluate and ensure that skaters’ programs follow the rules and take advantage of all of the opportunities to rack up points.

There is also team building and off-ice evaluations and a chance for the skaters and coaches to wrap their brains around what work has to be done in the fine tuning of programs before competition season starts in earnest.

My purpose for being at the camp was to capture video interviews in a series we’re calling The Next Step:  with some of Canada’s top skaters for CBC Sports. 

My joy was in finding myself lost in the exuberance of this ad-hoc family reunion.

Here is the link to the videos and CBC's video player for figure skating:

http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/Sports/Olympic_Sports/Figure_Skating

if we can go by what the skaters say, it's going to be a great season!

 


 
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 :)

 

@@@@@@  check out Pj's YouTube Channel:  PjKwongWordbroker  @@@@@@


 
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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