Adult Nationals: Rising to the Challenge in Regina, SK

By Maureen Bennie
Olympia Figure Skating Club

The 11th annual Adult Nationals competition, hosted by Regina Synchronized Skating Teams (RSST), was held in Regina, SK on March 28 – 30th. Skaters from nine provinces competed in a wide range of events and age categories. Expectations were high as months of hard work came to fruition over three days of the highly charged and fun competition.

When I say the word “competition”, it means something different at the adult level. The pressure adults feel at Nationals is what they put on themselves, not what other skaters or coaches put on them. The environment is a supportive one with competitors cheering each other on at the boards. Everyone wants the adults to do their best and there were many wonderful moments this year.

There were some standout performances this year. One of the bravest competitors was young Brittany Briere, the hometown favourite in Class I Competitive Freeskate. She had a terrible fall shortly into her program that left her injured and shaken. It did not dampen her determination, though. She gained her composure and picked up the program, ending with her head held high. She received a standing ovation because there was no one in the building that did not appreciate the courage it took to finish that program. Well done, Brittany! Your perseverance was inspirational.

Newcomer Ron Durston from Regina was a huge hit in the Men’s Bronze Freeskate. He had never competed before and skated with so much heart and enthusiasm. After a fall, he got back up with a smile which was infectious. Ron was pure joy on and off the ice and loads of fun. He personified what adult skating is all about – getting out there for the experience and fun of it. He was simply wonderful!

The lovely Pat Noddin, age 77, was back again from New Brunswick skating her heart out. This is a woman who truly enjoys every moment of skating and is eager to share her passion and commitment to the sport. Whether she is at a hometown event in Moncton or Nationals, Pat is there supporting every skater and encouraging them each step of the way. All of us are glad to know her. She is what we aspire to – grace, sportsmanship, and a giving heart to something she loves. Pat says skating has made her life richer, and she, in turn, has made ours so.

Goldstar skater Joan McGrath from Calgary, AB had a personal best Bronze Freeskate with her Pink Panther routine. Dancing around the ice in one of her own costume creations, Joan had the audience going right with her and her amazing moves. Her comedic flare was enjoyable to watch – a standout performance again this year.

Although we never have many men at the Nationals competition, their event was a hallmark one. Those guys skated with great gusto and really went for it in competition. What was even more impressive is with the exception of a couple of guys, all of the men were over the age of 50 and two were in their 60’s! Don Murray, seasoned competitor from Nova Scotia, went for his double loop and his axel – very impressive. They ended their freeskate day with a lovely photo of themselves all together on the podium. They were all winners!

An interesting thing happened after the Women Class III Bronze Freeskate. Judge Karen Howard asked if she could speak with us. Ms. Howard was a judge at the Sochi Olympics for the Ladies Figure Skating. She said we were interesting to watch and she was bowled over by our passion and enthusiasm out there. She took our photo and plans to talk about the event at an upcoming Skate Canada meeting. How exciting to make an impression on an international judge!

This year, I met many new skaters. What struck me when talking to them is the lives they lead outside of skating. Tammy Elliott from Quebec is finishing her Ph. D. in biology. Wistera Van Snellenberg is an MRI expert in Ottawa. Fiona McQuarrie is a business professor at a university in BC; Don Murray is a criminal lawyer. It’s impressive how such accomplished and busy people make room for skating in their lives. They have to juggle work and family commitments in order to skate. One of the hardest challenges in adult skating is just finding the time to do it. It’s what makes an adult competition so remarkable – what people have to do just to get a program ready.

Our Alberta Section skaters had another superb Nationals with many medal winning skates and strong performances. It is an honour to be able to represent our province at Nationals. Team Alberta was a great ambassador and had some of the most supportive fans. You could hear us cheering from anywhere in the arena.

I think I speak for all the skaters when I say we had a wonderful competition and great hosts in Regina. We’ve left with new friends, photos, and memories. Adult competitions are essential to give adults a goal to work towards, a place to meet other like-minded people who share the passion for this sport, and the opportunity to engage in friendly competition in a supportive environment. I, for one, can’t wait to get back out on the ice with new programs and skate my heart out. See you all next year!