It can ony be described as a tremendous week for Burnaby figure skating.
A large contingent of Champs International Skating Club of B.C. athletes had their chance to make their mark at last week's Canadian Tire national skating championships in Mississauga, Ont., and by returning home with three medals and two fourth-place results, they did just that.
Champs head coach Joanne McLeod was extremely pleased with the results, beginning with the senior national win for New Westminster's Emily Bausback.
“We haven’t had a senior ladies champion of Canada since Karen Magnusson so it’s pretty exciting for B.C.," said McLeod of Bausback's gold performance, which included a personal best free skate last Saturday that locked up the teen's first national title.
“She was pretty well spot on, just a triple flip which was her third jump and she kind of got ahead of herself and that didn’t go. It’s one she usually has under her belt but she settled down after that. She certainly showed the judging panel that she wanted it, and she was very well prepared."
Sitting fourth amidst a close group after the short program, Bausback came in and wowed the crowd and judges with her free performance. It put her in the lead, but with four other skaters still to put their final piece down, much was to be determined. When the last skater got her marks, the 17-year-old Bausback still held the top spot.
It was a very young group of finalists on the podium, including 17-year-old Alison Schumacher of Ontario, in second, and 16-year-old Madeline Schizas, who won the Skate Canada Challenge in November.
Two-time champion -- and four-time runner-up -- Gabrielle Daleman was the lone previous winner in the competition, and came to pay her respects to Bausback after the competition. McLeod was equally pleased to see her student repay the gesture.
“There was a nice moment where she embraced Gabby Daleman. (Daleman) obviously felt saddened and lost after her performance, but it sort of reminded me of Bianca (Andreescu) and Serena Wiliams, where Bianca embraced Serena (after the tennis U.S. Open last September) and told her what an inspiration she was. I thought that was very beautiful of Emily to do that – they had a few words and a hug. Gabby was very sweet, she said ‘You deserve it. Wake up, you’re the senior ladies champion of Canada.’ It was very special to see that," recalled McLeod.
Champs' other Emily -- 14-year-old Millard of North Vancouver -- also enjoyed a standout competition, finishing second in the junior women's division. Like Bausback, Millard stood fourth overall after the short program, then put down a strong free skate -- with the second-best score -- to place behind Alberta's Kaiya Ruiter.
"(Millard) got an opportunity in September to represent Canada in Budapest (finishing 11th) and she really embraced that. She came back and got down to a little more aggressive homework and things started to improve for her, technically, her consistency and her artistry. The podium was the goal.
“She didn’t skate her best, but she sort of skated good enough to stay in that top-four range. Then a couple of them just didn’t put it down and that sort of pushed Millard into the second place."
A year ago, Millard secured bronze at the nationals in novice women's. Now, McLeod anticipates the teen to take another step with the confidence she's displayed on the ice.
“She’s pretty young and very athletic. I’d like to see her do a quad jump – she’s got the quickness for that. That would be an exciting goal for us in the coming year."
The club's other medalist was Burnaby's Brendan Wong, in novice men's. He held off a strong challenge from clubmate and fellow Burnaby skater Shohei Law, who finished fourth overall.
Wong's final tally, which saw him post the third-best free program, put him just nine total points back of champion John Kim of Ontario.
“Brandon is always very exciting, he has a high degree of difficulty so he has a point advantage over the other boys if he does his stuff. He made one mistake but he’s got such a difficult program that he has a little bit of breathing room if he makes a mistake. He’s a very competitive young fellow and there’s a great future for him. I think Shohei and Brandon push each other. They train together and I do lessons with them together.
"(Law) was spectacular in the long program. He did a personal best and I was very proud of him. He hit every jump perfectly," she noted.
Gabriel Bluementhal, meanwhile, also pushed his way to the brink of the podium, placing fourth in junior men's competition. The Montreal native, who moved to Burnaby a handful of years ago, took a sixth-place result in the short program into the final day, then moved through the crowd to fourth on the strength of a strong third-place result in the free skate.
"(Bluementhal) got a standing ovation from the crowd and a big head’s up from (former Canadian champion) Elizabeth Manley after (the free program)," McLeod said. "She found her way to find him and told him his was her favourite performance of the national championships. She just loved watching him. He was perfect and he skated from his heart, and I had so many positive comments on (Blumenthal)."
In senior men's, Alex Lawrence placed eighth, posting a personal best result in the process.
"(Lawrence) skated the best he can skate. … He had a personal best score, and it's a great step to build on."
And while teen Emma Szeto came away disappointed with an eighth-place result, she starting the event with a excellent short program, which put her second heading into the final long skate. McLeod said it was an experience that the 15-year-old from Vancouver will benefit from.
"(Szeto's) been training so hard and she’s been skating so well and the goal was to win. She made a couple of big mistakes so that was a disappointment for her and myself. She ended up eighth but you don’t dwell on that. She’s young and she’ll move on up to junior and I’m sure she’ll be a strong force to reckon with. What’s most important is the athletes learn from these big mistakes, that’s the main thing."