Regina playing host to national figure skating event
Over 250 skaters have flocked to the Co-operators Centre in Regina for the 2023 Skate Canada Challenge for pre-novice and novice categories.
The event began on Wednesday and runs until Saturday, Jan. 28. It features skaters in men’s, women’s, pairs, and ice dancers for both the pre-novice and novice categories.
Andre Bourgeois, NextGen Director for Skate Canada, said the skaters only compete at their provincial level.
“Pre-novice, they compete at their province and then they qualify to come to this event,” he explained. “In novice, they [do] the same and compete in their province and come to this event, but the top will qualify to the national championship next month in Calgary.”
Saskatchewan has eight athletes competing in the Skate Canada Challenge:
- Novice Women - Rory Greenbank (placed 22nd out of 41)
- Novice Dance Team - Shane Benko and Jillian Benko
- Pre-Novice Men - Eric Swalm placed 27 out of 33
- Pre-Novice Women - Azizza Kowalchuk (39th out of 46), Aya Burrell (42), Addison Tribe (46)
- Pre-Novice Pair Team - Julia Shindle and Stefan Lotz
The solo skaters’ competition wrapped up on Thursday but the pairs and dance team will compete Friday and Saturday.
“It’s definitely strange [competing here]. Coming from Saskatchewan being ice dancers there’s not many other ice dancers to compete with so it’s definitely a big adjustment,” said Jillian Benko.
“It’s not that scary though [competing against others]. Maybe I thought it would be but it’s kind of nice having to compete against other people, even if we don’t win,” said Shane.
Jillian, 18, and Shane, 16, are siblings who have been skating as a duo for six years.
“We decided to partner up for ice dance to go to the 2018 Saskatchewan Winter Games,” said Jillian on how they became Dance Team partners. Both have also competed in men and women’s categories in the past.
Now they find themselves relying on one another when the music starts.
“It’s just like we know each other so well. We can just be like, ‘We’ve got this!’ We know how to settle each other down,” said Jillian.
It is a different story for pairs Shindle and Lotz who only began skating together a year and half ago.
Shindle, 11, is from Shellbrook and Lotz, 16, is from Prince Albert.
“We knew of each other here and there [in the skating world] but pairs brought us together,” said Lotz.
“I would sometimes go to PA for extra training so I would see him,” said Shindle.
The two have matching upbeat personalities that translate to their chemistry on the ice.
“I felt like everything went well [today]. We kept on smiling and having more fun as time went on. We were like, ‘Wow, this is lots of fun. Let’s keep doing it,’” said Lotz.
“It’s different because there’s a lot of people here and I’m not really used to that. I feel like competing against these other teams helps us,” said Shindle.
Both were excited to showcase their throw double-loop at the competition and to represent Saskatchewan.
“It’s amazing like representing a whole province, it’s awesome,” exclaimed Lotz.
“We have 19 pairs that we’re against but we would be very happy to finish top 10,” both agreed.
The event is introducing the skaters to the expanding world of competition in their sport, leading to many first time experiences.
“They’re learning to compete and for some of these skaters, it’s the first time maybe they’ve competed away from home, or an even bigger trip,” said Bourgeois.
“They’re competing with everybody else across the country. So I mean that’s a different environment for them to start managing and, you know, it’s a little bit more official.”
More information on the event can be found here.
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