Figure skating coach Clair Ben Zina instructs young skaters during practice at the Smithers Civic Centre Jan. 24. (Thom Barker photo)

Figure skating club doing well with new worldly coach

Clair Ben Zina has coached national teams all over the world and is now making Smithers her home

With a new world-class coach on the ice, the Smithers Figure Skating Club is already showing improvement.

In competition in Prince George Jan 17-18, Smithers’ older skaters reached the podium 12 times and the younger ones picked up numerous gold, silver and bronze ratings.

Clair Ben Zina started coaching in Smithers in November and is happy with the improvement the team has made since she came on board.

Ben Zina has a lot of international coaching experience and is hoping to inspire local skaters here.

She was in Kamloops ten years ago before leaving for personal reasons. She went on to coach the national team in Ireland for four years and then to Cambodia to help start their national team.

“Cambodia isn’t a really strong skating nation, but they built the first ice rink and they were starting a national team, so I was trying to get that all up and running.”

Unfortunately the team isn’t still going. The rink was built on top of a mall and they had a hard time keeping it cold enough.

“At the moment the rink is closed down, but they are working with the government to get a government-funded rink, this was a private venture,” she added. “They got accepted into the international skating union, which is no mean feet. But unfortunately the location of the rink wasn’t the best.”

After Cambodia, she went to Denmark and then was in Spain for a year.

“Personally, I was getting tired of the language barriers all the time,” she said. “It is hard work.”

She then sought out another job in Canada and was looking for a small community.

“I know that a lot of small or northern communities struggle to get good coaches,” she explained. “I’m certainly seeing just as much potential here as I would in a bigger city. It is just an opportunity to build something up.”

She added she was lucky to find a board that was professional and proactive and were willing to jump through the hoops to bring a foreigner in.

She said there are a lot of highs in the sport as coach.

“You get a whole lot of buzzes,” she said. “It can be just at home in training if a kid lands a jump for the first time. Obviously, winning medals is big motivation for me, even though the kids don’t see that all the time. That’s why I do it, I want to win. Getting new things up and running is very exciting for me. We just started a new development program. We are in a place where we are trying to inspire everyone.”

There is currently one boy in her development program but she’d love for a few more.

“I have a lot of international experience coaching boys and I’m really looking for boys. It can be a tough sport on boys, with all these girls. I’m on the hunt for getting boys involved in figure skating. A little group of them will make it easier for them to stick together.”

So far she has been very happy living and working in Smithers. She added her two children are also happy here.

“Skating has been a vehicle for such life experience and opportunity,” She said. “As skater I always travelled competing myself. And then I’ve really enjoyed taking these jobs. My kids maybe have lost out in some ways without a completely steady eduction but they have a good awareness of the world.

“We are definatley tired of moving and definately want to stay here for a while. I absolutely love Smithers. It is so beautiful and the people are great. I’ve certainly got enough work to do skating wise. We are very happy.”

Jan. 17-18 Prince George

Skating Competition Results

Samantha Love

Star 4 Elements: 2nd Place

Star 4 Girls U13 Gp1: 1st Place and Regional Champion of all age groups at Star 4.

Star 5 Artistic 5th Place

Adison Labonte

Star 5 Elements 2nd Place

Star 5 U13 Free Program 5th Place

Star 5 Artistic Gp 2 3rd Place

Brynn Garland

Star 3 FreeSkate Silver Rating

Star 3 Quad Threat Silver Rating

Showcase 3 2nd place

Addison Leach

Showcase 2 Gold Rating

Star 2 Quad Threat Bronze Rating

Star 2 Free Program Bronze Rating

Phoebe Frost

Star 2 Elements Bronze Rating

Star 2 Freeskate Bronze Rating

Isabelle Frost

Star 2 Elements Silver Rating

Star 2 FreeSkate Bronze Rating

Madison Malkow

Star 2 FreeSkate Gp 1 Bronze Rating

Star 2 Elements Bronze Rating

Taiyisia Kasum

Star 4 Elements U10 5th Place

Star 4 FreeSkate U10 5th Place

Star 5 Artistic Gp 1 2nd Place

Kolbie Doodson

Star 4 U13 Gp 1 2nd Place

Star 5 Artistic 4th Place

Star 4 Elements 1st Place

Amber Alexander

Star 2 Gp 2 Free Program Bronze Rating

Star 2 Quad Threat Bronze Rating

Star 2 Showcase Silver Rating

Aja Alexander

Star 1 Quad Threat Gold Rating

Showcase 1 Silver Rating

Star 1 Silver Rating

Haddassah Hoffman

Star 7 Artistic Gp 2 1st Place

Star 6 Elements 1st Place

Hanna Hoffman

Star 4 Girls U13 Gp 2 1st Place

Star 4 Elements 3rd Place

Sarah Lo

Star 3 Elements Bronze Rating

Showcase 3 1st Place

Star 3 Free Program Gp 4 Silver Rating

Katie Lo

Star 2 FreeSkate Merit Rating

Star 2 Elements Bronze Rating

Star 2 Quad threat Bronze Rating

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The Smithers Figure Skating Club with their new coach Clair Ben Zina. (back, far right) (Contributed photo)

Regional Champion Samantha Love received the highest points total from all Star 4 age groups at last weekend’s competition in Prince George. (Contributed photo)

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