The Smithers Figure Skating Club is a very active club in the Bulkley Valley with a history that dates back to the beginning years of the town’s history. Many skaters and even coaches are the children and grandchildren of former members of the club.
The thought of figure skaters on the ice, often brings to mind the fluidity, grace, beautiful costumes and musicality of the programs. What does not necessarily come to mind, is all the people it takes behind the scenes to coach, train and set up the programs; the travel; and the countless hours these athletes spend off and on the ice training.
It takes a dedicated board to oversee the club, with coaches, choreographers, parents, committees and sponsors to pull off competitions, carnivals and public events.
The Smithers club has nine board members; head coach, Demid Rokachev; regional coach, Courtney Malkow; and 92 skaters of all abilities who participate in several divisions and programs.
The club has all of the programs set up and designed for the skaters, but they also host summer camp programs, seminars and workshops throughout the year, and they host fundraisers in the community, such as the popular Christmas Tree fundraiser, in which they bring in a semi-truck full of fresh trees just in time for the holidays every year.
There never seems to be a quiet time for this club, as they travel, compete and put on shows and events from the moment the ice goes in at the arena, until the time the ice comes off, and then there is the off-season training. It is continuous.
To understand how the club functions, it is important to understand the differences in the programs they offer, and there are many programs set up and designed for all skill levels and ages of people to be involved in.
There is the Pre-Can program for ages 3 to 5 approximately, set up as an introduction to the ice, and to have fun while learning.
CanSkate programs are a complete series of balance, control and agility skills that prepare skaters for any ice skating competition or recreation.
Development programs are designed for coaches to identify talent as early as possible, because figure skating is an early specialization sport. The focus of the Development Program is to teach skaters to train effectively from the start of their skating journey and prepares them to enter Pre-Stars, which has a high level of skills and awareness.
The Star Skate Program has two streams skaters can progress through Star Skate or Competitive. All skaters, regardless of their eventual level or intention, begin at the Star levels, until they achieve a minimum of Star 5. A skater can continue in the Star Skate stream for their whole skating career, compete regionally and test at many levels.
Star Skate is somewhat more of a recreational stream, but still produces many highly skilled skaters.
The Competitive Program is more rigourous requiring skaters to pass certain tests by certain ages to remain in the stream. The tests have different structures and competitions are regional, sectional, national or international.
Recently (Jan. 20-23), nine Smithers figure skaters competed at the Cariboo North Central Regional (CNCR) Skating Championships in Williams Lake, and the Smithers team brought home nine medals, all podium results with four gold medals.
“All of our skaters worked really hard towards this competition and it absolutely paid off,” said said Rokachev. Many of the skaters achieved personal best scores and gold assessments. I’m proud of each and every one of them.”
Gold medals were awarded to Adison Labonte, Brynn Garland, Taya Kasum, and the Smithereens Star 7/8 Team Elements members, Kolbie Doodson, Adison Labonte, Taya Kasum and Brynn Garland.
Two members picked up silver medals in their divisions, Adison Labonte and Brynn Garland.
Three athletes brought bronze medals home: Adison Labonte in her Star 8 Freeskate with personal best of 30.79, Brynn Garland in her Pre-Juvenile Freeskate and Kolbie Doodson in her Star 7 Artistic Group 3.
Taya Kasum competed in the Competitive Juvenile Under 14 category, as the sole competitor, and received a personal best score of 20.49. Kasum and Labonte also competed in the Star 7 Short Program and placed fourth and fifth respectively.
Addison Leach achieved great results and had a superb spin in her artistic program according to her coach, and she placed fourth in her Star 4 Elements and fifth in Star 4, U13 and Star 5 Artistic.
More than 150 skaters from northern B.C. competed at these regionals, and Skate Canada judges were flown in from all over the province to participate.
Skaters in the StarSkate 1-3 category receive assessments from the judges for gold, silver and bronze. And all skaters in the Star 4 - Gold categories receive cumulative points calculation (CPC) points and are ranked, just like you see at the Olympics.
At these regionals, Star 3 Skater Assessments produced three gold assessments for Joss Lukasek, Alina Kasum, and Aja Alexander. Four were awarded silver assessments; Amber Alexander, Aja Alexander, Joss Lukasek and Alina Kasum in Star 3 Team Elements, and Individual Showcase 2., One bronze assessments was awarded to Amber Alexander.
“This club did so well at regionals, with many medals, personal bests and great assessments, I am so proud of them all,” said club president, Carrie Collingwood.
With no time to rest, however, the club is now preparing to host 95 skaters from the Northwest, February 11-12 at the Civic Centre for Jamboree.
“Our club has 26 skaters registered at Jamboree, a record registration for our club. Jamboree allows our younger skaters to participate and perform in a non-competitive environment. Each skater is put on a team where they accumulate points for their team. Awards are given out to the teams at the end of the Jamboree.
“Essentially you’re skating for personal results and your team,” Collingwood explained. We encourage everyone to come out and support our local skaters.
“We’re also gearing up for another big event and fundraiser for our club: “Under the Big Top” Skating Carnival, March 17 at the Civic Centre. All of our skaters from CanSkate to Senior level will be in the Carnival.”
Creative carnival director Leah Correia is looking forward to a “fantastic, fun-filled event” in which even the audience will be involved.
“It will truly be like entering under the big top of the circus and have an interactive time from start to finish. It will be a fun time where the community can come and support the club and enjoy the skaters performances and the atmosphere,” she said.
Both Jamboree and Carnival are highlights for the club for the year, organized in Smithers, but competitions are continual, keeping skaters, parents and coaches on the go in this extremely busy club.
There is still time to sign up for programs such as Canskate until Feb. 5.
There is a registration link on the club’s web page.