Golden Skate

Lesley Hawker: Canada’s Late Bloomer

Lesley Hawker waited a while before making her mark on the figure skating scene.

Canada’s Lesley Hawker waited a while before making her mark on the figure skating scene. She was 21 when she first made an impact at the 2002 Canadian National Figure Skating Championships, finishing a surprising second in the senior ladies qualifying round with a mesmerizing program which brought the crowd to its feet and left her in tears. “That was an awesome experience,” Hawker said. “It surpassed every dream I ever had when I saw all those people standing and cheering. I’ve never had a skate liked that.” She eventually finished ninth in her first trip to Canadians. Hawker repeated the feat this season.

The perky blonde from Alison, Ontario started skating when she was six. “My mom was a recreational skater and got me into it,” she said. “I started CanSkate when I was eight, but I didn’t really compete until I was 15, when I landed my first double Axel.” She landed her first triple, a salchow, when she was 18, an age at which some ladies already have a few national or world titles in their trophy cases.

“When I moved to Mariposa to work with Doug and Michelle Leigh, I was always on sessions with big names like Jennifer Robinson and Takeshi Honda,” she said. “I was surrounded by people who believe I can do more than I can. There’s never anything negative. It’s the best training center.” Hawker trains for 2-3 hours a day on ice, but does a lot of off ice training. “I work out a lot,” she said. “I’m in the gym at least five days a week. I do weights, a lot of cardio and ab work. Some days I roll around on a big medicine ball.”

“Before I moved to Mariposa, I didn’t have any stroking or presentation skills,” Hawker said. “I was a big jumper but I didn’t have much control. I love jumping. It’s always been my favorite. I’m not picky about which jumps to use. Both the salchow and the loop are easy for me, but the toe loop is the hardest.” Hawker uses a triple lutz/double toe combination in her short program and adds a triple salchow/double toe and double Axel/double flip in the long. “I’ve landed triple salchow/triple loop in practice and we’re always working on the triple Axel in the off season,” she added.

Hawker is using Michael Smith’s “The Giving” for the short and “Lara’s Theme” from Maurice Jarre’s “Doctor Zhivago Suite” for the long. “Josee Chouinard did my short program,” Hawker stated. “It was something Michelle heard and thought it would be nice for me. For the long, I wanted to have something with a story so that I’d have something to say. I’ve done Romeo and Juliet and Les Miserables in the past. In the long, I tell the story of a wrapped up soul that’s trying to become free, trying to grow into the best person it could be. I can relate to that in real life.” Michelle Leigh choreographed the long.

Off ice, Hawker listens to pop music. “My boyfriend’s into hip hop so I listen to that now.” she said. “My favorite singer is Avril Lavigne. I used to listen to a lot of classical music but not now.” Spending time with her boyfriend is Hawker’s favorite pastime, but she also enjoys going home to visit her family. She doesn’t collect anything, but keeps some of the special things that people have given her when she skates. She used to read a lot but now only has time to read occasionally. “I just finished Margaret Thatcher’s biography,” she said.

Hawker doesn’t play any other sports now, but used to be a competitive soccer player. “I played from when I was ten to 17,” she said. “I used to be a halfback so I could control the field. But it gets a little more vicious when you get older and I had to protect my knees and ankles for skating, so I had to quit.”

Hawker has paid for her own lessons since she was 16. She works as a waitress 30-40 hours a week at Jack Astor’s Restaurant to cover her training costs, but doesn’t do any coaching. “I like to work with kids,” she said, “but I’m not interested in coaching.” Instead, Hawker has started taking distance-learning courses through the on-line Athabasca University, working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree. “I want to go into broadcast journalism,” she said. “I’ve always been a big talker. And I enjoy doing research and writing about people.”

Thanks to her university status, Hawker just realized another dream, when she competed for Canada in the Winter University Games in Italy, where she finished third, Canada’s best finish in the ladies event. She hopes to make Canada’s international team for the 2003-2004 season and eventually make the Olympic team for 2006