Golden Skate

Figure skating crowd-pleaser gets his turn

Canada’s Christopher Mabee, along with teammates Jeffrey Buttle and Emanuel Sandhu, are competing at the World Figure Skating Championships this week.

Christopher Mabee found himself a surprise ticket to the upcoming World Figure Skating Championships after winning the silver medal at the Canadian National Championships in January. It was his first national medal since he began competing at the senior level in 2003.

The 21-year-old placed ninth in 2003, and continued to progress, placing sixth in 2004, fifth in 2005, and fourth in 2006.

“Of course I would have liked to have risen up faster,” he admitted, “but I think I learned a lot about myself and skating as I waited ‘my turn’.”

However, going into Canadian Nationals this season, Mabee was simply hoping for a finish that would get him on the world team.

“Whether it was first, second, or third I didn’t care!” he exclaimed. “I just wanted to be on the world team so badly.”

Earlier last month, Mabee competed at the 2007 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, where he placed fifth. The defending silver medalist fell on a triple flip in the short program, placing eighth, but rallied back to finish third in the long and fifth overall.

“I can’t think about what could have happened,” he said, when asked how he might have placed without the fall. “The competition was tough because I found myself mentally slipping. If I made a mistake in practice, it was getting to me.”

Mabee said he’d been skating very well prior to the competition.

“I raised my expectations for myself, when instead, I should have kept it normal and not treated myself any different then I would at home training,” he reflected.

Mabee, known as a crowd-pleaser, realizes that he is not a ‘top contender’ going into his first world championships.

“I feel with this being my first time, it is more about the experience rather than the results,” he said. “But If I go out and layout solid programs, I will get solid results.”

Mabee currently trains at the Mariposa School of Skating in Ontario under coaches Doug Leigh and Lee Barkell, while Lori Nichol is his choreographer.

Mabee recently took some time to answer questions from his fans.

Victor (Romania): Congratulations for winning the silver at 2007 Canadian Nationals. Tell me, did you ever think before the competition that you could ever beat skaters like Shawn Sawyer or Emanuel Sandhu?

Chris: Over the years Shawn Sawyer and I have flipped-flopped in results because we have competed together as juniors. Before nationals, if someone were to tell me that I was going to beat Emanuel Sandhu, I probably would have said “No way!”

Ania (Canada): I was so impressed by your programs at the 2006 Nationals in Ottawa … I have been your fan ever since. How has your life changed, after you’ve established yourself on the national and international scenes?

Chris: Life has not changed much. I am still me, I am still the same skater. So nothing much has changed, but maybe soon! Hehehe…..

Larry (USA): Last year you had a super result at the Four Continents. Do you think the field was tougher this year? Do you think that this competition will get stronger in the future, as far as attracting the big stars?

Chris: The field was much stronger then last year. I mean we had the current world bronze medalist, and the 2006 Olympic Bronze medalist. So I would say it was quite strong! As for the future of it, who knows? I would like to think that it would, but we will see.

Telmo F. (Portugal): Hi! I liked your performance at nationals! Congratulations! How do you feel about your participation in World Championships? Good luck to you and the rest of the Canadian team at Worlds!

Chris: Thank you, Telmo! I will most definitely pass your good luck on to the Canadian team! I am excited to compete at worlds. It is such a new experience for me, but the great thing is that I have already competed against most of the guys before, so I already have an idea what everyone is capable of.

Larkin (USA): Hi, I was wondering what your goals were for the 2007 Worlds? I have seen you skate and would like to see you in the top six! Also, are you currently working on a quad?

Chris: Well, I would love a top six finish at the worlds! My goals though, are to be in the top 5-10 which I believe are completely realistic. I am working on a quad. The one I prefer is loop. I have landed it before, and I believe there is a video on MySpace.com somewhere.

Larry (USA): Canada has a strong field of rising stars, with Shawn Sawyer, Vaughn Chipeur, and Patrick Chan all showing fine potential. I assume these guys are your friends as well as competitors. Do you expect a dogfight over the next three years leading up to the Vancouver Olympics?

Chris: Oh my gosh for sure! What kind of competition would be if there was no dogfight?! All of the guys you mentioned are amazingly talented, and I believe they all have the potential to be in my spot. It will basically come down to whomever rises to the occasion.

Nicole: Are you planning on doing any ice shows after the World Championships?

Chris: I am planning on doing some ice shows. If you go to the Skate Canada website, there is a list of skater appearances. That is probably your best bet to find out where I (and other national team skaters) will be, come the months after worlds.

Larry (USA): You have worked with two of the finest and most celebrated choreographers in the business, Lori Nichol and David Wilson. How would you contrast their styles? Do you get a chance for a lot of hands-on ice time with them?

Chris: David and Lori are the same but very different. They are both artistic geniuses, but each has their own individual style. I find Lori very classic, whereas David is very modern. Both have a great sense of a skater’s style which is why I think they can produce mass numbers of masterpieces.

Larry (USA): With the emphasis on training quads and big jump combos, we seem to be seeing more and more injuries, especially chronic hip problems. How does a young athlete deal with the need to push, push, push in practice while still taking care of his body for the long run?

Chris: Well sometimes injuries happen, but most injuries are caused by over training, so it is probably a sign you need a break. So I find if I rest myself a little bit more, the only injuries that will occur are minor muscle strains.

Anonymous (Canada): How do we change the perception of male figure skating to one that encourages a broad spectrum of men participating? Currently, we are seeing a mass of female skaters, but few men – in Canada, that is. How do we change this?

Chris: I truly believe that Men’s skating in Canada is definitely making its breakthroughs. If you look into the media, men’s skating is starting to have more attention but in a more positive way. Only time will tell.

James (USA): Being half-Canadian, I have to say that you and Jeffrey Buttle are two of my favorite Canadian skaters today. Here is my question: What do you think separates you from the rest in the world? For example: Is it your jumps, choreography, or your skating skills? Stuff like that. Thank you.

Chris: Well, first thank you for your kind words! I appreciate your support. I think the thing that differentiates me from the others in the world is the fact that I wear my heart on my sleeve and I believe that gives the audience impression of “skating with me” and feeling the same emotions that I am.

John G. (Toronto, Canada): Hi Christopher! Could you tell me what your diet consists of pre and post competition? Congratulations on your silver medal placing at Canadians!

Chris: Thanks John! Well, I will be honest. I am not on a diet nor do I believe in putting myself on a diet. Of course I watch what I eat, but I also like to indulge sometimes too. I look at it like this: My body is like a fancy sports car and in order for it to run efficiently, it needs the best fuel. Hope that helps 🙂 .

Lora (USA): Which move is your favorite to perform in either competition or exhibition?

Chris: Well, I love jumping. I love the sound of a perfect landing. I enjoy jumping in the opposite direction. I think it really challenges me. I hope to land a triple Lutz in the opposite direction before I am done skating.

Sakura (Japan): What do you think about while you are skating during the competition? For example, the next element? Other things? I’m looking forward to your best performance!

Chris: I usually like to think about each step as it is happening. I believe that it keeps me more in the moment rather than getting ahead of myself.

Emma: How long had you been skating before you got really good?

Chris: Well let’s put it this way. I have been skating since I was 7-years-old, so about 14 years. I didn’t take start skating seriously till I medalled at my first nationals in Hamilton when I was 12.

Paula: What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses on the ice?

Chris: I feel like my strengths are my ability to have a crowd skate with me. I love drawing them in and feeling the energy that they bring to a building. My weakness would be that I am not a super artistic skater like Jeffrey Buttle, but it is definitely what I am going to strive for come Olympics 2010. One step at a time of course.

Anonymous: You look hot! Do you have a girlfriend yet?

Chris: Well, I am very flattered by your comment! Hehehe! With the amount of traveling that I do, as well as the competitions, it makes it very hard to have a relationship. But if you are willing to put in the work you can have one. Just takes two that’s all.

Kendall: What is your ideal girlfriend like? What quality that she must have?

Chris: LOL!! You guys crack me up! The person I am hoping to have in my life will make me laugh, smile, and will want to live life to the fullest. Anything other then that is a bonus!

Anonymous: You always thank Tillsonburg when you’re waiting for your marks. Do you get back home much? How often do you get to see your family? By the way, Tillsonburg is proud of you!

Chris: Thank you! I try to get back home to Tillsonburg. I feel bad but I haven’t really kept in much contact with my friends from home. It is really hard with traveling and such, but when I go home, it is mostly to see my family. I am very proud to a “Tillsonburger”!

Lily A. (Canada): Are you and Jeffrey Buttle friends or just competitive rivals?

Chris: We are definitely friends. We are both very competitive in our careers, but cheer each other on. We are at two different points in our careers, so at this point it is about helping each other, rather than being overly competitive with each other.

Anonymous: Would you ever consider skating “Pairs”?

Chris: Well, I LOVE pairs. I wish I could have done pairs at some point in my life. I have trained with pairs for a large portion of my life, and I really do love it. I am hoping that over time I will be able to sit in Lee Barkell’s lesson and be able to learn more about it, and hoping teach it some day.

Gail (USA): First of all, congrats Chris on your silver medal at Canadian Nationals! What is the process you go through to choose music for your competitive programs?

Chris: Thank you very much for your congrats 🙂 – it was very exciting! At the beginning of the year, I literally sit in a room with Lenore Kay in Newmarket and we listen to music. Interestingly enough, this year Lori approached me with my short program music and said that I HAD to skate to it. So I trusted her and went with it, and clearly it worked!

Paula: Thank you very much for taking out the time to answer questions from your fans! What advice would you give to skaters who would like to start competing?

Chris: You’re welcome! My advice would be: Don’t be afraid of it. It you aren’t afraid of it, then I would say “Dream!”