A good article on the canadian women at Nationals...there is a picture of Amanda Valentine performing her short but I was unable to put it here.

Thursday, January 20, 2005 Back The Halifax Herald Limited


Talent pool deep
Canadian women bursting with wealth of skill
By NEIL STEVENS / The Canadian Press

LONDON, Ont. - The women's figure skating talent pool in Canada, which was so shallow not long ago that diving was prohibited, suddenly seems bottomless.

There is a wealth of teen talent.

The reigning senior champion, Cynthia Phaneuf of Sorel-Tracy, Que., is only 17, and Joannie Rochette of Ile Dupas, Que., is practically a veteran at 19.

The seniors will be on the John Labatt Centre ice to present their short programs at the Canadian championships tonight. Also in the medal hunt is 15-year-old Mira Leung of Vancouver.

Plunge away, ladies.

The next wave of talent was on display when the juniors presented their short programs Wednesday.

Tanika Gibbons, 16, of Vancouver was first, Amelie Lacoste, 16, of Montreal was second and Amanda Valentine, 14, of Nepean, Ont., was third.

Gibbons, who has overcome a fatigue issue that interrupted her training, defines this season as "a great step forward." She was sixth overall one year ago.

"I've learned how to get into a zone and perform to the best of my ability," she says.

Competing in the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010 is her dream.

"I'll be a perfect age then to go out and do it," she says.

Valentine, one of the smallest competitors at four-foot-11, has the spunk to be a champion. Her goal also is to be on the 2010 Olympic team.

"It's going to be a long road but I'm going to give it my best effort," she says.

Valentine has Osgood-Schlatter disease - inflammation of the tendons connecting her knees to her shin bones - but is so determined that she talked her family into allowing her to move to Michigan last April to be billeted with a family there so she could work with Richard Callaghan, who coached Tara Lipinski to Olympic gold.

"Skaters have to do that nowadays if they want to succeed," says Callaghan. "It's a difficult transition for the family but she goes home as often as possible and they come down to see her as much as possible.

"Because of her age, her work habits and her ability, she's got great potential."

Valentine, the daughter of former NHL player Chris Valentine, can grow out of the Osgood-Schlatter, and that's what she's planning on doing - before that trip to Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Games. It's painful when it flares up but it's not a condition that causes permanent damage.

"It's nothing that, when I'm 30, will cause me any trouble walking or anything," she says. "I'm just lucky I've had it under control so I could train and be able to be here."

"Knock on wood, it seems to be gone right now," says Callaghan.

Valentine landed a good triple toe loop-double toe loop jump combo, fell on her triple loop attempt and landed her double Axel in her short program Wednesday.

"I went out and gave it my all," she said. "It's too bad about the loop but I'll land it in the long (on Saturday)."

She's been bothered by neck spasms this week.

"It's a bit stiff and I can't rotate it the whole way," she said. "There's always going to be something.

"I tried my best and I'm happy with the outcome."

Leung was already in the senior division when she was 14. She was fifth last winter and might wind up on the podium this year.

"Be ready for anything," she replied when asked what advice she would give the juniors. "No dream is too far-fetched.

"Dream big."

Leung was 10 when Skate Canada sent her to Zagreb, Croatia, for her first international assignment.

"I thought that was really cool, flying to another continent to compete against other skaters and match up skills," she said.

She competed in Beijing last autumn.

The best skaters go places.

"It's good for Canadian women's figure skating," Leung says of the deepening talent pool. "It's a challenging level of competition, which I find more motivating than how it was a few years back. It's more fun."

She, too, aims to be on that 2010 Olympic team.

"I've always known I would be serious about skating," she says. "Since I started skating, I just kept pushing myself to do the hard stuff."

Pam Coburn, chief executive officer of Skate Canada, has set a four-medal target for the 2006 Games in Italy and worlds in Calgary. That's daring considering no Canadian was among the top seven in any of the four disciplines at the 2005 world championships.

"If you don't have high goals, you'll never achieve big things," Rochette says of Coburn's quota. "I know this is a big goal but you have to have high goals to get motivation every day in training.

"I think this is what Canada was missing before."

Rochette was 13 when she got her first Skate Canada trip abroad, to the Netherlands.

What advice would she give the juniors?

"It's important to really enjoy your skating," she says. "When I was a junior, I wasn't thinking about expectations or results.

"All I was thinking about was skating my best. It's always easier when you don't put pressure on yourself."

That is something she will want to remember when she goes to the world meet in Moscow in March to try and improve on her eighth-place showing in Dortmund, Germany, last year.


Copyright © 2005 The Halifax Herald Limited