In recent years the ladies competition at the Canadian National Figure Skating Championships has been dominated by women who call the French-speaking province of Quebec home. In fact, a Québécois competitor has won each of the last eight senior ladies titles, and for the past three championships, they have swept the podium. So it was no surprise when this trend trickled down to the junior level at the 2011 championships in Victoria, B.C., as Roxanne Rheault became the first lady from Quebec to win the title in six years.
“It feels so good to be the Canadian junior ladies champion when you know that you have put forth lots of effort and given everything you have to reach the top,” Rheault said. “I was so proud of everything that I accomplished, and I never smiled like I did when I was on the podium.”
The champion is proud to skate for the province of Quebec, which has a rich tradition of producing international medalists including 2010 Olympics bronze medalist Joannie Rochette, two-time World Championships medalists Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon, and double Olympics bronze medalist Isabelle Brasseur.
“We are not good just in one area of figure skating in Quebec,” Rheault explained. “In my opinion, we are taught to be good in all areas—spins, jumps, artistry, and all of that makes us better skaters.”
Though she is just 15 years old, Rheault is no stranger to standing on the podium on the national level. The Daveluyville native also won the 2007 Canadian juvenile ladies title—ironically the same year that her junior men’s counterpart, Nam Nguyen, won the boy’s juvenile title.
Rheault earned the highest juvenile ladies score in Canadian history in those championships, and as a result, was also awarded with one of the BMO Possibility Awards. The awards are given each year by the BMO Financial Group to young Canadian skaters who are rewarded with a $500 training grant and a trophy.
She followed that up with a silver medal in pre-novice the following season, and narrowly missed the podium last year on the junior level, finishing in 4th.
“This season I was in much better shape than I was last year,” Rheault explained. “I was in my first year with new coaches, so I was still adapting to all of the technical changes that we were making to my skating as well as a new school and new housing. My attitude has also changed this season, and I have rediscovered my desire to be the best.”
The champion has many of the strengths that are reminiscent of the top ladies skaters from Quebec— including an innate ability to convey the story of her programs through choreography. Rheault also shows great command of her blades, resulting in steady footwork sequences, strong spins, and above average speed. Her weakness, however, is the lack of a full compliment of triple jumps.
“Right now I can do the triple toe, and I am working on a triple flip,” Rheault said. “I am hoping that I can do three or four triples for next season.”
Her short program this season to Méditation from Thais presented a sedate and balletic side to Rheault, but at the same time, it captured the power that lies within her basic skating. The free skate, skated appropriately to Tango de Roxanne from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack, showed a contrasting saucier side to the teenager. Like most skaters, Rheault has spent countless hours working on the presentation of her skating, and has taken the usual route to improvement.
“I have taken dance classes and studied ballet in order to improve my artistry,” she said. “Now I spend a lot of time with my choreographer to work on all the movements and expression required of programs in skating.”
Rheault started skating recreationally nearly twelve years ago, and was encouraged to pursue the sport on a competitive level soon after.
“When I was three years old, I started skating as part of the activities that we did at the daycare center that I was attending,” Rheault shared. “Soon after that I started skating in a club because I was told that I had potential to be a good skater.”
Rheault attends secondary school in Boucherville, Que., while maintaining a vigorous training schedule that has her on the ice five or six days a week. She also supplements her on-ice time with other activities in order to improve her physical condition.
“I usually skate for two and a half hours a day,” she explained. “Off ice I do stretching twice a week for 40 minutes, and I also work out in the gym two times a week for about 90 minutes at a time.”
The junior champion trains with Annie Barabé, Sophie Richard, and Yvan Desjardin at the Champions Training Centre at Contrecoeur. Rheault also works with choreographer Sebastien Britten, who is the 1995 Canadian champion and a member of the 1994 Canadian Olympic Team. Her coaching team is also responsible for training two-time and reigning ladies champion Cynthia Phaneuf.
“Cynthia is my idol, and I look to her as a strong role model,” she said. “She motivates me, and watching her has taught me how to persevere through tough days in the rink.”
With her competitive season over, Rheault sees this time as an opportunity to work on improving her skating so that she can fulfill another one of her skating goals.
Now is the time that I have to give more effort to my skating,” she said. “I have to be ready this summer at the first competition so that I can be considered for international assignments. I really want to compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, and I don’t want to let this opportunity pass me by. I am working hard to do my best so that I get selected.”
Because she won the junior title, Rheault will be required to move up to the senior level next season for national competition. The 15 year-old understands how challenging the competition will be at that level, and is prepared to put in the work to be successful.
“I will work really hard to qualify for nationals as a senior lady because I think that competing at that level will help progress the level of my skating,” she said. “I know that competing as a senior is not easy, so I am just making my goals a little more challenging so that I can make sure that I can be competitive.”
With all of the hard work that she is putting in at the rink, Rheault is still able to relax and enjoy her skating by accepting invitations to skate in shows.
“I really love this,” Rheault said excitedly. “Like all skaters dream, my long term goal is to participate in the Olympic Games. After that, maybe I can skate in some professional shows all over the world.”
Rheault is looking forward to skating in three shows in Quebec—on Saturday in Bécancoure, another on April 23rd in Trois Rivieres, and a third in Laval on May 21st.
Rheault has just one sibling, a 13 year-old brother named Maxime who, like most Canadian boys, plays hockey. Her brother also plays baseball in the summer. And though she would like to have a pet in her family, Rheault is allergic and cannot have pets.
When she isn’t on the ice, Rheault likes to do typical teenage things—she likes to dance, go shopping, and listen to music. She also enjoys running and spending time with her friends and family. When she has a moment to watch TV, she likes to watch her favorite program, One Tree Hill.