In this episode, Debbi Wilkes chats with Mike Slipchuk, 1992 Olympian & Canadian Champion, Skate Canada’s High Performance Director and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame & Museum member.
RECOLLECTIONS by Richard Vallee, Skate Canada Official
Deciding to conclude my coaching activities, yet wanting to stay involved in the sport, it was suggested that I consider joining the judging ranks. My mother, a low test judge, encouraged me to continue to pursue this avenue which would eventually assist our local skating club by defraying future costs of importing judges for test sessions. I began the educational aspect by reviewing judging materials and attending test sessions to learn as much as possible. As I advanced through the test levels, Norm Carscallen, an International judge from Sudbury, Ontario who had judged several of my skating tests served as my mentor, encouraging me to progress through the ranks.
Advancing through the competitive levels resulted in involvement in related activities such as sectional and national committee work, facilitating clinics and seminars, and monitoring skaters.
As a competitive judge, I was fortunate to reach Canadian and international status with the guidance of several highly esteemed officials: Jane Garden, Joyce Hisey, and in particular Jean Mathews and Elizabeth Clark. As I reflect on my nearly 40 years as a Skate Canada official, I believe that it is extremely important for judges to share their knowledge, expertise, and experience in order to assist others in attaining their goals. My life has been enriched through the wonderful judging experiences, lifelong friendships, and the immense satisfaction I have received from working with parents, coaches, volunteers, and in particular, the skaters.
Every so often, it is fun to look back and reminisce about my experiences during my 40 years as a Skate Canada official.
My father taking me to the rink to try out my first pair of figure skates. After twice around the ice surface, I complained that the left skate felt fine but not the right. Knowing nothing about figure skates, he assumed they were on the wrong feet. Two more laps resulted in the same complaint. Upon more careful examination, we discovered the company had sent two left boots.
The exhilaration of skating outdoors on a sunny day even with a runny nose and freezing toes.
The fun and excitement of the annual ice shows.
My mother, who was saving for a fur jacket, giving me the money to attend summer school for the first time.
Having only one test day per winter season.
Judging a small competition in Michigan with Heather MacDonald who was alone in awarding the first three places in the Artistic event to Canadian skaters. Just after the results were posted, composing a letter on competition stationary citing her with “national bias” with copies to David Dore and Barbara Graham and then watching her expression line by line from another room as she read it.
Passing my first eighth test in Brandon, Manitoba.
Nervous about using open making for the first time at the Northern Ontario Sectionals only to learn as I was going on the ice that the first figure was a Rocker which I had never judged.
Setting and marking exams, writing manuals, conducting clinics, and monitoring skaters.
Judging the Novice Ladies short program at Western Ontario Sectionals with food poisoning and running to the washroom during every warmup group. The next day, having a lens fall out of my glasses at the beginning of the free skating and wiring it with a paper clip.
Looking forward to Minto Summer Skate each year and the incredible hospitality of Don Seguin, Elizabeth Clark, and the club volunteers.
The kindness, encouragement, and support I received from Jean Matthews.
As assistant referee at my first Divisionals having to blow the whistle on Elizabeth Manley for exceeding the time limit.
Barbara Graham copying down every judge’s marks.
Judging my first Canadian championship.
Margie Sandison’s colourful skating sweaters and unique earrings.
The wonderful learning experiences of the National Judges Seminars.
Dennis MacFarlane setting the breadbasket on fire at dinner.
Jeff Partrick’s amazing school figures.
Awarding my first 6.0 for Brian Orser’s short program at the 1988 Canadians.
Officiating at my first International event in East Berlin the week the Berlin Wall came down and feeling the atmosphere change from oppression to jubilation.
The nerve-wracking experience as one of the last persons to pass through Checkpoint Charlie.
The pride experienced at every International competition upon hearing my name announced as representing Canada.
Unpacking in Helsinki only to find I had left all my ties at home.
In the middle of judging the pair event in Kiev having the rink attendants set up a ladder beside me and proceed to hang banners over my head.
Sharing the incredible recognition weekend at Canadians with Sheena Meurin and Susan Heffernan hosted by Skate Canada from International Skating Union retirement.
Linda Carbonetto is the the 1969 Canadian national champion and competed at the 1968 Winter Olympics.
Linda is married to Edward Villella, America’s most celebrated male dancer and has had a long career with the New York City Ballet.
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