This season Skate Canada and the Alumni Committee welcomed two new members into the Alumni Family. This past January at Nationals in Saint John, two of Canada’s most popular national team members, Dylan Moscovitch and Elladj Baldé, renewed their friendship and reminisced about the experiences skating has brought to their lives Facing the end of their first year of retirement from competition, they also talked about their new goals … and through many giggles … shared how skating has prepared them for the road ahead as they both embark on new directions.
Skate Canada saddened by the passing of skating pioneer Billie Mitchell
Skate Canada is saddened by the passing of beloved Hall of Famer Billie Mitchell. She passed away peacefully at age 103 on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. Mitchell, a native of Vancouver, blazed a path for female leadership in sport and was devoted to advancing figure skating throughout her life.
Mitchell was a legend in Canadian figure skating, setting trends with a number of ‘firsts’ for the organization. She was the first woman on the Skate Canada Board of Directors as a section chairman in 1960, and in 1976 she became Skate Canada’s first female president.
“Our heart is heavy as such an influential leader in our sport has left us. Billie helped to shape the landscape of Canadian figure skating and lead the way for women to follow in her footsteps,” said Leanna Caron, President, Skate Canada. “She was a true pioneer and we are thankful for all the innovation she brought to our sport and to her dedication to volunteerism. Skate Canada sends its deepest condolence to Billie’s family and friends.”
Mitchell was instrumental in the successful campaign to bring the 1960 World Figure Skating Championships to Vancouver. During her tenure as president, she introduced “The Parade of Champions” for the first time at the 1973 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. In 1996, she was inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame as a builder and in 1998 she entered the BC Sports Hall of Fame, also as a builder.
Mitchell’s legacy in figure skating is celebrated annually at the Skate Canada Ice Summit during the Awards Banquet, where the Billie Mitchell Award is presented to a member of the Skate Canada Board of Directors for outstanding contributions throughout the year.
Mitchell will be deeply missed by the skating community, and Skate Canada sends its deepest thoughts and prayers to Billie’s family and friends.
Reuniting at Nationals 2019: Saint John, New Brunswick
by Heather Kemkaran-Antymniuk, 1980 Olympian
A month after attending the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver, we arrived in Saint John at Nationals to be reunited once again with friends from the Skate Canada Alumni. After having such a wonderful experience in Vancouver, many of us decided to make the journey only a few weeks later to Saint John on the east coast to witness some of the best skating from across Canada.
Our first alumni event was our Alumni Social which took place at a local Saint John eatery and bar. The restaurant had prepared a private room for us, which added to a pleasant time of conversation and “nibblies” while reconnecting with friends. Later that evening, many of the alumni attended another celebration, this one to honour the retirement of legendary Jean Senft, our renowned Canadian Olympic judge. Many of her close friends and colleagues provided stories about Jean’s remarkable career and her outstanding contributions to skating with often humorous and always insightful remarks, accompanied with videos and photos for a walk down memory lane.
While travelling from our hotels to the skating events at the Main Arena, we were certainly spoiled! The arena, Harbour Station, is attached via a pedway to several hotels. Not only did the pedway ensure we stayed warm and dry, more on that later, but it also offered an abundance of stores for our shopping pleasure. Several of us found a beautiful wool store where we casually browsed pattern books and shared our passion for knitting over a cup of Timmy’s.
While the actual competition took place, the alumni would meet at every event to enjoy our talented and hardworking Canadian skaters’ performances. Short breaks took us to the VIP lounge, which was consistently outfitted with beautiful food and drink for our pleasure.
On Sunday before the exhibitions, the Alumni attended the Alumni Brunch and heard the inspiring story of new Hall of Fame Inductees, Eric Gilles and Josée Picard, who have trained many of our Canadian skating stars. It was their vision which proposed a plan to combine training with an education, and in the beginning, from the small quarters they used as a classroom. The success of their plan inspired athletes and educators nation-wide as a sports/education program available to all in order that athletes may pursue their dreams in sport while at the same time receiving their education.
Then came the storm….
Although we’d received ample warning, many of us did not appreciate the seriousness of the impending storm that was set to descend upon Saint John. Many us were contacted by our airlines only to be advised that our Sunday and Monday flights out of Saint John had been cancelled. In true form, the alumni quickly arranged our “Storm Dinner” at a local seafood restaurant for that evening. Despite the weather, many good friends and alumni attended to rehash the week of great skating and to enjoy the many laughs and shared memories that are the foundation of the alumni family.
Despite travel delays, we eventually all made it home!
While we all embraced the opportunity to add more outstanding memories to our individual history books, we’re also looking forward to reuniting again at the National Championships next year in Mississauga, Ontario.
To find out more about Heather, a special Alumni Spotlight story was featured last May. CLICK HERE
Skating On-line from Saint John, NB
by Debbi Wilkes
On-line streaming of some of Skate Canada’s prestigious events has become a go-to activity for skating fans and the entire skating family.
Ted Barton, BC’s Executive Director and himself a Skate Canada Alum and former world team member, had the vision to bring every moment of competition to the on-line market, first by covering the ISU Junior Grand Prix series and now to air Skate Canada’s Challenge, the Autumn Classic and the recent National Championships from Saint John, New Brunswick.
With a skeleton crew, three of whom are former national competitors themselves, Joni McPhail, Steve Muff and Rob Woodley, the team has masterminded how to bring every performance, athlete interview, and expert commentary in both French and English via the Skate Canada website to skating audiences around the world.
And at this year’s Nationals, a new wrinkle was added to enhance the experience with the participation of some big name and recently retired champions alongside mainstays, Olympic Silver Medalist Debbi Wilkes and National medalist Myriane Samson.
Meagan Duhamel, Elladj Baldé and Dylan Moscovitch took the first step in learning the ropes to venture into the field of broadcasting. Other guests over the weekend included 2018 World Champion Kaetlyn Osmond and 3-time World Champion and the event’s Athlete Ambassador Elvis Stojko.
To give everyone an idea of how much skating was covered, here’s a sample of some of the exciting numbers:
During the week-long event, there were 270 programs broadcast which included 1890 replay clips.
There were 51 warm-up groups and introductions.
Hosts conducted 34 Kiss & Cry interviews.
17 event and intro videos were delivered.
… And 18 washroom runs for the crew.
Bringing the National Championships to the world – PRICELESS!
“THE BROTHEL INCIDENT”
by Shirra Kenworthy
In the spring of 1964 following the Innsbruck Olympics and the Dortmund World Championships, members of the Canadian team went to Paris to enjoy a few days break in our touring schedule. Our parents and team leaders contacted the Canadian Figure Skating Association, now Skate Canada, and with the help of Trans Canada Airlines, now Air Canada, arranged hotel accommodation for the whole team in Paris.
We arrived in Paris late at night to a small somewhat dim, cluttered and crowded hotel lobby. As usual, our parents and team leaders went to the front desk to look after registration while we skaters sat in the lobby keeping an eye on all the luggage. It had been a long day of travelling and we were all tired and not really talking that much.
Suddenly I became aware of the guys in the group really perking up and whispering so I started looking around to see what was so intriguing.
I heard the word “brothel” and for the first time realized that this term described perfectly the action that was taking place in this lobby. Wow, this was interesting!!!
Soon my parents came over and were in a hurry to get the elevator to our room. I remember the elevator was small and, in my confusion, it was there that I told my Dad that we were in a brothel. I was admonished very sharply for saying such a thing … he was incredulous! Why would I even say such a ridiculous thing? Of course, this was not a brothel! Not another word was spoken until we got to our room.
About 10 minutes after starting to unpack, there was a sharp knock on the door. It was Tim Beatty, our team leader, telling my Father we would be leaving first thing next morning so not to fully unpack and, further, that I was not allowed to go down to the lobby.
My Father was stunned! I still remember him saying in appalled and astonished tones, “It really IS a brothel!” We moved very early the next morning but not before I’d checked in with other team members. Some of them confessed they had snuck back downstairs last night just to observe the action.
In addition to this introduction to Paris we all went to The Lido Club where we’d heard the show featured a skating act with two skaters performing on a tiny sheet of ice. Just before the show started, I got up on the stage to take pictures of our group but was hastily ushered off the stage since pictures of the audience were not allowed.
Little did we know the Lido performers were “clothed” mostly in jewels rather than in fabric!
Through all these years I have wondered if the Canadian Figure Skating Association ever actually heard about this. Apart from that question, I have never really thought about it since then but at the 2018 Alumni event at the Canadian Championships, as other Alumni were reminiscing, it all came back.
In summary, this trip to Paris was great fun. We all seemed to take the whole “brothel” incident as a matter of course and just continued with our amazing, but short, holiday in Paris. It was my parents’ reactions to the event that I found so hilarious … and memorable … an adventure which for me added a wonderfully amusing dimension to what was already an incredibly rich, rewarding and fabulous experience of being a member of the 1964 Canadian World and Olympic Figure Skating Team.
These are my recollections, if other members of this team have memories of this Paris trip, I would love to hear about them as well.
JEAN WESTWOOD’S GEMS
Part 2: WHO I TAUGHT & WHERE
Coaches are fortunate to have mentors as they start teaching. Again I was luckier than most.
In my first job at Lake Placid, I was guided and advised by Otto Gold, Howard Nicholson and later by Gus Lussi. He insisted I attend all his lessons with Ronnie Robertson. This was in 1956 in California. How lucky could I be!
1955 –In 1955 I turned pro to teach in Lake Placid that summer and for the next 4 summers and at Arctic Blades, in Los Angeles for 2 winters.
I was fully booked! Some of most notable students were Maribel Vinson Owen with Ron Ludington to learn the Rumba!
Otto and Maria Jelinek. Gus Lussi had recommended them to work with me after seeing the lifts I did in Free Dance. Otto did his first Overhead with me and I continued working with them for many years.
I also took the US Dance Tests with Bill Kipp.
1955/56 –When I went to California, fate took a hand that placed me as a successful coach.
My pupils won the Senior and Junior (Gold and Silver) Ice Dance titles, Roland Junso and Joan Zamboni successfully unseating the Bodels going on to 4th in Worlds; Chuck Phillips and Margie Ackles, a couple I paired together who three years later won seniors; I was also teaching Pat and Bobby Dineen and Rhode Lee Michelson who all perished in the tragic air crash in 1961; Bill Kipp joined me here to form our professional partnership, also perishing in this crash with Rhode and his dance couple … Bill and I had tried out for Ice Follies but turned down their offer.
1956 –I was persuaded to leave California and start teaching in Toronto at their new club just opening. I was thrilled to join Sheldon Galbraith on staff and meet his pupils and study his teaching and training methods to add to what I had observed with Gus Lussi.
Here I coached Bill McLachlan and Geraldine Fenton Crispo after starting with them in the summer at Lake Placid. They danced their way to be the first North Americans to win a silver medal, a feat they repeated the next year, and a bronze in 1959 before Gerrie retired. In 1959 I coached the entire Canadian team for Worlds and North Americans.
Bill and Gerrie won North Americans and placed third at Worlds.
Ann Martin (Shaw) with Eddie Collins – 3rd at North Americans, 5th at Worlds. I also coached Eddie in Singles at Worlds that year.
Mirek and Svata Staroba – 6th at North Americans, 8th at Worlds.
THE LURE OF SHOW BIZ
At this time I was approached by Ice Follies to be Skating Director and Assistant Choreographer. After much soul searching … and a desire to further my knowledge … I accepted their offer.
The experience was invaluable and helped me produce club shows in the future at Broadmoor and Victoria especially in lighting/props/group production/costumes, etc. The cast of the show welcomed me to instruct them. Richard Dwyer learned overheads and death spirals. Also I managed to sign up Frank Carroll without an audition. They took my word he had the talent. He is still one of my closest friends.
As a coach who always wanted to help change and improve myself to keep my students interested and alert, I found the show environment with the emphasis on lighting and props somewhat frustrating. So it was then I decided to return to full-time coaching.
BACK TO COACHING
1960 to Vancouver to coach Donna Lee and JD Mitchell, and became good friends with Dr. Hellmut May and Linda Braukmann. After the 1961 North American Championships, I decided to take my teams to my parents’ home in England for a short R&R before heading to Worlds in Prague. Shortly after our arrival, we were informed about the tragic plane crash in Brussels which killed the entire US skating team. Several days later, I took my teams to Brussels to meet Kendall Kelly and to attend the memorial service.
1961 to Victoria to teach American dancer Lorna Dyer and her partners King Cole and then John Carrell.
1965 to Colorado Springs to continue working with Lorna and John plus Dennis Sveum and Kristin Fortune and several singles skaters. I also assisted Carlo Fassi with his students, most notably Peggy Fleming. I even attended Peggy’s wedding to Greg Jenkins.
Over the next decade, I kept my base in BC and worked with dancers and pair skaters, like Betty and John McKilligan, but continued to travel to the US to work with some wonderful students.
In later years, I didn’t coach world competitors but did have the pleasure of becoming Head Coach at the Canadian National Dance Seminar for 14 years.
Today I still reside in Victoria and enjoy working with my successful show dogs.
I loved teaching and enjoyed helping to develop and advise many diverse careers among my competitive pupils and their families.
International Judges: Ann Martin Shaw, Bill McLachlan, J.D. Mitchell, Susan Anderson Morris, to name a few
Choreographer: Kevin Cottam, his most famous work for the Calgary Olympics Opening Ceremony
Accountant with Skate Canada: Donna Lee Mitchell
Two of my pupils’ parents became Skate Canada Presidents!!!!!
Stan Allen and Billie Mitchell
Numerous Coaches, Forensic Specialists, Psychologists and many happily married skaters with families.
MY FINAL WORDS
My lesson to all skaters and coaches is to have the balance between confidence and humility. Never forget how and where you came from and who helped you achieve your goals. Work hard to confidently fulfill the trust those kind people had in you.
Composite Photograph of a skating Carnival at the South End Exhibition Rink in Halifax, Nova Scotia. About 200 skaters and 1000 spectators attended the Carnival in February 1899.
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