Jan and Cynthia Ullmark
On this month’s alumni podcast, let’s welcome former national team member Norm Proft as he introduces, visits, laughs and reminisces with his former coaches, Olympic and World coaches Jan and Cynthia Ullmark. It’s an in-depth conversation with two of Canada’s most historic and celebrated coaches as they tell their stories and share their philosophies.
Jodeyne Higgins & Sean Rice
Jodeyne Higgins and Sean Rice are Canadian pair skaters who also competed in the fours discipline. They are two-time (1993, 1995) Canadian pairs bronze medallist and four-time (1993–1996) Canadian fours champions. Find out what they had to say when asked about sharing their memories, achievements, personal interests and where they are now!
Fondest Canadian National, International or Olympic skating memory.
Our fondest skating memory would have to be our first Senior Nationals in Hamilton at Copps Coliseum in 1993. We were 4th after the short program and were waiting for the final flight to take the ice for warm up.
They were waiting for live tv time to begin and Wilf Langevin, the announcer for the event, had the crowd of 17,000 people on their feet cheering and doing the wave. To take the ice for warm up not only with the company we shared but also with that amount of energy in the air was an incredible moment to remember. It was so inspiring.
We skated a clean long program and finished third earning ourselves a place on Canada’s World Team. Then at Worlds in Prague, Czech Republic, the entire Canadian team made a top-10 finish for the first-time in many years.
Share a skating story.
One of the most amazing highlights of our careers has been getting the opportunity to work with two of our role models and skating legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean in our professional career.
We can remember the opportunity to watch them at a training camp in Lake Placid many years ago when we were first starting pairs and they were preparing for the Olympics. They were practicing in one of the small arenas going over and over what seemed to be just a few small steps. In fact, there was only one small section of the ice that was skated on and used.
We don’t think that at the time we fully understood or appreciated what they were doing or why they were not moving off that one section but now we can say after years later, having the opportunity to work along with them, sharing the ice, and performing on tour with them, we understand.
They are about creating as close to perfection as possible. They are truly connected and move as one reading each other’s minds. We are so grateful for the time we have spent with them, mentoring and learning from them. They are not only beautiful to watch on the ice to this day but more importantly beautiful people on the inside as well. It has taught us the importance of being well rounded role models both on and off the ice in everything we do.
Greatest skating achievement.
Representing Canada’s World Team twice – then taking that experience and moving into a very successful professional skating career that has yet to stop. We have had the opportunity to work with and share the ice with the best of the best, getting to perform around the world in over 40 countries.
We have then taken our experiences and created our own Production Company called “Seajo” that has allowed us the opportunity now for over 8 years to pay it forward to a new generation of skaters.
Have you stayed close to the friends you made while skating?
Yes. The two of us first met on the ice when we were 11 and 13 and now many years later are still truly the best of friends. We have had the honor of meeting many people in the skating industry and show world who we are still friends with today.
Many are like family now. Some we don’t see or talk to for months or years and when we see them, we pick right up from the day we left off. In all our travels we have really been able to figure out who are Dream 100 are. Skating has brought us so many amazing friends that we are grateful for.
How has skating impacted your life.
Skating has taught us about successes and failures in life. To have a relentless attitude to never give up. It has taught us how to be a team, be a part of a team, how to create teams and bring together people who you want to work with.
Are you still skating or in the sport in some capacity?
Yes, every day we are involved in some capacity. We still actively skate ourselves for enjoyment and in shows. We have our own Production Company, we coach, choreograph, consult, and provide guidance on-line. Also, the best gift is being able to be Mom and Dad watching our little girl when she takes to the ice to skate.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently.
That is such a difficult question to answer because if things were different in our lives it might not have led us to where we are today. But, if we had the ability to do it all again, we would have stopped letting other people’s opinions of us or those that told us we were wrong to get in the way of our visions, dreams and destiny. We have learned that to become a leader you must truly be the person that you are and be happy with who you are. Live the life you have been given to the fullest each day.
Where do you live/Employment/Career Achievements?
We live a lifestyle which takes us around the globe. Our home base is between Florida and the Greater Toronto Area. Our friends say to us they can never keep up with us and where we are from day to day. Some people plant their roots and stay still in one place. We have planted seeds that have made roots in many places, and we live on open wings.
Employment – we are multiple business owners and very proud entrepreneurs – building and partnering with global companies. Jodeyne – also works at Skate Canada as the Skating Development Coordinator.
Career Achievements – when we read this question, we just want to tell you that life for us is not one single achievement. Life for us is like a mountain range. It’s not about one single mountain that we are trying to climb. It is made up of a series of peaks, valley’s and plateaus.
Sometimes we find ourselves climbing while at other times we find ourselves falling. But, each time we fall, although at times painful, we find a more efficient route to achieve our goals or figure out a better way to do it than before.
Yes, we can say we were Canadian National Medalists, World Team members, International medalists, skated in shows around the globe, performed on tv and now produce shows but those achievements were for that moment in our life in our timeline. They have prepared us for future moments to come.
The reason why this is so important to understand is we have learned that, years from now, nobody will remember what you did or how you placed but they will always remember for the rest of their lives in that moment how you made them feel. So, when we experience those moments in anything we have done or do, that is what makes it all worthwhile and that is the greatest achievement one can have in their careers.
What are your plans for the future?
Our future is now. Everyday we are living each day to its fullest and as much as we want to tell you exactly what we have up our sleeves, we don’t want to spoil it. But, stay tuned.
What do you do for fun in your free time?
Play sports, camp, go to the beach, dirt bike, jet ski, chalk art, canoeing, theatre, movies, go on drives and adventures to places we have never been, experience and see life through our daughter’s eyes, spend time with friends and family, it is a very long list.
Coaching people, helping them to switch their mindset and their overall health, to become a better version of themselves.
Our passion is to travel the world with our daughter. Discover new places creating new memories. Seeing what this world truly has to offer our souls.
Plain and Simple… “What’s going on in your life” since retiring.
Well, in our eyes we have yet to retire. We have now skated together for 28 years and we are still loving the ice today just as much as we did when it all began.
We are business owners, entrepreneurs, coaches, consultants, life coaches, and the best job in the world, being Mom and Dad to our little girl Signey. She keeps us busy and we are enjoying every moment of her life that we can watching her grow up to be the little girl that she is becoming.
What is your favorite sport related movie?
Sean – The Blind Side; Jodeyne – Rudy
There are great underlying messages in both movies. If you haven’t seen them they are must sees!
Did you have any pre-skate rituals?
We have a saying, “Isolate your thoughts, one step at a time.” Each time we take to the ice we always say this to each other. Helps us to focus, be calm, and be connected in our thoughts and minds.
Who was your skating role model?
Sean – Lyndon Johnston, Wally Diestelmeyer, Osborne Colson; Jodeyne – Sherri Baier (Phelan), Cynthia Coull & Mark Rowsom
Your personal favourite skating program.
Sean – Competitive / 1997 Short Program “O” from Cirque de Solei
Show Program – Thankful from Josh Groban
Jodeyne – Competitive – 1995 Short Program – Reflections of Passion
Show Program – Thankful from Josh Groban
Our favourite long program we created but never got to compete was “Tribute” by Yanni.
A favorite quote that you live by.
Sean – “Live to inspire; inspire to live.”
Jodeyne – “Success consists of getting up one more time than you fall.”
What advice or words of wisdom would you give our current National Team?
That after performing in 1000’s of arenas we have learned that an arena is just an arena. It is just a piece of ice until “You” bring it to life. You have to go out there into your oasis and every time lay your performance down.
Remember your “Why” – you are there for you. You would be surprised how many people are cheering for you and are not against you.
Enjoy every moment on and off the ice. We were once told by an amazing lady, Joyce Hisey, at our first International to make sure we just didn’t sit in a hotel room at competitions but to get out there to see the cities we are in. So, we have lived by that and no matter where we travel, we take full advantage of seeing what the world has to offer us. That teaches you so much about life itself.
What impact/skills did skating provide to assist you in your current employment (if applicable) or life?
Dedication – persistence – passion – goal setting – focus – communication with body language – interpersonal skills – world travel skills – how to be a positive team member – preparation – time management – endurance – to play fairly – positive mindset – gracious not only in the successes we have but also in the defeats.
We did not just learn a sport or skills we learnt LIFE. We learned that through responsibility and accountability we found success and tools which have taken us far beyond our sport or careers. The skills we have learned through our skating are part of our souls and lead us in everything we do.
Do you have any old/new skating photos you would be willing to share… and the story that goes along with them… short or long?
We love to perform on stage. Creating a story where people can just simply watch and for just a moment in time forget where they are. With that we had a vision of creating something that would constantly grow.
A place that would allow international artists and performers to evolve. To be a place where they could come and go from, feeling like they were a part of something special and valued. Having worked with and for some amazing companies and people in our careers we took what we have learned and began to create our own place that would give back to our sport and industry.
Eight years ago, Seajo Productions & Entertainment, Inc. our production company, was born. We are so thankful that we can work along with our good friends, co-workers, and Fours Skating Partners Alexandra Shauman and Lukasz Rozycki to have a medium where we bring our visions and dreams to reality to entertain generations to come.
What skating event and when were you most inspired to pursue competitive figure skating and/or a specific goal in our sport and what was it about seeing that event and/or skater/s that affected you in the manner it did?
Sean – I wanted to be a hockey player, but something changed in me when I was watching the 1984 Olympics. I was watching the pair event and saw Lyndon Johnson and Melinda Kunhegyi performing in their white costumes. It was so exciting to watch him lift her up and carry her across the ice and gently set her down. I remember saying to myself I want to do that. Later that season I met them at an ice carnival and was able to ask how to begin doing this. A few months later my journey began in Pairs and now still to this day I get to carry my Angel across the ice.
Jodeyne – I can remember I always loved to skate and perform. I was at one of the local events close to my hometown of Stratford and a young lady, a coach named Sherri Baier, came up to myself and my parents asking me if I would like to try Pairs. So, at the age of 7 we made the decision to travel 45 minutes away from my home to find out what it was all about. I remember being at the try out and on the ice with so many skaters of all levels. It was amazing to watch and be a part of. After the on-ice session we were taken to an off-ice lift class. I can remember being asked to go over and do a lift with Doug Ladret one of the Senior Pair skaters at the time. He took me into his hands and lifted me high into the air and spun me around. I was immediately hooked and knew that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. There was and is no better feeling than being in the air.
The same question could apply if you took what you learned from skating and applied this learning and desire to achieve other things in our sport; tell us about what you did with what you learned and experienced.
The lesson we learned was that anything is possible. If you have a vision or a dream you can make it become a reality.
In terms of your own character development in life, what effect did your pursuit of competitive skating have on your character and why?
Sport has taught us so many things about ourselves. We are true believers that sport has not given us our personal characters but in fact revealed who we are inside. Sport has provided us invaluable life lessons that will stay with us personally for the rest of our lives and can be applied to anything we do.
Often, the situations we have faced on the ice and in the arena have much in common with daily situations in life. The choices and decisions we make directly affect our destiny. Success was always something we strived towards and was great when it happened, but it was the journey to get there that was the most important and what we remember.
It was the pursuit of overcoming our own limitations and always challenging ourselves that have fed our souls. We may not have been World Champions in the competitive world but where life has taken us and where it is leading us now is so well worth all of the lessons along the way.
When considering all that your pursuit of skating brought about in your life, what were the achievements and/or good fortune that meant the most to you and why?
This might sound hokey, but it was finding each other and now the icing on the cake is our little girl Signey.
We have a lifelong friendship that in the end just felt right. There are not too many people who you find in this world that you can truly adventure through all of life’s ups and downs with, travel the world and that truly see you for you.
We are that for each other and that means far more than any achievement we have had.
As often or few many times during your skating career, sometimes a personal encouragement received from someone who is not your parent, family member, or your skating coach can have a dramatic impact on you at the time; please share a story about how you may have been impacted in this manner and what came of that encouragement.
We would like to share a quick story about a soldier, a Victory Cross holder from England, who we worked along with on Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean’s – Dancing on Ice. His name is Dr. Johnson Gideon Beharry VC.
He was a man that grew up in Grenada with literally no shoes until he was 11. He travelled to England at a young age in search for a better life away from poverty and drugs. He was a solider in the Iraq war saving over 35 men after being severely injured with life-threatening injuries himself.
Johnson was awarded the highest honor from the Queen – The Victory Cross. He was not meant to survive but overcame the odds and is still with us here today. We were partnered together in the TV show.
When we started, Johnson’s only experience with ice was in drinks. He was in constant pain, could not raise his arms past his waist and had difficulty skating any steps on his own because of the injuries he had sustained at war.
In the beginning we were filled with doubt that he would not even make it to the first show. Then week after week through the period of rehearsals he had this amazing no-give-up attitude that shone through. You would teach him something and maybe it was the solider in him, but he would not forget what you showed him and although the milestones at first seemed small, by the live show he could glide across the ice taking Jodeyne’s hands.
Eventually with much determination we made it all the way to the semi finals and had the privilege to tour across England and Scotland. Johnson overcame the obstacles he was presented with and ended up lifting (Jodeyne) above his head in a ballet lift traveling across the ice not only once but week after week on tour.
He really proved that there should be no such word as “Can’t” in our vocabulary. It was something so incredible to experience. It is hard to bring the feeling into words. We have forever changed his world and he has forever changed ours. Being part of his journey and this experience has forever changed how we look at coaching, and life’s challenges whether they be physical limitations or limitations in your mind.
If you believe you can achieve. Push your limits – you never know where it will take you if you don’t try!
ME AND HER MAJESTY, QUEEN ELIZABETH
By Don Jackson
After I finished my competitive career at the end of the 1961-62 season, I turned professional by joining Shipstads & Johnson Ice Follies.
This show travelled through 22 cities each year in the United States but with only 2 stops in Canada, Toronto and Montreal. In February of that first season the tour finally came to Canada and of course I was excited to skate in Toronto for the first time as a star of Ice Follies.
In those days, the show was a big production that travelled with its own live orchestra and special lighting. They had their own small barrier with lights around the perimeter of the ice and with a few extra rows of seating on the ice at the sides and the end, the rink was made smaller.
For my number, the arena was blacked out as they made a big announcement introducing me. The spotlights came on and I would skate out from behind the curtains, stop and acknowledge the crowd, and then my music would begin. Just like when I won the World title, I skated to Carmen. At the beginning of my program I skated around the end of the ice like my preparation for the triple Lutz but instead of the Lutz I would do a big Tuck Axel with a hop to a sudden skid stop. That night, for whatever reason, I landed the big jump but when I tried to stop, I fell forward on my hands and knees and slid into the low barrier! All I could do was pull myself up on the barrier to get back on my feet. The live orchestra gave me time to recover and acknowledge the crowd but all I could hear were a lot of giggles and some polite applause.
At that same moment, I looked up and looking down on me was this enormous picture of Queen Elizabeth which hung in Maple Leaf Gardens! This was probably my most embarrassing moment in Ice Follies. From that point, I continued on with my program and thank goodness the rest went well.
Many years later in October of 2002, Queen Elizabeth came to Canada as part of her celebration year for her Golden Jubilee. During this visit she hosted a luncheon in Ottawa at the Governor General’s residence, Rideau Hall, for 50 distinguished Canadians, one for every year of her reign. I was very, very fortunate to have been chosen as the Canadian for 1962 when my wife and I were invited to this special day and luncheon. It was a wonderful and amazing day as Barb and I were presented to the Queen. We even got a few minutes to chat with Her Majesty!
I would just like to say that the Queen was very polite and never once mentioned my ungracious fall in front of her at Maple Leaf Gardens!
On July 30, 2019, the figure skating community mourned the loss of Canadian pair skater, Brian Manford Power. Brian and partner Audrey Downie-Williams were the 1951 Junior Canadian Champions and were also on the podium at the Senior Canadian Championships in 1952 (silver), 1954 (silver) and 1955 (bronze).
Andre Bourgeois, also reminisces about his memory of Brian.
“Brian Power played an important part in my development as a Junior skater. I went to take from him for a month in 1981 to improve my figures. Up to that point, my best result in figures at the Canadian Championships was tenth.
Brian spoke to me extensively about how the skating blade was designed to make circles and that I needed to trust my blade will make circles. For three weeks, he gave me lessons only on the forward outside figure eight. At the end of three weeks, he blindfolded me and made me skate a figure eight with three tracings. I was surprised that even blindfolded, my tracings were not that far apart. From that point forward, my attitude and approach to skating figures completely changed! At the next Canadian Championships, I placed 2nd in figures, which was a pleasant surprise. In my eyes, Brian was a skating genius. I thanked him immensely.”
A Dedication by Audrey (Downie) Williams
Brian was my pair partner from 1950 to 1955, and then he joined The Ice Capades.
We had a lot of fun and never fought. We made a promise when Mr. Albert Enders matched us together that we would not quarrel. When we were frustrated, we skated away until we cooled down.
Brian was a beautiful free skater, but figures were not his “thing”. He did get his 7th figure test and tried his 8th a few times. In 1950 when we won Canadian Junior Pairs, he also won the free skate portion of the Junior Men’s competition.
Brian was a far better free skater than l was, but I will always remember that I had fun skating with him. He had a good sense of humour and he knew how to push me. We skated well together in competitions and shows.
We performed in shows almost every weekend in February and March in small towns in B.C. and went as far east as Saskatoon. We also skated fours with Norman Walker and Pat (Spray) Lorimy. It was great for a carnival: four solos, two Pairs and a Four.
Brian and I were very close friends for a long time. A group of us arranged for him to become senior professional at Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver for a few years. Then he decided to free lance and moved out of Vancouver and we unfortunately lost touch.
He was a very good teacher and a great choreographer with a legacy which will live on in his many pupils.
He was a good friend and a super partner.
Brian’s obituary can be read in the Vancouver Sun
History is housed at Skate Canada under the watchful and passionate eye of Archivist, Emery Leger. Shown here is the display case at Skate Canada’s National Office in Ottawa which features historic trophies dating back to the early 1900’s. Some were presented by the Governor General of the time but many more were donated by private citizens, skating volunteers or former champions who chose to demonstrate their love for skating and its athletes’ accomplishments by creating these spectacular symbols of success.
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