Featuring Donald Jackson
All champions contribute to the sport of figure skating, but only a few change the sport in significant ways. In this edition of the Alumni podcast, our greatest champion, Don Jackson describes his skating life before, during and after his historic triple Lutz back in 1962. From recognition at international skating hot spots… to the local arena… Don’s life has been dedicated to skating and to the people who have supported him in his quest to be the best at every level of involvement. Enjoy listening to Don as he and Debbi Wilkes share some outstanding memories.
Through tough times, the figure skating community stands strong
By Debbi Wilkes, Olympic Medallist and Skate Canada Alumni Chair
By the time this edition of the Skate Canada Alumni Blog is published, my hope is that our fears around COVID-19 (formerly known as coronavirus) and its spread will have calmed so that things are moving back to normal, although I wonder if the world will ever be the same.
This morning, I’m sitting at my breakfast table looking out at a world stunned by this pandemic and by all the necessary steps being taken to help us stay safe and healthy.
Being of “that age” when statistically I am more prone to catching the virus, along with my husband, Bruce, who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, we are paying attention to the warnings and self-isolating. We even have our own activity centres in our condo unit! For me, it’s books, crosswords and sudokus, a huge jigsaw puzzle, and knitting; for Bruce, it’s books, crosswords, computer games and cooking shows… crazy, since he rarely cooks! Of course, we’re both staying in touch daily with our families thanks to Mr. Google.
Over a week ago, my heart and head were throbbing over making the difficult decision about whether to attend the ISU World Figure Skating Championships slated to start Tuesday, March 17, 2020 in Montreal, Quebec. Should I put myself at risk in such an international setting? And my biggest concern, what if I brought something back home?
Thinking back seven days—I remember at the time the world had not even considered shutting down—the event was still fully underway with thousands of hours spent in the planning; organizing committees, volunteers, competitors, coaches and officials dedicating themselves to performing for fans on site and around the world; ticket holders spending thousands of dollars to attend; millions of dollars being allocated to producing an unforgettable world championships experience.
For members of the Alumni Program, like myself, we were looking forward to renewing our friendships, sharing some remarkable social events organized for us, celebrating Canada’s enormously successful skating history to which we have all contributed, and watching first-hand the evolution of this generation of athletes adding to that history.
I agonized over what to do. Only now do I realize that at the same time Skate Canada, the ISU and the province of Quebec were in a much larger dilemma and undergoing a much more difficult and complicated process to arrive at the decision to cancel the event.
It was a sad day but a historic one. The decision made sense, particularly in light of where the world stands today in its attempt to control and fight the virus.
The only other occasion I can recall when the event was completely cancelled, other than during war times, there was no virus. It was nearly sixty-years ago in 1961.
Prague, Czechoslovakia was hosting, the first time in modern history when the event was to be held behind the “Iron Curtain”. I was probably too young to understand the political ramifications around it all, but I did have a very keen sense that this was BIG.
Part of the Canadian team, Guy Revell and I, Otto and Maria Jelinek and a few others had already arrived in Prague waiting at the airport for our friends on the US team to land. Within minutes, we discovered the horrendous news that their plane had crashed in Brussels, no survivors.
And the world stood still.
As I recall, although we attempted to continue with our training, it was several days before we knew any details (no Internet and barely any phones in Prague back in the 60’s) and the event was officially cancelled. It was a horrific tragedy to hit the US and the entire skating world.
This time, although we are all naturally disappointed at the turn of events and missing our favourite competition of the year, to continue would have been difficult. In just one short week, we’ve learned the devastating impact of COVID-19. As the number of cases and deaths continue to mount, I’m grateful our organizing bodies were less concerned about medals and money and more concerned about protecting the well-being of the skating community, whatever role that may involve.
The ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2020 will be blank in the history books but I’m confident even without this benchmark event, that athletes, organizers and skating associations will continue to push the sport forward to new heights.
The world championships may not be in Canada next year, but I’m still making plans!
Kurt Browning – Entertainment at its best!
In a recent Social Media post, Kurt Browning shared the following fun videos and message in the hopes to cheer everyone up during the these tough times.
“Training in isolation while wearing my Dad’s retro snowmobile suit and hat. Both are from the 70’s. The skater is from the 60’s.”
Follow Kurt on Instagram at kbonice
Elvis Stojko – “Beyond the Ice” Documentary
On February 18, in a Social Media post, Elvis Stojko announced a documentary on his personal life that will be available on his social platforms.
“This is the official trailer for an upcoming documentary series about my personal life, where no dream is too big to chase and no challenge too steep to overcome. Join me in this multi-part series as we explore my personal and professional life outside of skating and discover who I am – Beyond the Ice.
Memories Stay Forever
By Pam Chislett, retired international Official
After the Skate America officials’ dinner (where I was presented with a lovely bouquet of flowers accompanied by a very much appreciated speech from Leanna Caron, Skate Canada President, saying farewell to me on behalf of Skate Canada), I was asked to share some of my skating memories for the Alumni blog. I agreed but wanted to wait until I had done the 2020 Youth Olympic Games, my last official Skate Canada international assignment.
Well the time has come. It is difficult to know where to start so let’s just dive in.
Sometimes when we get together as a group of skating officials the talk turns to how we first got started. I was first introduced to figure skating through an Ice Show – likely Ice Capades – as a school friend of my father’s was in the cast.
We were living in Chicago at the time and I remember a few days after the show my dad’s friend came over, took me to an outdoor rink and started teaching me to skate. We then moved to Edmonton where, as luck would have it, I lived right across the street from an outdoor rink. Mr. Edy (the ice caretaker) and I immediately became very good friends as I pretty much lived at the rink. I took community league lessons and one day Gordon Linney saw me skate at our local carnival and approached my parents about me taking private lessons. And so, the story begins. It was so wonderful over the years to run into Gordon at competitions. Such a kind, gracious gentleman.
I progressed through the competitive ranks and when I was 16, John Vipond, a skating father and official, asked if I would like to become a judge. I said yes and Mr. Vipond started mentoring me and showed me the ropes. Mrs. Helen Welsh also helped. Later, Dennis McFarlane took an interest in me and I carried on up the ranks. I remember being so thrilled to be receiving money for mileage when I drove to Drayton Valley and other such places to judge.
At that time there were three judges on a panel, so it often turned into quite a social outing once the judging tasks were done. Moving into the National and International ranks, I remember how Benoit Lavoie, Audrey Williams, Jack Greenwood, Jane Garden, Joyce Hisey, and Ann Shaw all helped me with exams, reports, etc. I especially remember one event where Jane Garden was my referee and I received a report from her in that tiny, neat script of hers where she pointed out where I could improve but she also spoke encouragingly with many positive comments. As I was quite intimidated by Jane at the time, I felt a warm glow when I received those comments.
During that time, we had many special clinics and seminars that helped further our knowledge of the sport. Kerry Leitch’s pair seminars, Dennis McFarlane’s dance seminars, Ann Shaw’s seminars where her depth of understanding and knowledge of dance was so evident and Joyce Hisey with her sheer love of life and fun combined with great knowledge – all made it very special to be part of the group.
I believe that I started out on my International journey at about the same time as Elizabeth Clark and Sally Rehorick. Sally and I knew each other as we had both skated at the Royal Glenora Club (and she had beaten me at our University competition). I think we all trial judged a Canadians together. There are so many fond memories of times spent together with these two. Watching them at their Olympic roles made me proud to be a fellow official.
Then my first International.
Compared with today, I had waited a very long time for my first assignment – at least a couple of years. Needless to say, I was getting a little impatient. Anyways, it happened and with very little warning – 7 days in fact. Skate America was being held in Dallas, Texas and they needed another dance judge. So, my turn had finally come!
I couldn’t have asked for better companions to show me the ropes – Susan Heffernan, Margie Sandison and Mary Pearson. My plane was the last to land during a severe thunderstorm. Water was flowing through the streets with cars and trucks stranded in the floods. There was no one to meet me but I figured out how to get to the hotel thanking my lucky stars that at least I was somewhere where I understood the language. Our Canadian dance team was Josée Piché and Pascal Denis.
Other than having the thrill for judging a Canadian team at an international competition and enjoying seeing the skaters from other countries, my most vivid memory was the “Round Table Discussion”. My colleagues had advised me that it was likely in my best interests to only speak if spoken to. This proved to be good advice as my instinct was to speak up in defence of one of the judges who was being severely criticized by the referee in a manner to me that did not necessarily show professional respect of a fellow official. I am so glad that the environment of these meetings has improved over the years. It was quite an eye opener to me and a bit shocking. But I survived.
An Ostrava Grand Prix was my first European international assignment.
The judges’ dinner was a little different from the norm. The hosts arranged a brunch with a local mining college. We joined their graduation ceremony. We were led into this room with the tables arranged in a large square around the outside of the room. At one end there were the college professors and some students – all wearing traditional mining garb of elaborate cloaks. It was obvious by the toasts at that end of the tables that there already had been much celebration. The judges sat down and listened politely to the speeches from the local hosts and the mining college. We were treated to a good meal and upon the conclusion were then invited to take part in a ceremony to become an honorary coal miner. It involved jumping over a beer keg while wearing the traditional cloak and then downing a stein of beer after successfully negotiating the beer keg jump, rather like the Screech Ceremony to become an honorary Newfoundlander. And it was taped on video tape. I have the tape still in my possession but have never watched it due to the European format which my machine does not accept. All in all, it was a very generous concept of the hosts to share such a unique celebration with visiting officials. It was much appreciated by all and definitely memorable!
In another European city, Liberec, Germany, in the final JGP of the 2006-2007 season, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Canadian team. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were in their 2nd JGP together after becoming a team in August 2006. I think Andrew had received a cut on his leg in China and then had to come directly to Germany for the team’s 2nd JGP. As sometimes happened to this team, they missed the silver medal position by the narrowest of margins. And this was while Andrew was skating with many stitches in his leg. After the competition it was my pleasure to hold the flashlight to light the wound while the team medic removed the stitches.
My first Junior Worlds started out with a bit of stress. My husband forgot to pick me up at home thus making me late for my plane, leading to late luggage upon arrival and some stressful moments leading up to the competition.
But more memorable from that event was the facility. It was a largely wooden facility in a park. The facility had a downhill ski area in it, a speed skating oval in which the centre was also flooded for a practice rink for the figure skaters. It was sort of a tent affair and very odd. And I think there was a go kart track attached to the rink as well. Jack Greenwood and Sue Blatz were the other two Canadian judges there – both so supportive of this “newbie”. There was only one exit and the way to the judges room was through the crowds (well not very many people attended but it could still be crowded at times), then up these narrow, steep stairs that were like an access to an attic. I remember having thoughts of what would happen if a fire broke out. Anyways, this competition was very memorable for the skating as it was Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s first Junior Worlds. It was just before the team changed coaching from Paul McIntosh to Marina Zoueva. Jean Senft’s daughter Lauren was also in this event and it all made for a very exciting competition. I heard a few years later that the facility did in fact burn down! Hopefully replaced with a less flammable material but with the same Dutch ingenuity!
Not really being bilingual is a drawback to being from a dual language country. I have tried hard for my French over the years, but my final failure that put an end to my attempts of speaking French was at one of the last JGP’s held in St. Gervais.
I had heard so much about the St. Gervais-Oberstdorf trips over the years but had never been part of them. Being assigned to the St. Gervais part felt very special for me because of that. So, there I was in a lovely French café with Annie Barabe and her coaching team, ordering a ham sandwich, “Vitement, s’il vous plait”. What did I get? A crème de menthe drink. I guess my “vitement” was translated because of my poor accent to “mint or menthe”- no sandwich. Annie and I just laughed but I did not try French again.
One of my most memorable moments amongst my Eastern European adventures was a springtime trip to the Triglav Trophy.
We stayed in Kranska Gora, a mountain resort that hosts World Cup ski races. There was then a half hour or so bus ride to Jesenice where the competition was held. The bus driver seemed to spend much of his time in the bar during the day so the rides back to the mountain resort were sometimes stressful. The competition went literally from dawn to dusk with judges being brought food rink side to be eaten while judging.
After the stressful ride back to the hotel one day I had a surprise visitor knock on my door. It was Marina Zoueva with a signed copy of Katerina Gordeeva’s My Sergei. It was a very special gift. And then to top it off, Marina’s son Fedor Andreev performed a violin recital on the hotel deck. With the sun setting on the backdrop of the mountains accompanied by the beautiful music and excellent company, it was a moment to remember. As an aside, Fedor was competing in the Advanced Novice boys’ group and he had to add a spiral sequence to his program – something not included in his Canadian program. Needless to say he coped very well and medalled at the event.
A more recent memory is an ice dance practice at Four Continents. Piper Gillies and Paul Poirier did a run-through of their Vincent program. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje did a run-through of their Starmania program. I was sitting quite separate from the rest of the members of the panel and just felt the sheer beauty and complexity of both programs overwhelm me. I had to resort to tipping my chin up to keep the tears from running down my face. And then I was busted when Carol Lane glanced up as I did a fast swipe to dry my face. She gave a quick acknowledgement of my “weakness” accompanied by an understanding smile.
There are many little moments that I remember fondly – walking in the Gdansk square with Paul Wirtz and his skaters while Paul was trying to make the other people in the square smile; sitting in an outdoor café in Poland with Michael Jiranek and Paul McIntosh; many pleasant outings with David Islam and his son Mitch plus his many other pupils; sharing special moments with team leaders Petra Burka, Louis Stong and Marijane Stong; sitting in a cab with Cynthia Phaneuf and Jessica Dube at 8 am in Japan- thinking they had more style at their young ages than I could ever achieve; laughing uproariously at our variety of rain gear with Sheena Meurin and Joe Inman on a walk from the Obertsdorf rink to our hotel – and I could go on and on.
My final international was the Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland. What a great event to be part of. Beth Crane and Karen Butcher were the other Canadian officials. And Leanna Caron managed to attend much of the skating, so it was wonderful to spend time with her.
Lausanne embraced this event! There was hardly a place in the entire city where the volunteers were not visible – ready and willing to help in any way. The downtown was full of activities for everyone to try the different sports. Karen Butcher and I discovered a new way to watch skating – sitting in Coca-Cola lawn chairs outside in the evening while imbibing Mulled Wine watching the recently judged Free Dance event on a large outdoor screen (which I had just judged in reality a few hours earlier).
The spirit that embraced these Games was one of hope, sharing the joy of sports and achievements while meeting athletes and officials from around the world.
In closing, I would like to thank all my colleagues, volunteers, Skate Canada, the skaters, the coaches and the choreographers for playing such a vital role in adding this dimension to my life. One of the judges at my last International, the 2020 Youth Olympics, mentioned the number of countries that he had judged in over the years. I have never kept count, but it has been a lot and many more than I would have ever visited on my own.
As my Dad would say, “I have had a good run!”
Royal Ottawa Foundation’s Inspiration Awards honour Liz Manley and fellow mental health advocates
Gala evening hosted by CTV’s Ben Mulroney, Megan Shaw raises $500K for patient care, mental health research
Without fail, the annual Inspiration Awards is one of those galas that always lives up to its name.
The moving and uplifting fundraiser for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health celebrates how far our community has come in understanding and accepting mental illness, and how much easier it has become to talk about the subject without embarrassment or shame.
The 17th annual black-tie event returned to the Infinity Convention Centre on Friday night, bringing together a sold-out crowd of nearly 600 people and raising $500,000 for patient care and mental health research at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.
Each year, the dinner honours mental health champions. This year’s award recipients included 1988 Olympic silver medal figure skater Elizabeth Manley.
Also recognized was Ben Leikin for being a pioneer of mental health programs in Ottawa, starting as a youth volunteer at CHEO and continuing through to adulthood with Ottawa Public Health. He’s helped the City of Ottawa become the largest municipality in the world – and the first in Canada – to make suicide prevention training available to all 17,000 employees.
Ben Mulroney, of CTV’s Your Morning and etalk, and CTV News Ottawa reporter Megan Shaw did a superb job hosting the evening.
Mulroney told the room how he’s proud to work for a company that’s moving the conversation forward on mental health, specifically with the Bell Let’s Talk awareness campaign. CTV, which is Canada’s largest national private broadcaster, is owned by Bell.
Representing presenting sponsor TD Bank was senior vice-president Tara-Lynn Hughes while Jane Duchscher was back to chair the 2020 Inspiration Awards committee. The ballroom looked magnificent that night, with help from Ottawa special events production company Event Design. It puts on some of the biggest galas in town.
Dignitaries included Canada’s chief of defence staff, General Jonathan Vance; Merrilee Fullerton, the province’s minister for long-term care; and Daniel Alfredsson, who’s not only the greatest hockey player in the history of the Ottawa Senators but also the Royal Ottawa Foundation’s biggest booster. For 12 years now, Alfredsson has been a community ambassador for the non-profit organization.
Mulroney held the large crowd’s attention with his charismatic, engaging and unpretentiously quick-witted ways.
He conducted quickie interviews on stage with Alfredsson and another well-known mental health advocate, Margaret Trudeau, with whom he exchanged a warm hug. Trudeau was previously and successfully treated at the Royal Ottawa for her bipolar disorder.
Mulroney, who is, of course, prime ministerial offspring, jokingly told Trudeau how he was proud of his broadcasting career in television until “this other kid came along and moved the goal post,” obviously referring to her son.
“I think you’re having way more fun than Justin is,” Trudeau quipped.
Also in attendance were popular Grey Cup-winning football players Brad Sinopoli and Alex Mateas from the Ottawa Redblacks. They were seated at the Accora Village table with Dan Greenberg. Mateas has a second job, by the way, as a commercial real estate agent at Cushman & Wakefield.
New gala attendees included National Gallery of Canada director and CEO Sasha Suda, and Georgia and Alan Morissette, parents of Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and Ottawa native Alanis Morissette.
On a surprise note, Mental Health Commission of Canada president and CEO Louise Bradley won one of the three raffle prizes: a pair of Air Canada tickets.
Manley wiped away tears as she collected her award on stage, before sitting down for a fireside chat with Mulroney, whom she’s known since he was a kid.
Manley talked about the nervous breakdown and depression that she faced as a young athlete in training, as well as her near-decision to pull out of the 1988 Olympics. She’d been feeling deathly ill at the time. What changed her mind were the encouraging words of Dave King, the then-coach of the men’s Olympic hockey team. He had pulled his own players off the ice, after he found them to be practising poorly, and brought them over to see Manley in practice. He later explained to her that he wanted his team to watch a champion in action.
Inspired by King’s comments, Manley went on to compete, win her medal and become a national celebrity.
“In the world of mental health, words matter,” said Manley in acknowledging that her life may have turned out differently had that brief but impactful conversation with King not taken place.
Today, Manley is a certified life coach and mental health advocate. “I’m not just some Olympic athlete trying to do good. I’ve been there and I get it and I understand it,” she said of the subject of mental illness.
“I’m so blessed to be in a time of my life when I can now speak out about it, and everybody is still sitting — nobody has run out of the room.”
In the audience were her husband, TV producer David Rosen, and her brother, Tom Manley, senior principal at Bridge Growth Partners and a former top financial executive at companies such as Cognos and Nortel Networks.
The Royal Ottawa Foundation board is chaired by Gord Cudney, a partner at Gowling WLG and a 2018 Inspiration Award winner. When it comes to mental health, progress is being made in establishing more proverbial open-door policies in the workplace, said Cudney. The next step, he added, is in taking greater initiative to inquire if someone is okay when it appears they might not be. “It’s about not waiting for someone to come through your open door but to actually recognize … something is not quite right, and to be able to ask.”
Dr. Robyn McQuaid received the Young Researcher Inspiration Award that night while Personal Leader for Mental Health Awards were presented to Chelsea Rose Meldrum and Glenda O’Hara, the latter of whom really turned her life around. Azel Gallinger won the Youth Leader for Mental Health Award.
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