Two-time Olympian and three-time Canadian champion, Emanuel Sandhu describes himself as a perfectionist with a two-sided personality. Recently when he and Debbi Wilkes chatted about his life and career, even the COVID pandemic could not suppress his optimism, curiosity, and love of adventure. For Emanuel, ballet and skating were perfectly intertwined both in his soul and on the ice to create an unforgettable combination of athleticism and artistry. Join Emanuel and Debbi for this revealing and inspiring conversation.
by Don Knight, Olympian, World Medalist and 3-time Canadian Champion
I have been very fortunate and have had a wonderful career and life.
I attribute a lot of it to the basic foundation that all began from my first private lesson with Ellen Burka in Dundas, Ontario right through the years of training with Mrs. Burka, Dennis Silverthorne and Sheldon Galbraith, all of whom are Skate Canada Hall of Fame members. These years helped to develop my discipline, direction, and the ability to focus on a goal, and habits that have stayed with me my entire life.
In these days of multitasking, there is no better expert than today’s guest on the Alumni Podcast, Manon Perron. Manon has mastered it all, from being a skater, local/national and Olympic coach, team leader, mentor, and now as a Skate Canada Advisor to the High Performance Program. Her energy and passion for the sport and for developing skaters’ skills beyond the ice, and her contributions to high performance are immeasurable. Manon and Alumni Chair Debbi Wilkes caught up recently to talk about Manon’s incredible career and her continuing dedication to skating in Canada.
Winning a world championship was something I never imagined. I never believed I had the ability to accomplish something that prestigious. I never put my name beside the likes of Barbara Ann Scott, Petra Burka, or Karen Magnussen – they were the gold medal women of Canada, I wasn’t one of them. Until one day, I was.
Two-time Canadian Champion Cynthia Phaneuf opens up about her career on the ice and off the ice since her retirement back in 2012, and expresses how her life has changed since her last competitive performance.
Not all past champions have made a smooth transition into their life-after-skating quite like Cynthia. She now puts family first, and with three young children Cynthia fully recognizes the enormous contributions that her own family made to help her live her skating dream. Which paths will her children take? She’ll be there to support them wherever those paths may lead. Let’s join Cynthia and Alumni Chair Debbi Wilkes as they reconnect and bring us all up to date on Cynthia’s travels and successes.
My first memories as a judge began just after I turned 16 when I judged preliminary and junior bronze dances at Weston Summer Skating School along with two of my skating friends. Judging was an expectation from my coach, Louis Stong, so we all started out doing just that.
I continued to work my way along the path of progression and successfully passed the ISU singles and pairs judge exam in 1992 in Oberstdorf, Germany. What a challenge! A few of us studied in the train on route from Saint-Gervais, France to Oberstdorf using the study cards I had created before leaving from Canada. Thank heavens for study cards, they kept us focused especially when we had to memorize rules! The exam process was successful and so was the competition.
There have been so many treasured memories of competitions, meeting friends and new skaters, coaches and colleagues.
What will stay with me indelibly is the senior women’s competition in Montreal when Tracey Wainman was not able to successfully defend her title (a very sad and stressful time for many of us) and then also being on the panel 2 years later when Tracey skated a super program and won that title back. As a judge on both events, I was so excited when Tracey was announced as the winner. What a tribute to her and what a great feeling I remember experiencing with her victory.
I can remember back to two other competitions, one a North American Challenge and one a junior grand prix event when Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir competed. Yes, I was assigned to the dance events at those competitions, and yes, at both competitions, Tessa and Scott skated beautifully but did not place as well as I had thought they should, according to my marks and according to the response of those watching the skating performances. Those two skaters were such a pleasure and joy to watch and judge.
There are so many memories I have of skaters who have tried figure, free skate and dance tests. On many occasions, skaters have challenged me to explore alternatives to some of the rules, expectations and ideas that you typically encounters at test sessions and at competitions.
I remember the fire alarm at one of the sectional championships (I was the technical representative) when we had to haul the skater off the ice in the middle of her program and evacuate the building. My poor schedule for the rest of the day needed some real “TLC” and adjustments so we could finish before midnight!
Needless to say the skating family has been a wonderful part of my life.
My mom and dad both judged and my younger sister is involved in the accounting/data specialist role. My older brother and middle sister are very much skating enthusiasts and follow figure skating just as closely as I do.
I value the links and friendships formed with those in the figure skating world and hope these links will stay with me despite my “retirement”.
Remembering Vancouver 2010
With glowing hearts ….
By Sally Rehorick, retired international Official
Much to the astonishment of many people — the Vancouver Olympics and Paralympics are over.
I know — it was a surprise for me also.
In fact, the XXI Olympic Winter Games reached a milestone birthday in February 2020. Ten years ago, on February 12, the Olympic flame was lit in Vancouver and we were underway. The flame — a passionate symbol of these unique Games — glowed until February 28. Sixteen days filled with unforgettable moments, not all joyous ones, but none more worthy than the next. Was it already a decade ago?
I say “we” were underway for a couple of reasons. For me personally, as a member of the Vancouver Organizing Committee’s senior leadership team for three and a half years, I could hardly believe that we were, well, ready to launch. When I joined VANOC in mid-2006, there were 146 employees. At the time we opened, there were approximately 1200 employees and 3500 members of what is known as the Olympic and Paralympic Family. Together with the athletes and volunteers, the total number of accreditations issued was close to 95,000. Very few of those accreditations gave access to the sports events, however. An accreditation is issued only for the the particular role of the individual and most accredited people had functions that were not related to the sport venues (e.g. translators for written documents, performers in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies).
The complexity of organizing a “Games” was reflected in my assured – and sort of terrified – feeling three months before the Games that we wouldn’t be ready to open — and I wondered if anyone else had noticed! Not that the opening day was “perfect”. There was the tragedy of the Georgian luge athlete. And then there was the disappearance of the entire group of international dignitaries being bused to the opening ceremonies (who knew? very few). Not to mention the big puddle into which Princess Anne, IOC member, stepped — no, splashed! — attempting to re-board the bus back to the hotel after the opening ceremonies.
The second reason for the “we” is that the Vancouver Games were much larger than what transpired in the Vancouver/Whistler area. There was the torch relay, of course, that crossed Canada for 106 days giving 12.000 torch bearers a memory for a lifetime. Oh, and by the way, did you know that Dr. Jane Moran, head of the International Skating Union’s Medical Commission and resident of Victoria was the physician for the relay and literally ran across Canada with the torch team. But there was also the fact that these Games involved the whole country: John Furlong, our CEO of the Games, had these wise words to say at the closing ceremonies.
“The spirit and soul of all 33 million Canadians have been sewn into the fabric of these Winter Games. This journey has not been about the few but rather the many.”
This photo represents what was the national and local spirit of the Games of 2010.
Skate Canada participated in the celebration gala by reserving a table for eight lucky people. The gala was held, quite fittingly, in the Vancouver Convention Centre, the iconic building which housed the broadcast media during the Games. Please notice in the flyer above that the gala was a rather chic affair with “black tie optional”, which meant that the guests were all elegantly turned out, and (reasonably….) well-behaved. Also, quite fittingly, the Olympic flame burned majestically on the plaza beside the Convention Centre during the entire Games. It was relit in celebration of the 10th anniversary and there was a parallel celebration on the plaza where one could see so many people wearing the “smurf” Olympic jackets: the turquoise blue trademark that was the iconic uniform of both the Games staff and volunteers.
The gala was a magnificent affair. The presence of many Olympians from especially, but not only, Vancouver 2010, made the event particularly special. These photos show the guests representing Skate Canada plus others who participated in the 2010 Games.
It is always difficult to capture the real flavour of something so grand and so full of memories. The photos below do just that, however.
It was an evening to remember. Kevin Reynolds (2013 Four Continents champion, 2010 Four Continents bronze medallist, 2014 Winter Olympics team silver medallist and a six-time Canadian national medallist) sums it up this way:
“The evening was a time to reminisce on the 10 years post-Vancouver 2010. Hearing the stories of the icons and champions from the Games – to know they were feeling what we all felt as we watched them compete – was both enlightening and inspiring. To conclude a wonderful evening filled with tremendous support for our athletes, our country, and each other, what really stuck in my mind was the moving address delivered by John Furlong. He opened up about the lead up to the Vancouver 2010 Games and what made them possible: the sacrifices, the determination, the coming together of a country – an incredible story in itself. And then he looked to the future: the possibility of having the Games return to Canada, to Vancouver in 2030, and in the room rekindled the sense of excitement we all felt as we anticipated welcoming the world 10 years ago.”
I have participated in seven Olympic Games, each with a different accreditation around my neck. Five of these were as a volunteer, and two as a member of the organizing committee. Through each of these experiences I have come to realize that there is one truism that runs through each of them: When you are “in the Games”, you don’t “see” the Games. I found that for each Games, I never had the whole picture because I was one of the 95,000 accredited individuals doing my job. The Games are a grand mosaic and each participant experiences a few pieces of that mosaic. In fact, for Vancouver 2010, my husband David (a volunteer in the athletes’ village) and I had to turn on the television each night to see what had happened in the Games that day! Steve Milton, member of Skate Canada’s Hall of Fame and renowned journalist, had this to say about the role of the media in telling the story: “How figure skating looks to the world is presented by those who report it. The story tellers link us together.” The same can be said about the Olympics. And I am eternally grateful to journalists like Steve who link us together with accurate and rich story telling.
A Bump on the Head is Never a Good Thing!
By Debbi Wilkes, Olympic Medalist
How times have changed!
Following Skate Canada’s announcement of its Concussion Ed mobile app, it got me thinking back to my competitive days when the word “concussion” wasn’t even top-of-mind in sport medicine. Actually I’m not even sure there was such a thing as “sport medicine”. Dark ages!!
It was 1963. Guy and I were competing at the World Championships in Cortina, Italy.
The setting in the Italian Alps was breathtaking and a setting we wanted to take advantage of by arranging a day to take some outdoor promotional photos. Outside our hotel was a small natural ice surface nestled between snowbanks in front and snow-capped mountains in the back… a perfect picture!
The day we scheduled the shoot, the sun was shining brightly with the snow sparkling like diamonds… it was like we’d been magically transported into a fairyland. However, as we quickly discovered, the natural ice surface presented a few challenges.
With the sun shining down at full volume, large sections of the ice were soft and sticky while the shaded areas were extra hard and difficult to grip even with sharp skates. Nevertheless we chose what we considered to be the scene with the most beautiful backdrop and choreographed the exact placement of the lifts we wanted to photograph.
One of our favorites because it was so incredibly photogenic was a carry lift we called an “Adagio lift” where the woman lies upside-down on the man’s one hand with his arm fully extended above him. You might recognize it today as a “Drape”, fairly common in modern pair skating but illegal in competition back in the ‘60s.
The photograph captured that day was spectacular… but what it didn’t show was that 2 seconds later Guy lost his balance on the uneven ice and fell backwards, a move that launched me backwards too, headfirst and upside-down on to the ice from 7’ above.
Fortunately I don’t remember a thing about the fall. What I do remember is waking up in the small local mountain hospital. And a day later, after suffering what was eventually diagnosed back in Canada as a hairline skull fracture and an internal hemorrhage, one half of my face became paralyzed.
Of course, my skating days in Cortina were over. We immediately withdrew from the event and packed our bags to return home, to get me first-class medical treatment in Toronto. It took several months to recover but thanks to that superb care, any lasting effects of the fracture have been minimal.
Skating can be a dangerous sport, all the more reason for everyone to become educated on the risks involved and how to treat injuries, particularly anything affecting the head. Congratulations to Skate Canada and their Safe Sport mandate for recognizing that head injuries can happen at the rink anytime to anyone, from CanSkater to National Team to coaches and volunteers.
The new Skate Canada Concussion Ed app “provides a method to track signs and symptoms of concussion, following a diagnosis, enabling the user to track symptom duration and severity. The app pairs proven scientific research with fun, engaging material to ensure the information is accessible to everyone, whether you are an athlete, parent, educator or coach.”
If you haven’t already reviewed the concussion material, I’d highly recommend you take some time to educate yourself. For treating anyone like me who has suffered a serious head injury, your knowledge could help save that someone’s life.
Today with such expanded knowledge about head injuries, I realize how fortunate I was in Cortina: fortunate that my Coach, Bruce Hyland, and our team doctor, Dr. Ormsby (yes, that Ormsby) were vigilant, knowledgeable, and demanding of the services offered and the requirements needed for safe and thorough treatment at the time. Fast forward five decades and with the knowledge we now have, I often wonder, for example, if that injury happened today, would I have been allowed to travel home for 9 hours by air, would I have been hospitalized longer, what testing would have been initiated, and what other treatments would have been prescribed thanks to modern medical research?
I was lucky. Thankfully, for me, the worst part was that Guy and I never did that lift again.
Toller Cranston Would Have Turned 71 on April 20th
Charlie Bilodeau retires from competitive skating
Olympian and national medallist Charlie Bilodeau, 26, Trois-Pistoles, Que., announced his retirement from competitive skating today.
Bilodeau has been a competitor in the pair discipline for over a decade for Canada. His competitive highlights include competing at three world championships, winning four national medals and competing at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Bilodeau competed at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games with partner Julianne Séguin. The two had a successful junior career winning the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in 2014 and silver at the 2015 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships.
Most recently in 2019, Bilodeau partnered with Lubov Ilyushechkina, 28, Toronto, Ont. During their short partnership, they won two international medals and took home bronze at the national championships.
Ilyushechkina will be evaluating her opportunities in the coming months.
Skate Canada thanks and wishes Charlie the best of luck with his future endeavors.
ENFIN LIBRE – By Charlie Bilodeau (published on April 16, 2020)
*Only in French
“Inspiring all Canadians to embrace the joy of skating.”
We’d love to hear from you! Today staying in touch is easier than ever!
E-mail us your stories, photos, thoughts, suggestions and questions. We can’t guarantee we’ll print each one however we will certainly read every word and in the case of questions, find answers to them all.
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.
Fasten your seat belts because this month’s podcast with Norm Proft, Alumni and Skate Canada Competition Services Director, dives into the life and times of Kurt Browning and the friendship they continue to share through skating. Listen as Norm reveals stories behind the success of one of skating’s greatest icons.
Once again, our esteemed Skate Canada Alumni gathered at the Alumni Social at the 2020 National Skating Championships this year in Mississauga, Ontario. I have had the pleasure of attending the Alumni events over the past three years after a long absence from our sport and this year, as a new member of the Alumni Committee, I was delighted to host the evening and welcome so many members of our skating family.
This month, Debbi Wilkes visits with a champion, coach, choreographer and visionary, who many claim is the originator and architect for Canada’s worldwide reputation as a leader in choreography and artistic expression. Sandra Bezic began her love for the sport at her local rink learning to skate alongside her brother Val Bezic… the start of what would eventually become a Hall of Fame career which takes her around the world designing programs, shows and concepts that have changed the face of skating.
The decision to retire from competition will be the toughest decision an athlete will have to make in their career. For me, that meant walking away from 16 years of hard work and dedication, thousands upon thousands of dollars spent, and countless hours day in and day out at the rink grinding away towards my ultimate dream; The Olympics. But ultimately for most, including myself, the dream of competing at the Olympic Games and walking in the opening ceremonies with an entire nation rallying behind you will remain just that, a dream.
Competitor, coach and Alumni Committee member Nic Young chats with world-renowned pair coach Richard Gautier. Together they explore Richard’s skating career and what attracted him to coaching, in particular, pair skating. You will discover that Richard’s success in skating is based on more than what appears at the rink. To explore his coaching philosophy, enjoy listening to Richard’s passion about being one of the world’s best.
Retired official Jean Senft has been front and centre in the sport with a judging career which spanned events at her local club all the way to the Olympic Games. Her daughter, Lauren, a competitive international level ice dancer, retired and now a technical specialist, leads the chat where they both share memories about their skating adventures and discuss the special bond they share as a result.
Welcome to the Alumni podcast, this month featuring Part 2 and the continuation of last month’s conversation with Olympic Coach Bruno Marcotte as he chats with former national team member Nic Young. The two reflect on family, the future of skating, the positive impact of sport and how it has impacted their lives. Powerful, insightful and inspiring!