HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
MAKING A GRAND ENTRANCE (Part 4)
By Martin Cleary
If you want to appreciate fully Kaiya Ruiter’s bold debut into figure skating’s top echelon of competition, you must first study the lyrics of her short program music.
The Gloucester Skating Club product selected the song Opportunity by Sia to drive her technically demanding program at the virtual Skate Canada Challenge meet last weekend.
The lyrics talk about “under the glow of the very bright lights” and “this opportunity is standing right in front of me” and how “I’m putting on my best show; under the spotlight I’m starting my life.” But the song’s final stanza is the best.
“Big dreams becoming real tonight
So, look at me and this opportunity
You’re witnessing my moment, you see?
My big opportunity
I won’t waste it, I guarantee.”
Yes, Ruiter, who is only 14 and winner of the Canadian junior and novice singles titles in 2020 and 2019 respectively, did not waste her opportunity at Challenge, when her big dream came true, winning the senior women’s short program.
Now living in Calgary and skating for the Glencoe Club, Ruiter skated her short program several weeks before the unfolding of this qualifying event for the Canadian championships, which were recently cancelled because of safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite no fans in the seats, Ruiter flowed through her short program with power and grace. She took care of her triple flip-triple toe loop combination and double Axel early and wrapped her spin elements and step sequence around a fine triple Lutz.
The surprise leader entering the free skate, Ruiter struggled throughout her final program. Her demanding free skate featured seven triple jumps. But she had trouble performing them cleanly and had two falls. She finished seventh in her free-skating program and fourth overall.
In the end, Ruiter’s performance was quite remarkable given the average age of the other nine top-10 senior women skaters was 20.4 years. The Grade 9 student has moved quickly up the ladder and she’ll use the next year to prep for a run at the 2022 Olympic Games.
And she has started already as the pandemic has erased most of the 2020-21 season. HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-At-Home Edition requested an interview with Ruiter to talk about her senior debut, but a Skate Canada official said she wasn’t doing interviews and preferred to focus on her development as a skater.
While Ruiter is too young to compete at the world senior figure skating championships (15 is the entry age), she will be age-eligible for the Winter Olympics and worlds in 2022. She has a May birthday.
At age 12, the Ottawa-born Ruiter won the Canadian novice title with a record-breaking score. At 13, she smashed the junior record to capture that national title. It would have been interesting to see how she would have done at 14 in her Canadian championship debut as a senior.
HIGH ACHIEVERS interviewed Ruiter almost a year ago and learned the young skater had personality, plus an ever-present smile and daring determination. She said she loves figure skating because it “makes me feel free and happy.”
Ruiter began skating at the Gloucester Skating Club at age six and trained there for five years before moving to Edmonton and then Calgary. Her strong work ethic, talent and desire to learn impressed Gloucester director of skating Darlene Joseph.
“When you have a kid who is self directed in training, then they progress quickly. Kaiya showed traits to be a champion early on with her good work ethic and being well driven,” Joseph said a year ago.
“As a young skater, she always looked at the positive side. She was always willing to learn. She learned from her experiences and decided to be better next time. She’s on a meteoric rise now.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.