HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-At-Home Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Make that an even dozen. The National Skating Championships will be hosted in Ottawa for the 12th time in 2022, when the top senior, junior and novice figure skaters come to Lansdowne Park’s TD Place.
The national championships can be divided into two periods from an Ottawa perspective: The Golden Age, 1922, 1940, 1949, 1953 and 1958; and the Modern Era, 1987, 1996, 1999, 2006, 2014, 2017 and the upcoming 2022.
What’s most interesting about Ottawa’s 11 nationals is the local fans always had someone to cheer for – and often all the way to the medal podium. In some cases, other top, out-of-town skaters would later reappear in Ottawa for other roles.
So let’s take a year-by-year trip down memory lane and put the spotlight on the Ottawa skaters who earned medals in each of those Canadian championships at home, and see who could pick up on that momentum for 2022.
Minto Skating Club’s Melville Rogers assumed the role of runner-up, placing second in men’s singles, pairs (with Jeanette Rathburn), fours (with Frankford Rogers, Sydney Pepler and Katherine Capreol). Rogers would eventually win five singles titles.
Donald Gilchrist of Minto claimed his fourth and final Waltz title (with Aidrie Gilchrist), placed second in men’s singles and Tenstep (with Eleanor O’Meara), and was third in pairs (with O’Meara). Rogers and Margaret Davis won the Tenstep dance title.
Besides winning his first of two senior men’s singles medals, a bronze, Minto Skating Club’s Don Tobin took the Tenstep gold, Waltz silver, and ice dance silver (all with Pierrette Paquin). Gilchrist and Marlene Smith were senior pairs champions.
Born in Prague, Minto Skating Club’s Carole Jane Pachl was junior and senior singles bronze medallist (before she claimed senior gold from 1955-57). Peter Dunfield, who coached Elizabeth Manley in the 1980s at Gloucester Skating Club was third in men’s singles for a second consecutive year.
For the third year in a row, Minto Skating Club’s Donald Jackson was men’s singles runner-up. But he started a new streak in 1959, winning his first of four straight gold. Maria and Otto Jelinek, a future MP and sport minister, were second in pairs.
Gloucester Skating Club’s Elizabeth Manley won her second of three senior women’s singles titles. Brian Orser, who later returned to Ottawa to coach, captured his seventh of eight men’s singles titles in a row. Edmonton’s Michael Slipchuk, who is the high-performance director at Ottawa-based Skate Canada, took bronze in senior men’s singles.
Senior ice dancers Chantal Lefebvre and Michel Brunet of Minto Skating Club finished second behind Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz for the first time. Lefebvre and Brunet would own that runner-up slot for four straight years.
Defending champion Angela Derochie of Gloucester Skating Club finished with the bronze medal in women’s senior singles. She also was second in 1997. Lefebvre and Brunet were silver in ice dance for a farewell fourth time.
Valerie Marcoux of Gatineau and Craig Buntin won their third and final senior pairs title, while Gloucester Skating Club’s Allie Hann-McCurdy and Michael Corena took the junior ice dance championship. Shawn Sawyer of Minto Skating Club was third in senior men’s singles.
Ottawa-born Patrick Chan, who took some early lessons at Minto Skating Club, captured his seventh senior men’s singles title in a career that produced a national-record 10 championships.
Chan continued his unprecedented career by earning his ninth senior men’s singles title. Defending senior women’s singles champion Alaine Chartrand of Nepean Skating Club and Prescott Figure Skating Club was third, but regained her title in 2019.
In the hunt for 2022:
Kaiya Ruiter, a Gloucester Skating Club alumna, and Madeline Schizas, who is co-coached by Derek Schmidt, formerly of Ottawa, will challenge for senior women’s singles medals. Gloucester’s Reese Rose is a rising talent in novice women’s singles.
Ottawa had been scheduled to host the Skate Canada International grand prix event this past fall, but it had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. The 2022 National Skating Championships will take place from Jan. 6-13 and several as a key component of Canada’s Olympic team selection process.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 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.
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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.