HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Reese Rose is at the age, a rookie teenager at 13, when she can still recall her toddler days. Not all of us are that fortunate.
And there’s one moment from that time that comes to mind quickly for the Grade 8 student/athlete at St. Peter Catholic High School. It’s her introduction to skating. And she will tell you it was awful.
“I started skating at 2½ years old, when my mom took me public skating. I didn’t like it and I cried so much,” Rose said, recalling that awkward experience.
There were no children her age to relate to and no people in the stands for the outgoing Rose to show off her skills on skates. But her mother, Nicole, whose background included time as a figure skater, had a Plan B for her daughter.
Nicole entered Reese in Skate Canada’s popular CanSkate learn-to-skate program in Gananoque. Rose’s tears were quickly replaced by smiles.
“I loved it so much,” she explained. “I was bobbing around. I was such a real fireball. I really enjoyed it.”
A decade later, Rose is a fireball competitive figure skater on the rise at the Gloucester Skating Club with cozy confidence, high energy, sharp technical skills and bubbly showmanship.
Before the age of 12, she was able to land all her triple jumps. The triple Axel is in the development stage, but she has landed it while wearing a safety harness. On the ice, she has poise and personality. She is one of the youngest competitors in the 17-and-under novice women’s singles class. Off the ice, Rose has taken more giant steps in her life and moved to Ottawa to chase her athletic and academic dreams, while being billeted by a family in Orleans.
Rose was scheduled to make her debut at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships this week at the TD Place Arena. But the rapid development of positive COVID-19 cases because of the Omicron variant forced Skate Canada to postpone the novice portion of the competition until a later date.
Skate Canada will stage the senior and junior men’s and women’s singles, pairs and ice dance competitions starting Thursday with a Day 1 practice session. The national championships will serve as the Olympic and world championship trials for the senior skaters.
The skaters will perform without any spectators in the stands, only essential workers in the arena and there will be no concluding gala.
Rose, who is from Gananoque, ON., and started training with Gloucester director of skating and coach Darlene Joseph at age six, was rightfully disheartened she couldn’t skate in her first Canadian championship in her new home.
“I’m a little disappointed. But it’s OK. It’s good to have more time to regroup and more time to train,” said Rose, who qualified for her first national championship by placing eighth with 111.97 points at the 2022 Skate Canada Challenge competition last month in Regina.
At the Skate Ontario Sectional championship, Rose won the short program with a personal-best score and was second in the free skate final to finish second overall at 122.11 points.
After not competing at all in 2020, Rose has had three in-person competitions this season and three hub competitions, where skaters performed their routines at their home rinks and a panel of judges watched the videos and marked the skaters’ performances at a later date.
“Reese has the whole package,” Joseph said in an email interview. “She can skate, jump, spin, perform and loves to compete. She has so many refined qualities that most skaters only achieve much later in their skating pathway.
“She is very athletic, but refined. Reese is a very hard worker and mature for her age with her training habits.”
Gananoque Skating Club coach Janice MacDonald introduced the technical elements of figure skating to Rose, who embraced and developed those fundamentals with joy and enthusiasm.
But at age six, MacDonald could see Rose was improving quickly and a higher level of coaching would benefit her. Rose started training at Gloucester two to three times a week and her schedule quickly became five times a week.
“It was all Jan,” Rose said about her move to train at Gloucester. “When I was five or six, she saw my potential and knew I better go to someone higher in a better environment.
“Jan came up with me for my first day. Jan knew Darlene and Darlene was so welcoming. She makes everyone feel very connected. She made me feel so at home.”
Just before her ninth birthday, she started to billet with Tara and John McGowan for summer skating. This fall, Rose and Kingston junior skater Jessica Lui are living with the McGowans and attending St. Peter.
“It was definitely a big adjustment and I definitely miss my family and friends,” said Rose, who does spend weekends in Gananoque. “But in two to three weeks, I was able to make friends fast.
“Another friend, Jessica, also moved up here and it’s better to have someone. We both go to and from school together before training. I’m very grateful.”
Besides her strong skating skills, Rose presents her elements in an entertaining, zestful manner. She has the presentation and bounce in her step that is reminiscent of another Gloucester Skating Club member, 1988 Olympic and world silver medallist Elizabeth Manley.
Figure skating is fun for Rose because it allows her to perform in front of people, when that option is available.
“I love experiencing everything, but the main thing is the performance,” she said. “I’m very happy to perform for crowds. I love to perform in practice, in ice shows and in competition. I love jumping, skating and shows.
“I love the feel of it. I live for the feel of being on the ice.”
When she’s on the ice, people take notice. In her short program, her seven required elements include a double Axel jump, a triple Lutz and a triple toe loop-double toe loop combinaton. Rose’s free-skate program is highlighted by five triple jumps, her power and speed to cover the ice, flexibility and spins.
“I have had such good training with Darlene and Jan. It’s just amazing,” Rose said with sincere appreciation. “I’m so grateful to have these people.
“I jump high and that’s a big help. I’m small and powerful and work a lot off and on the ice. I started at 2½ and have worked very hard since then. It’s crazy to think that [this is where I am today].”
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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.