Sports

Figure skating duo speak about their life on ice

The two performed in Sooke this past weekend at the family skate.  - Britt Santowski
The two performed in Sooke this past weekend at the family skate.
— image credit: Britt Santowski

With the winter Olympics now in our past, what else is there to do but start planning for the next one?

That’s exactly what sibling skaters Pilar and Leonardo Maekawa are doing, planning to skate in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018. Since they are new to the senior level of skating, they could be ready to compete in the Olympics in four years time.

Their training regiment keeps them busy, and it includes ice-time, gym-time, and dancing. It fills at least 30 hours of their week, when they are here. And, they have also travelled throughout the world to pursue their growth as figure skaters.

“It’s busy,” said Pilar.

“We’ve gone all across Europe and a little bit of Asia,” adds Leonardo.

Their travels are funded in part by the Racquet Club of Victoria, where they train with Matthew Willis. They are always looking for other ways to practice and perform, and include events like last week’s family skate at SEAPARC, and the upcoming Aladdin on ice, March 22/23 at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt.

Besides focussing on their future in competitive skating, the duo has also mastered the zen-like art of focussing in the moment.

Anyone who watches competitive figure skating can appreciate the highly subjective nature of judging.

On dealing with this volatility, Leonardo says they keep their focus on their practiced skills when they are on the ice.

“We kind of just stay in the moment,” he said. “When we go on the ice, we’re doing things we’ve done everyday for months and months. So we’re pretty confident of what we do.”

“It all comes down to why you’re skating,” adds Pilar. “It’s just something we were born to do. We started when we were really young, and we just love it!”

The siblings started skating when they were five and seven.

“Pilar fell into it right away,” recalled Leonardo, “and I tagged along just because I had nowhere to be.” He got curious, then interested, and then signed up alongside his younger sister.

As far as siblings go, they are very close. “We go everywhere together,” noted Leonardo.

“Live together, travel together, train together,” said Conchita.

Do they get sick of each other? “Sometimes,” laughs Pilar, “but that’s only natural.” Arguments are quickly forgotten. “When we do argue,” observed Pilar, “we forget it it thirty seconds. Because it’s nothing personal.” There are no lingering grudges, just a shared passion for the sport, and shared aspirations for performing in the next Olympics in South Korea.

Although they live in Sooke and train throughout the south Island, they skate under the Mexican banner.

The Maekawa family came to Canada from Mexico in 1996, when their children were just one (Pilar, born in 1994) and three (Leonardo, 1992). Parents Conchita and Dimitri made the decision to immigrate in pursuit of quality of life. Mexico City, from whence they came, had grown from one to 20 million in mother Conchita’s lifetime, and she dreaded how big the city might become by the time her children were in their 30s.

It was a costly decision in that both parents had professional careers in Mexico. Conchita surrendered a career as a dentist, and was overqualified (and denied) in her application to become a dental hygienist. Likewise, Dimitri surrendered certification as an architect and is now working doing interior space planning and design. Their first Island jobs included newspaper delivery.

Their first look in Vancouver was too reminiscent of Big City Living, and after a visit to Victoria, the family has never looked back. “We fell in love with Victoria,” recalled Conchita.

Now 19 and 21, Pilar and Leonardo have grown up on Vancouver Island. Choosing to represent Mexico was both a professional decision as well as a personal one. According to Leonardo, it’s the best way to bring both their past and their present together under one umbrella. They are both strongly supported and very well known on Vancouver Island, so wherever they go, they bring their Island fans with them. In representing Mexico, they get to honour their heritage.

“It was a difficult decision,” commented Leonardo, “But we find that no matter where we go, we will always represent Canada and Mexico.”

Acknowledging that competitive figure skating is a youthful sport, each of the pair has an eye on the future.

“Right now, we’re focussing on the skating while our bodies can still skate,” said Leonardo, speaking to the fact that figure skating is a young persons sport. “You got to take advantage of that while you can, whereas the mind it can stay sharp for many more years.”

After that? Pilar will probably continue on coaching, a certification she is currently working towards. And she’ll probably find the time to pursue her two other passions: culinary arts and languages. Leonardo, who is currently a coach at the Racquet Club of Victoria, is interested in performance. He enjoy’s the theatrical side of life, “making people laugh.”

But wherever life takes them, they will have blades attached to their feet.

“I think I’m going to have skates on until I’m 70, 80, 90,” said Pilar. To which Leonardo adds, “I feel like my feet aren’t complete with out blades.”

 

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