Olympic immersion for teens

Sooke skaters get on the ice

The Olympic games draw interest from every part of the world, not to mention a colourful assortment of the most talented, most dedicated athletes on the planet.

Heading over to Vancouver last week were Sooke residents Pilar and Leonardo Maekawa. But when you think about it… where else would they be?

The teenage ice dancers and their parents wasted no time in staking a claim to the “ground floor” amid the action.

The siblings are committed as volunteers throughout the skating competition, right through to February 27. When called upon they’ll be on the ice like a flash making ice repairs. With few days off and long hours per day this is concentrated indoctrination.

As a bonus they will even get a shot at some training and instruction for themselves, and rumour has it that once in a while they’ll even get to cut some figures on the Pacific Coliseum ice.

Naturally, the kids will have a chance to see some skaters they admire and respect.

“For ice dance I like (Canadian champions) Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir,” said Pilar by phone from Burnaby last Wednesday. The athletes and their mom Conchita are staying with friends for the games. It’s a handy 15 minute trip from the Coliseum.

“In the men’s I like Evgeny Plushenko,” she continued. “I don’t know if he’s competing but I heard he’s coming… and (Canadians) Patrick Chan and Vaughn Chipeur. In the women’s category I really like (six-time Canadian champion) Joannie Rochette.”

She’s had the opportunity to solicit the occasional souvenir over the years, including autographs from some notable skaters – Virtue and Moir, and Rochette are a couple of examples.”

The kids had a lull of a couple of minutes to field a couple of questions from their hometown media before Leonardo had to be whisked off for practice.

Pilar quickly dispelled any idea that the experience was a form of skating boot camp.

“Not really,” said the sister on the team,” I see it more as pleasure.”

Dispelling another assumption, Pilar explained that the crowning moments, the medal winning efforts were not necessarily going to be the highlights of her Olympic junket.

“I particularly learn more from the first group,” she said.

Brother Leo was quick to concur.

“You can actually see what these skaters do when they’re practicing,” he said. “You can see their techniques. I think you learn more because you can watch them longer. They’re on the ice for 30 minutes straight, whereas in a competition they have a six minute warmup ad four minute routine for the competition.”

There are also likely to be some moves tried in practice that the skater may not have the confidence to try in their program.

Just to see to it they don’t get too rusty, the young folks will skate about four times a week at the Burnaby Eight-Rinks complex.

“We’re getting coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe,” said Pilar. “It’s very good, they teach very well. That’s going to be very helpful, and with the inspiration from the other skaters it’s going to push us to work even harder.”

It’s easy enough, after all, to keep their own goals in focus… like what they’re hoping for about four years from now, but that’s in the future. For now there’s work to do.

“I’m going to be pretty motivated by the time this month’s over,” said Leo as he hustled off to work out.

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