Strong showing for Island’s own

Pilar and Leonardo Maekawa compete Jan. 18 in BMO Skate Canada Junior Nationals at Save On Foods Memorial Centre.

Every athlete dreams of first place finishes but, realistically, measurable improvement is enough to hope for, and proof their hard work is paying off.

The figure skating Maekawas glided onto the biggest stage of their young careers on Jan. 17 and 18 and raised their national rankings in the process.

Pilar and Leonardo (16 and 18, respectively) competed in the novice ice dance classification and Leonardo in the novice men’s division.

The Sooke residents who skate out of the Racquet Club of Victoria were in the top 10 nationally in both disciplines.

The ice dancers came into the BMO Skate Canada Junior Nationals at Save On Foods Memorial Centre ranked sixth in the country, Leo at eighth as a solo artist. Each was bumped up a placing when the skating wrapped up and that’s something they and their coaches were plenty pleased with.

The result gives them confidence as they prepare for their next challenge – a move up the ladder to the “junior” level.

In their opening on Monday the ice dancers had a momentary bout with nerves that would end up costing them a bit in the overall scoring, but they hung in and made the best of it. After day-one they were hovering in the eighth spot in a field of 15 teams.

Tuesday morning they seized the moment and skated to a personal best 53.87 in the free dance, earning fifth spot along the way.

“With our routine I felt everything went well,” said Leo some time after the fact.

He was unable to emerge with his sister to greet the media following the dance, needing to prepare for his solo program. But the space of an hour or so had done nothing to dim his recollection of the free dance.

“It was like… euphoria,” he related, clutching a stuffed toy one of the many local fans had tossed following his own skate.

“I remember us in our starting pose and the next thing we were bowing for the crowd. It felt great and being in front of the home crowd made us even more excited to keep going. We got a personal best and it was a perfect way to end the season.”

Pilar was also appreciative of the support from local fans.

“It was great,” she said while still catching her breath. “They gave us so much positive energy.”

Along with coach Matt Willis, Pilar faced a small press scrum and said among the top things she drew from the experience was the mental skill of maintaining a strong focus on the task at hand.

The training routine and schedule had left nothing to be desired as things turned out.

“They peaked at the perfect time,” said Willis. As for any specific challenges within the dance, like one or more particular moves, there were none focused upon.

“The challenge was the same as the dance itself,” said Willis. “Keeping to one step at a time because it’s so easy to lose concentration.”

Leo then delivered a clean and lively free skate that inspired another partisan outburst of cheering from the crowd that sounded much bigger than it looked. He described the transition between events.

“It’s a pretty normal switch for me but it has to be very quick because in the next hour I had my free skate. I have to re-focus, so I could celebrate the dance for a couple of minutes and then just get back into the zone.”

The next chapter will be no less exciting for the young athletes.

“We’re thinking of moving up to junior,” said Leo. “We’re going to try and see if we can get a few international assignments and work our way up through different levels of difficulties in both categories.”

The top finishers in each of the Maekawa’s events are listed as follows:

Novice Dance

1. Madeline Edwards / Zhao Kai Pang BC/YT

2. Noa Bruser / Timothy Lum BC/YT

3. Mackenzie Bent / Garrett MacKeen EO

4. Caelen Dalmer / Shane Firus BC/YT

5. Pilar Maekawa / Leonardo Maekawa BC/YT

Novice Men

1 Mitchell Gordon BC/YT

2 Mathieu Nepton QC

3 Christophe Belley QC

4 Alistair Sylvester WO

5 Nicolas Tondreau-Alin QC

6 Graeme Gordon BC/YT

7 Leonardo Maekawa BC/YT

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