Figure skaters have stars in their eyes

There was no hesitation in nine-year-old Starlene Robinson's voice when asked how far up the figure skating ladder she wants to climb.

"The Olympics," was her answer, while watching her colleagues at the Prince George Figure Skating Club work out their routines on the ice at Kin 2.

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Why not shoot for the stars? Especially heading into a weekend in which Robinson will get to see a select group of Olympic and world champions perform as part of the Thank You Canada Tour.

While she's a long way from punching her own ticket for the five-ring circus, having just started with the club's high-performance program last year, she will be in the stands watching the likes of Tessa Vertue, Scott Moir, Kaetlyn Osmond, Meagan Duhamal, Eric Radford and Elvis Stojko strut their stuff on the ice tonight at CN Centre (see story, page 2).

Robinson watched Osmond capture the women's singles bronze medal at the Olympics in Pyeongchang in February, followed by her gold-medal win at the world championships. There's no other skater she'd rather see live and in person.

"I'm really excited to see Kaetlyn Osmond," Robinson said. "I like her jumps."

"I mostly like everything about figure skating."

Robinson joined the CanSkate program in her native Terrace when she was three and was in that group for a couple years before she moved with her family to Smithers. She's lived in Prince George since 2016, the year she joined the PGFSC. Her athletic background in ballet, tap dancing, wall-climbing, gymnastics and crossfit has served her well as a skater.

Next weekend in Kamloops, Robinson is entered in Autumn Leaves - the fourth competition of her skating career. She remembers her first like it was yesterday. It happened last year in Smithers.

"For my first time I was really excited, and nervous, and I did really well," she said. "I get super-excited driving to places (for competitions), I just can't wait. I take a lot of pictures and videos (of other skaters) on my iPad."

Robinson will compete in the Star 2 class in Kamloops, which also includes an interpretive program, set to her choice of music - Iko, Iko by The Dixie Cups. She practiced all summer and feels ready to turn in her best performance. She's got her toe loop well-rehearsed and anticipates she'll come home with either gold or silver.

"I hadn't seen Starlene for about a week and I came out and was absolutely blown away by her speed," said coach Jennifer Auston. "She is just flying out there and it's just made everything better.

"You see when she's practicing on her own she spends the entire time working hard. There's not a lot of breaks or messing around, it's just work. We're pretty happy with how her jumps and spins are looking so we're confident she'll get either silver or gold in her assessment."

It's possible all 10 skaters in the Star 2 class could reach the gold level. There are no placings at the StarSkate introductory levels and the goal is to try to reach the highest assessment level rather than trying to top the field and finish first.

Eight-year-old Eowyn Thompson is still new to figure skating but caught on quickly in her first season and in March was moved up to the club's high-performance development group. She also skated throughout the summer and is having tons of fun pulling off moves like the waltz jump without too much difficulty. She falls down sometimes but it's no big deal.

"I'm used to it," she said.

When she was seven, Thompson enrolled in a CanSkate introductory program and showed right away she was more than willing to focus her efforts on learning how to skate. Before that, she'd tried karate, soccer and ballet but had never been on blades. Autumn Leaves will be Thompson's first-ever figure skating competition and she's setting her sights high, entered in the Star 1 category.

"I hope I win a gold medal," said Thompson.

Her coach likes her chances.

"She's very strong going into the competition and we would actually think about doing Star 2 for her at this point but we're already in Star 1 and she's going to go and nail it," said Auston. "She's strong in each of the elements that she has to do on the ice."

Thompson will have added incentive to skate well in Kamloops knowing her nine-year-old cousin Kiedis Corrigan will be there watching.

Auston predicts the best possible results for Robinson and Thompson.

"They've been preparing for quite some time now and I anticipate they'll be at the top of the spectrum," said Auston.

Five other PGFSC skaters are entered for Autumn Leaves, including: Leah Neurauter, Avery Johansen, Izzie Naphtali, Sophia Mohring and Sarah Anne Awcoula.

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