Hampole saves his best skate for Games

Pressure, shmessure.

Whatever stress Prince George's Justin Hampole was facing Monday morning, he grabbed all of it and kicked it to the curb. Tossed it out the window.

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As the hometown crowd at Lakewood Dental Arena roared when he was introduced on the ice to perform his pre-novice men's short program, the 13-year-old figure skater competing for Team B.C. simply went out, skated a clean program and nailed all three of his jumps in the process.

The crowd roared again when his score was announced - 36.08 points - and put him in second place with one skater remaining.

Afterwards, Hampole, who trains at the Northern B.C. Centre for Skating, remained in second place in the short program. His B.C. teammate Beres Clements also skated a clean program and is currently in third place with 33.97 points. They were not deducted any points for their programs.

Ontario's Stephen Gogolev was the best skater of the day, scoring 40.87 points. Eleven athletes competed in the short program.

"My previous personal best was a score of 28 so 36 points is a new personal best," said Hampole, a Grade 8 student at Duchess Park secondary. "I'm so excited. The crowd was so loud. I was never that nervous before. Performing at home, I just took a deep breath, visualized and closed my eyes."

After the first flight of five, Gogolev was in first place. Hampole was in the second flight and the 10th skater of the day.

His first jump was a double Axel-double toe combination that he landed cleanly. Next was a double Axel which he landed, followed by a double Lutz.

"I had been really working on that combination and I finally got it clean," said Hampole. "I landed it and it was awesome. My double Axel, I landed it perfectly. With my double Lutz, I had my arm in the air to make it more difficult. I also skated with so much speed today."

Hampole was named to Team B.C.'s figure skating squad at the end of January along with Clements, a 13-year-old from Gibsons who trains at the Connaught Skating Club in Richmond.

Clements skated ninth in the short program, just ahead of Hampole.

In front of a B.C. crowd, he landed all three of his jumps - a double Axel-double toe combination, a triple Salchow and a double Axel.

"I just tried to breathe deeply and going into my second jump I was really nervous," said Clements. "That's only my third time landing that triple Salchow in competition. Last summer I started landing it (in practice). I've been working on a triple toe-triple toe combination too. With my last double Axel, it was easy.

"I felt the crowd was behind me and I tried not to listen to (the applause). Before we skated we did a cheer for Team B.C., and we both wanted to come top-three for B.C. I'm really happy."

Yu Jin Amstrong is in fourth place with 32.68 points after the short program, followed by Samuel Turcotte of Quebec in fifth place with 29.24.

Clements and Hampole will practice today prior to Wednesday's pre-novice free skate at 10:15 a.m. at Lakewood Dental Arena, where medals will be awarded.

Clements predicts he'll need between 90 to 100 overall points to earn a medal.

"I'm just going to focus and not be too cocky," added Hampole.

Hampole won the bronze medal with 78.31 points at the B.C./Yukon section figure skating championships in November in Prince George. Clements won the meet with 82.56 points.

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