Figure skating isn’t just for kids anymore. The 24th annual Chinook Open Invitational figure skating competition is the last hurrah for the season for Lethbridge’s figure skaters who take over both rinks at the ATB Centre, April 6-8.
The event features 643 participants aged 5 to 66, from all over Alberta and B.C., performing in a variety of categories. There are 30 officials and 300 volunteer hours involved.
“We had so many entrants that we had to cancel some of the events because we just didn’t have time for them all,” event co-chair Karri Cales.
“We had to cancel some of the team events. We were really tight this year. There was a lot of interest in the younger categories,” Cales continued.
“Most of these skaters have been competing all year. This will be the last time they perform their routines. Most of them will begin all new ones next season,” said Lethbridge Skating Club board secretary Tanya Whipple, adding some are also performing for the first time ever at this event.
“It really is the last hurrah for the season,” added Cales.
“Our youngest participant is five and our oldest is 66. We have six adults competing,” Whipple observed, adding it isn’t a qualifying event, so any skater is welcome to enter.
She noted the event is always very popular. It is free to attend any of the session and watch the skating.
“A lot of people come to Lethbridge for this event. Hotels are booked a year in advance for this event,” Whipple said.
“We’re really excited it has been so popular this year,” Whipple continued, adding they have had to get special permission to start earlier due to all the participants. The events begin at 10 p.m. Friday, April 6 and run until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The event ends Sunday, April 8 at 4 p.m.
“And parents and grandparents love it because it’s right here. They don’t have to worry about driving long distances and bad weather,” Whipple said.
Bianca Christakos, 20, is one of the adults competing. She has only been skating for three years.
“I like the feeling of skating as the air blows past you. It just feels free and it feels good,” she said, noting she was communing from Calgary to train before moving here.
“I’ve always wanted to skate and now I’m an adult, I can do whatever I want,” said Christakos, who will be performing to “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical “Les Miserables.”
“It’s about a girl who feels her dreams are over. Thematically it’s really sad but I really love the music and how it flows. It’s quite the opposite to me. Your dreams are never over,” she said.
“I just want to do my best and see what comes of it.”
“I’m really looking forward to watching the other skaters. I’ve watched a lot of skating online and on TV, but haven’t watched a lot of live skating. It takes a lot of time to skate like that,” Christakos observed.
On the other hand, Piper Burbank is a seasoned skating competition veteran at eight years old.
“I’ve done this before,” she said.
“I’m doing a lot of jumps and things,” she said, adding she will be skating in the Star 2 category to “Popular” from the musical “Wicked.”
Coach Krystine Gordon, a skater who has been coaching for three years, has numerous students competing in the event in several categories including the 66-year-old.
“Will is very inspirational. He sets really good goals for himself. The girls always say if he can do it, they can do it. He’s injured now, but hopefully he will be better by the time of the competition,” Gordon said, adding she also is coaching adults in their 30s who are also competing in the event.
As a coach, she enjoys watching her students develop.
“I just like watching the big smiles on their faces when everything clicks,” she said.
“It’s a learning experience.”
Travis Hillier, coach and owner of the Southern Alberta Skating Academy, is participating in the event for the first time as a club, though his skaters have participated in it before.
“They’re all seasoned veterans, so we’ve all been doing this for a while,” he said.
“We have 16 skaters. Our youngest is seven and oldest is 19,” he said.
“There is a range of levels from beginners to more experienced. So you get the full level of development,“ Hillier continued.
“There is a lot of development. These skaters are used to competing, so you get to see them get better and better,” Hillier said.
“You get to see how they’ve developed all by themselves,” he said, adding the skaters are more free to do what they want in this event.
“It‘s nice to gauge how they’re progressing. That’s my favourite part,” he said
The Chinook Open Invitational Figure Skating Competition runs April 6-8 at the ATB Centre on the westside. Events include everything from Star 10, freeskate, interpretive events and even a Special Olympics category. All of the events and times are at http://www.lethbridgeskating.com.