Canadian figure skaters motivated by ‘valuable’ Youth Olympic experience

LAUSANNE — Learning lessons. That’s what the 2020 Youth Olympics are about.

Athletes aged 15 to 18 are focused on taking the experiences of performing under bright lights and before huge crowds and using those pressure-packed moments to propel them further in their athletic careers.

But make no mistake, while the lessons learned will pay massive dividends in the days, months and years that follow these 13 days of competition here in Switzerland, athletes also want to deliver their best performances and win badly for their country.

That was evident from Monday’s figure skating performances at the Lausanne Skating Arena.

Ice dancers were within striking distance of capturing Canada’s first medal at the Youth Olympics — Natalie D’Alessandro and Bruce Waddell were in third place and Miku Makita alongside Tyler Gunara were fourth entering the free program. Russian pairs sat 1-2.

In front of a capacity crowd, both Canadian duos poured their hearts out, gliding gracefully across the ice.

But when their marks were revealed, both were out of podium position – D’Alessandro and Waddell finished fourth and Makita and Gunara fifth.

Their disappointment was evident as they prepared to face the international media.

First up were D’Alessandro, 15, and Waddell, 18, who answered all questions with poise and grace.  

“It’s been amazing. Being a Canadian at the Youth Olympics is awesome. I feel honoured to represent our great country,” D’Alessandro said.

Waddell echoed his partner’s comments, proud of what they accomplished on such a grand athletic stage.

“The whole experience has been incredible for us,” he said. “To be able to represent Canada has been amazing. Today we had a blast out there on the ice. There were some technical errors, but we still gave it our all today for Canada.”

Managing pressure of big moment

Both D’Alessandro and Waddell are using this international experience as motivation.

“This just makes me want to do more and more competitions like this. It’s so moving to have an amazing crowd and people supporting you,” Waddell said.

Their coach, Andrew Hallam, was proud of how D’Alessandro and Waddell managed the pressure of the big moment.

“You can prep them for the crowd but getting here is a different thing. I think they did pretty well, today especially,” Hallam said, adding he’ll review the technical aspects of D’Alessandro and Waddell’s program with them.

“They performed really well today. We have to go back and look at some technical stuff. I thought it was one of their better skates, though.”

Eyeing the Olympics

Following their fifth-place performance, Makita and Gunara couldn’t stop talking about how valuable their Youth Olympic experience will be going forward.

“We want to represent Canada at the biggest international competitions,” Makita said.

Canada’s Miku Makita and Tyler Gunara finished fifth in Monday’s free program. “We’ll hopefully make it to the Olympic Games,” says Gunara, 17.

Gunara, 17, from Vancouver, said they really wanted to deliver their best performances at the Youth Olympics as they continue their growth on the ice.

“We’ll hopefully make it to the Olympic Games,” Gunara said. “Being able to be here and represent Canada is awesome.”

Catherine Carle, 16, from Georgetown, Ont., also took to the ice for Canada on Monday in the women’s free skate.

Carle finished with a score of 93.85 for a combined total of 143.42.

‘I know what to expect now’

After she left the ice, Carle talked about how amazing it’s been competing for Canada at an international event.

“I’ve never done anything like this before and this was something brand new for me and I loved it so much,” she said.

“It means a lot. Canada is such a beautiful country and I’m so happy to represent it.”

Carle says she now knows what to expect when performing at pressure-filled competitions.

“My performance today wasn’t as I planned but I made it here and I tried my best so I’m happy about that,” Carle said.

“I know what to expect now, so if I ever get selected for the real Olympics I will know what to do.”

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