LAUSANNE – Just one week prior to the biggest performance of her young skating career, Toronto’s Brooke McIntosh was celebrating her 15th birthday – just making the age cut-off to be able to compete in the Youth Olympics.
Then, on Sunday morning in front of a capacity crowd and the bright lights shining down, McIntosh alongside her pairs partner Brandon Toste, 17, of Mississauga,Ont., skated to a season-best performance at the Youth Olympics.
Their score of 96.77 was good enough to put them in fourth spot, improving from their fifth position after the short program.
The crowd of thousands inside the Lausanne Skating Arena roared wildly as the young Canadian skating stars took a bow at centre ice, smiling uncontrollably.
“It’s been inspiring to be here. To skate this well at such a high-level event makes me feel really proud of us,” Toste said. “It felt really great out there. The energy from the fans was amazing. I want to thank them for all the cheering. It’s really helped us.”
WATCH | Canadian pair finishes 4th:
Never before had the two skated on this grand of athletic stage with so much at stake. To be able to deliver their best performance when they needed it most is something McIntosh will never forget.
“This has been such a great experience and I’m so thankful,” McIntosh said. “It’s so cool to skate in front of big crowd. Switzerland has been amazing.”
Watching it all unfold from the edge of the rink was the duo’s coach, Andrew Evans. He’s been their coach since they first started skating as a pair six years ago, bursting with pride after their skate.
“They mean a lot to me,” Evans said. “Placements aside we came into a this large new forum and the volume alone was way louder than anything we’re used to. They laid it down. They did their job.”
Just before the two made their way to the middle of the ice to begin their performance they skated over to Evans for one last word. It’s been a team ritual since the beginning, and they weren’t about to change it at the Youth Olympics.
“We’ve done that since they were nine and 11 years old. I tell them to be tough. And then I tell them to give er hell and be on their way,” Evans said.
Standing beside Evans for the performance was Canadian champion Joannie Rochette’s coach, Manon Perron.
“The entire time I was stressing. She kept telling me they’ll be fine,” Evans said.
Perron says she was incredibly impressed with how McIntosh and Toste performed under pressure.
“They were great. For a first experience at this level they reacted very well. We’re so proud of them,” Perron said.
“When a competition is as strong as this and they reacted the way they did today, it only means they are real competitors.”
Patrick Chan approves
Also inside the arena to watch the Canadians was Olympic champion, Patrick Chan. He’s at the Youth Olympics in Lausanne as an Athlete Ambassador and wasn’t going to miss the figure skating competition.
“Wow. They should be so proud of themselves,” Chan said. “They looked great. I was really impressed with how confident they skated. Very concise. Technically sound. The future is bright for them.”
McIntosh and Toste were aware Chan was watching their skate.
“I saw him. It’s really cool to have a Canadian champion here watching us,” Toste said.
“It’s nice to see him supporting the younger generation,” McIntosh added.
Chan says he wishes he could have had an experience like the Youth Olympics to help him progress early in his skating career.
“They’re getting years and years of experience in two weeks. I’m really envious,” Chan said. “I never had this. 2010 was my first Olympics. I got thrown into the fire. People told me what to expect but nobody could prepare me for the actual event. I think my career and experience in 2010 would have been so much more.”
Rakic finishes 4th
Canada’s Aleksa Rakic, 15, from Burnaby, B.C. followed up a season-best short program with a memorable free skate Sunday afternoon at the Youth Olympics.
Sitting fourth going into the long program, Rakic took to the ice in front of thousands inside the Lausanne Skating Arena. He put together a near flawless performance, scoring 134.27 which secured fourth place in the 15-skater field.
“I think that I skated great and that I was able to show what I do in training. I’m happy with the whole competition.”
Rakic says he believes this Youth Olympic experience so early in his career will only mean positive things moving forward.
“It’s been amazing. The audience has been so supportive,” he said.
“I feel that this experience will help in other competitions and give me more motivation to make it to the Olympics.”