Saint John is home to the best in Canadian figure skating this week. The 2019 National Skating Championships are being held in the port city, with competition getting underway on Monday.
The event has drawn more the 200 competitors to the Saint John area, contributing an estimated $2.5 million to the local economy.
“All our hotels are full; the uptown core is buzzing with hotels and restaurants and shopping, ” said Susan Taylor, co-chair of the local organizing committee.
“All the athletes that come in, they bring their coaches and their families and their fans with them.”
Angela Ling, 14, and Quinn Bisson, 16, are getting ready for the bright lights of big-time figure skating.
The pair is representing Team Ontario in Novice Ice Dance, and the two have only been skating together since April.
It is Ling’s first time competing at nationals but Bisson’s second experience, meaning he has some advice for new competitors.
“Focus on yourself and don’t really look at how big the rink is and try to ignore the other people,” said Bisson.
Bisson is from Ilderton, Ont., the hometown of Canadian ice dancing legend Scott Moir.
Moir and partner Tessa Virtue recently retired from competition and are now inspiring young ice dancers.
“All the work that [Moir] put in and the hard work that Tessa put in and just having him come around occasionally, even just having him be part of Ilderton is really cool and inspiring,” said Bisson.
Moir’s aunt is Bisson and Ling’s coach, and Moir’s mother is also part of the team.
Organizing a national event at the local level has been in the works for 18 months, and 225 volunteers are part of the effort.
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Officials are hoping support from the public will be strong and say that the best way to experience figure skating is live and in person.
“When you watch it live, you hear the blades cut across the ice, and it’s a pretty awesome sound,” said Taylor.
“You get to see the athleticism and the power of these athletes. They’re not just girls in pretty dresses that aren’t strong. They are such strong athletes — and the men as well.”
The event will conclude on Jan. 20.