World-class figure skaters will be performing in Kelowna at this weekend’s Skate Canada International 2019.
Among the group: two from Western Canada, an ice dance couple ranked 52nd in the world.
British Columbia’s Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker of Winnipeg will be one of three Canadian couples competing in the three-day event, Oct. 25-27 at Prospera Place.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a really long time,” said Sales, 22, who grew up in Quesnel but now calls the Lower Mainland home.
“Two years ago, we found out that Skate Canada would be in Kelowna,” said Sales, who had then just moved up into the senior ranks. “We weren’t sure (if competing in Kelowna) would ever be a possibility.”
This weekend, she and Wamsteeker will be performing not only in front of large crowds in a venue that’s close to home, but also in front of family and friends.
“This is really awesome for me and my family and my partner,” said Sales. “Lots of family coming.”
Sales and Wamsteeker have been performing together for five years, including four years on the world circuit.
The two are currently ranked 52nd in the world in ice dance standings. Results from 2018 include a third-place finish in Lake Placid, N.Y., a fourth-place finish in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a ninth-place finish at Skate Canada International in Laval, Que.
Canada will be fielding two other ice dance couples this weekend: Piper Gilles and Paul Poirer, who are ranked sixth; and Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, who are ranked 21st.
Sales and Wamsteeker, however, are the only Western Canadians in the event.
“It’s pretty awesome to have competitions over here,” said Sales. “It doesn’t happen often. Less than a month ago, we were in Germany, and we were just so happy not to have anything over a five-hour flight.
“We’re like, ‘this is awesome!’”
Skate Canada International is the second competition in the annual International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating series. The other events take place in the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and France.
According to Skate Canada, skaters are awarded points based on their placements at their events. The top six from each discipline qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Torino, Italy, Dec. 5-8.
Among the athletes skating in Kelowna is singles skater Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, a two-time Olympic champion (2014, 2018) and two-time world champion (2014, 2017).
A large media contingent from Japan is in Kelowna to report on Hanyu, who is currently ranked third in the world, behind No. 1 Nathan Chen of the U.S., and No. 2 Shoma Uno of Japan.
Below are some quick ice dance facts:
- There are no lifts above the head;
- No jump elements (eg: no triple axels)
- Skaters are assessed more heavily on the quality of their skating
- It’s also the most subjective discipline
Sales says for the majority of her skating life, she was a singles skater. But that changed when she was 16.
“I’ve always really appreciated the artistic side of skating, but ice dance really wasn’t available,” she said. “When I moved to Vancouver to get some other coaching in singles, I was introduced to Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe.”
The two are former Olympians who coach an ice dance academy and were also doing choreography for Sales’ singles program.
Sales said she got to know them and, combined with injuries she suffered as a singles skater, was given an opportunity to try out ice dance.
“Nick was free, he didn’t have a partner,” said Sales. “So we thought, ‘Why don’t we try that out,’ and it worked, it was a good match. Lucky me and lucky him!”
For more about this weekend’s Skate Canada International event in Kelowna, click here.