I’ve always considered figure skaters to be the hardest-working athletes of any sport in the Cowichan Valley.
The most dedicated are on the ice all the time and often take extra sessions at places like the Racquet Club in Victoria, requiring an even greater commitment.
That’s why I’ve made it my mission during many years of covering sports to give skaters the maximum publicity possible. These kids deserve plenty of credit and wide-spread exposure.
Since I was based in Duncan for so many years, the Duncan, Kerry Park, Cowichan Lake and Fuller Lake Skating Clubs all came under my mandate. Now, as the editor of the Chemainus Valley Courier, the Fuller Lake group gets my full attention.
Fuller Lake’s history for producing top-notch skaters spans many years. They aren’t going to the Olympics or anything, but there’s much more to the sport than that.
It’s about keeping young ladies, mostly, but also a few young lads, busy with a focus and learning a sport that’s most difficult to master.
The power skating element has been a nice option, especially for the boys, at Fuller Lake.
The regular skating sessions, now being conducted by head coach Shannon McKinlay, are demanding but Fuller Lake skaters have achieved considerable success over the years.
I can remember so many of them from the shows and interviews I’ve done previously, going way back to the likes of the Maddin girls to more recently to Brittany Shillingford, Naomi Eastman, Riley Buckner, Marina Ellison, Caiden Varasteh, Amber Ree and others. A solid tradition has been formed and these girls have paved the way for others to follow.
The poise shown by the girls during those interviews never ceased to amaze me, like the time when Buckner and Ellison were flower girls for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. That’s not even eight years ago yet, but a quick ascent for these skaters who went from little girls to a high standard seemingly in the blink of an eye, and talked so eloquently about the experience.
There’s also been considerable individual achievements in the various dance, freeskate and interpretive tests, particularly in recent years when several Fuller Lake skaters reached gold levels at the same time.
The Glerups – Jan and Nancy – teaching at Fuller Lake for so long established a strong work ethic. McKinlay brings more of the same, calling on her show skating experience with the ability to teach so well that keeps the skaters engrossed.
One of the impressive things about Fuller Lake is how some of the older skaters, already busy with their own sessions, embrace the role of program assistants so readily to help those coming up through the ranks. It wasn’t long ago when they were in that position and the assistance of the older girls really helps.
Of course, in figure skating, athletes get old really fast. Those in the 13-15-year-old age bracket already have considerable experience by that time because they’ve been at it so long.
The inner drive I’ve seen from so many girls at Fuller Lake over the years is impressive. They practice probably 90 per cent of the time compared to competing or ice shows.
That’s why I want to bring more details of their stories to light because there isn’t always an event to write about every week – or hardly every month, for that matter.
But these skaters are working hard behind the scenes for the time when the next show or the next test or the next interclub competition takes place. And they do it without helmets or any heavy-duty gear, guys.
The armoured hockey players of today are kind of a joke when you think of these girls battling the elements and hard ice when they fall without any protective gear.
It’s a big season at Fuller Lake with the 50th anniversary of the arena coming up and I’ve got lots of ideas for bringing more stories on the skating club into focus more often. Stay tuned.