By Anil Jhalli
In her debut on the national stage, Victoria Gardner was Ottawa’s top performer at the 2018 Figure Skating Nationals in Vancouver.
Gardner, 14, who skates out of the Glen Cairn Skating Club in Kanata, finished 7th on the short program in the novice women’s division (2nd amongst Ontario skaters) and 8th in the free skate program, which was the 3rd best finish of skaters from Ontario.
“I’ve never been to a competition this big,” said Gardner, adding that the event was a nerve wracking experience. “But, it was definitely my strongest performance.”
After placing 6th at the Ontario Summer Series, the first step in qualifying for Nationals, Gardner went on to sectionals, where she placed 19th (top 18 move on to Challenge – the final qualifier for nationals).
However, Gardner was named an alternate for Challenge and two days before the event, she received a call that a skater withdrew. Gardner jumped at the chance to compete.
Gardner was up to the challenge by placing 13th at the event, and earning the opportunity to skate at Nationals.
“Honestly, I did think I had a chance to head to Nationals,” added Gardner. “But I had a clean solo (at Challenge) and I hadn’t done that all year. I wanted to go out there and really perform the way I wanted to and it felt pretty amazing.”
Gardner had one goal for the most recent skating season, and that was to qualify and compete at Nationals. She was the 36th ranked skater at the beginning of the season and cred- its her coach for helping make the necessary changes to her training to get her she is today.
“We kept my training very consistent,” said Gardner. “We knew what we had to do get things done. We kept practicing and I felt better after every competition and I was able to climb my way in the ranks.”
Marie Hamelin, Gardner’s coach from the age of six, has been a figure skating coach for three decades.
“Victoria progressed very quickly once she gained the confidence to believe she could do something if she put her mind to it,” said Hamelin. “She was always passionate about skating and was eager to be better and skate more.”
Hamelin said that Gardner and her hashed out the plan for the upcoming season and never looked back. The determination and willingness to what it took to achieve the goal for the past skating season was within reach as long as they stuck to the plan.
“This doesn’t come without many endless hours of work on and off the ice. We make sure she (Gardner) eats well, sleeps properly and is able to recover well after each training day. These are all important factors that go into her skating journey, and this journey has been amazing to be part of,” Hamelin added.
Gloucester Skating Club’s Emmanuelle Proft also competed in the novice women’s category at Nationals, finishing 17th in both the short program and free skate. David Brinberg of the Nepean Skating Club came 13th in both the short program and free skate in the junior men’s division. Christian Reekie, from Ottawa, finished 8th in the short program of the junior pairs division, and 6th in the free skate.