By Libaan Osman
For the first time since 2014, Ryerson’s figure skating team will be hosting the Ontario University Athletics championships (OUA) in February.
After a fifth-place finish in the province last season, the team is back with a total of 14 skaters with very high expectations.
The team has been training four times a week in preparation for two upcoming events before they hit the ice for the OUA championships in 2020 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
Most of October training was dedicated to their upcoming fall competition in Ottawa on Nov. 20. Captain and supervisor of the team, Rebecca Bourgeois—who’s also in her last season with the team—is glad she gets to end it on one of the biggest stages.
“Not a lot of people know that there even is a figure skating team,” said Bourgeois.
“It’s an honour to be able to host OUAs on your home ice. You have a lot of advantages there, you’re very comfortable there, you know how the ice feels when you’re jumping and skating,” said Bourgeois.
Bella Larkin, who’s also a co-captain on the team, couldn’t picture a better host than Ryerson.
“We never thought it was going to happen [hosting OUAs],” said Larkin. “I honestly think it’s the best rink it could happen at.”
This year’s OUA championships are set to take place at the MAC on February 10-11. The annual two-day event will feature nine teams competing in 14 competitions.
Bourgeois is excited about what this year’s roster can achieve.
“I see a lot of potential in our pairs events this year,” said Bourgeois. “We have really good free skate pairs, a lot of good jumpers. They’re partnering really well together. And our dance pairs are also doing really good. We have four key events I’m looking at for fall competition to do pretty well.”
With no head coach, Bourgeois and other members of the team have taken it upon themselves to run the administration side.
That includes meetings with Ryerson Athletics, setting up ice schedules and making sure the entire roster is registered with Skate Canada.
“Everything is funded through us, mostly. I have some girls working four jobs just along with their schooling to just be a part of the sport that they love. There’s a lot of respect that I have for my team because of what they do to just be here and skate,” said Bourgeois.
As the team gears up for this year’s OUA championship, they will be looking at resources from Skate Canada and from other schools that have hosted the event to make sure everything runs smooth.
From making sure the music is on point, to the judging and technology, the planning for this year’s big event has been new to the captain.
“That’s going to be a bit of an undertaking for myself, just making sure that everything runs like how a skating competition should run.”
Along with Bourgeois, it will also be Larkin and Kaitlyn Wilson’s last year with the team.
Wilson finished with a gold medal in the Star 10 Freeskate in last year’s championships.
Also helping out with the team this season is former Ryerson skater Chris Berneck, who’s now the consulting coach. Berneck won a gold medal at the men’s open in 2016 while also three silver medals from 2016-18. The former skater handles a lot of the team’s free skate choreography.
Winning it all is the ultimate goal for Ryerson, but it won’t come easy as the Toronto Varsity Blues have won the last four consecutive OUA championships.
“As a varsity community, we just want someone to dethrone Toronto,” said Bourgeois. “I respect their team completely, and they have a lot of really awesome and talented skaters there but watching them win so many years in a row is awful.”
For Bourgeois, she’s looking for consistency from her skaters this season as the rest will take care of itself.
“I always say if you can go out there and for three minutes you [have] your best skate you’ve had all season, I’m totally happy as your coach,” said Bourgeois. “Obviously, I’m looking for a couple of our events to medal. I see a lot of medal potential there but I’m looking for seasons best when it comes down to it.”
With files from Chris Sanders and Xavier Eeswaran