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A TMU figure skating in a blue uniform skates at centre ice
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Skating to be seen: Figure skating ready to rock at Brock

By Jordan Jacklin

On a chilly Thursday in downtown Toronto, the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold figure skating team sets up shop at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) to practice their individual and group programs. 

After loading up their playlist into the arena’s sound system, the skaters either practice on their own or in pairs. From completing basic turns to executing axel jumps, a great amount of work goes into creating these programs—work that goes far beyond their time on the ice. 

There is a lot of time spent on details that go into a performance, including the music they skate to, their outfits and staging the choreography.

“We have a lot of rookies, so it’s been fun getting to know everybody”

Adele’s “Skyfall” can be heard through the MAC speakers as second-year graphic communication management student Marion Pollard begins a singles routine. But not every song is lyrical; the duet routines are practiced using instrumentals and songs more emotional in nature.

“Being fully immersed and providing our interpretation of our selected music is essential in our sport,” said Pollard. “It factors into our competition scores, so making sure that we enjoy the song selections is our first step.” 

Many of the skaters wore blue dresses with rhinestones glazed over them, which will be used for their upcoming meet. The reasoning behind this is to make sure they feel as comfortable in their uniforms as possible before hundreds of eyes will be laid upon them in the coming days.

“It’s been great having people that are creative on the team”

The group is preparing to compete in the Fall Invitational on Nov. 22, where they will travel to the Meridian Credit Union Arena at Brock University to compete against other Ontario universities. There hasn’t been a competition held at the MAC since February 2020 and the figure skating team won’t have an event at home this season, either. 

However, Pollard is excited about what this season has to offer and the increase in events the team will be participating in.

“Due to the pandemic, we didn’t have a lot going on over the last year,” said Pollard. “This year, we have a lot more competitions that are away from home and we’re excited to travel together as a group.”

But this season is different compared to others. Last season, the team competed in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship in Aylmer, Ont., where some skaters participated in the final events of their careers. It was also the squad’s only OUA competition last season.

With skaters—including former captain Julia Iaboni not returning this year—the team’s environment has shifted as the younger athletes are taking on more leadership roles. Pollard is one of those people that is leading in all aspects, from encouraging her teammates, to assisting in the production aspects off the ice. 

“We have a lot of rookies, so it’s been fun getting to know everybody,” said Pollard. “There is a big difference in varsity skating compared to traditional competitive skating and we have a lot going on as a group.”

In addition to preparing for two invitational meets and the OUA championships in February, the squad is looking to bring extra awareness for themselves and gain some exposure in the local market. 

 The group is expected to participate in the Cavalcade of Lights at Nathan Phillips Square where members of the team will perform their programs for visitors downtown.

Tiffany Huang, an early childhood studies student, is excited about what participating in this festival has to offer. With most events typically done solo or in pairs, this is an exciting prospect for the group.

“Events like this are important for team-building and it offers a unique scenario for us,” said Huang. “This is an opportunity to perform as an entire group.”

When compared to other sports, creativity is heavily relied upon in figure skating—from the planning stages to executing a program.

It helps that some of the skaters are in creative-based programs, including the sport media program or creative industries. 

Anna Carter, a second-year fashion student, is one of those skaters.

“It’s been great having people that are creative on our team,” Carter said. Their creativity also bleeds into other aspects of the team. “They help out with our social media platforms and the editing process for our music selections.”

When it comes to role models in figure skating, especially in the U Sports realm, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir stand out for the majority of the skaters. The duo is known for their dynamic performances in the Olympics from 2010 to 2018, winning five medals in that span.

Virtue, an alumna of the University of Windsor, studied psychology while also competing in high-level ice dance events.

“Due to the pandemic, we didn’t have a lot going on over the last year”

In a sport that is niche compared to its counterparts, figure skating offers a variety of aspects that set it apart. 

Carter noted how sports such as hockey, soccer, volleyball and basketball are team-based. But figure skating offers a mix of both individual and pairs events. Plus, the figure skating program as a whole at TMU is team-based.

“At the varsity level, it’s both individually-oriented and team-oriented,” said Carter. “That allows for a different viewing experience for the audience.”

Although the team won’t be performing at the MAC in the near future, an exciting season lies ahead for the Bold figure skating team. With three invitationals and performances in local events coming up, the sport has officially made a full-force return at the university.

“We want to perform better with the Bold name and earn higher competition scores than ever before.” 

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