Racquet Club figure skaters on fast track

Victoria Figure Skating dance team Elise von Holwede and Eric Streichsbier in just six months

Coach Matt Willis

They came from afar and they’ve got far to go.

But the amount of ice covered by Racquet Club of Victoria Figure Skating dance team Elise von Holwede and Eric Streichsbier in just six months is impressive, coach Matt Willis said.

Seventeen-year-old von Holwede came to Victoria in July from Saskatchewan, though she most recently lived and trained in Ottawa.

She came because girls looking for ice dance partners are a dime-a-dozen, but boys, especially someone as talented as 18-year-old Streichsbier, are a rare find.

This week, the duo makes its debut at the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Moncton, N.B., running Jan. 16 to 22.

“They complement each other so well, in many ways, with hair and complexion, and being the right height match,” Wilis said. “Eric has the power, presence and edge control that works well with the flair of Elise’s character expression.”

Last year, Streichsbier relocated to Victoria from Port Alberni to focus on skating. Seeking a partner, Willis put the word out and von Holwede responded for a July tryout, her previous coach in tow.

“My coach came to see how we would match up, said von Holwede, who’s in Grade 12 at Mount Douglas secondary. “Everyone has different techniques. Right away the coaches enjoyed (our chemistry).”

Under the guidance of Willis the duet quickly put a routine together and at the Skate Canada challenge in Regina on Dec. 4 they finished 15th to qualify for nationals.

“It’s a short time frame with a lot of improvement coming fast,” said Willis, Racquet Club’s coach and director of junior development.

“Christmas break might have slowed that progress but we expect them to improve on that finish. We’ve made a lot of adjustments to add points (to the judges’ score).”

Willis, from Courtenay, is a former national level skater who finished top-five in dance. He’s in his fifth year with Racquet Club and is a major part of its transition into a high-performance organization under director Deena Beacom.

It’s the second straight year the Racquet Club has sent a dance team to nationals. Sister and brother tandem Pilar and Leonardo Maekawa went last year.

Skating to Peggy Lee’s Fever for their free program, von Holwede and Streichsbier are aiming for a top-10 finish in Moncton – which von Holwede missed by one spot last year.

It’s Streichsbier’s first time at nationals. He’ll need a new set of goals going ahead.

“Nationals have been my long-term goal. Right now, we’re working on week-by-week improvement,” Streichsbier said, who plans on enrolling in college next year.

Getting better means twice a day sessions on the ice, skating together in the mornings and individually in the afternoons. Ice time will increase even more if they chase their international aspirations next year.