Victoria prepped for figure skating nationals

It only took three and a half days to prep Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre for the 2011 Canadian Figure Skating Nationals.

2010 Canadian men’s champion Patrick Chan (above) and Canadian silver medalist Cynthia Phaneuf are among the top figure skaters in Victoria this week.

It only took three and a half days to prep Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre for the 2011 Canadian Figure Skating Nationals.

Gone is the feel of a hockey barn. Protective netting and plexiglass no longer separate the viewer from the ice.

Save-On-Foods arena has become an intimate and graceful stage for the nation’s best figure skaters.

The ice is blue, spot lights shine from dozens of angles and temporary jumbotrons hang in opposite corners.

To get it to this state, crews arrived on scene Thursday night and worked round the clock. By Monday, the stage was set — though junior skaters were already on the ice for practice sessions Sunday.

Organizing the event, however, has been ongoing for much longer.

“Last year, when Victoria won the bid to host this event, SportHost Victoria’s director Hugh MacDonald called me and said, ‘Great news, we got the skating nationals now we need to organize it,’” said Susan Morriss, recalling being caught off guard by the announcement. “I didn’t even know we were bidding.”

Ten months ago, Morriss and the organizing committee started ironing out the details.

A teacher at Frank Hobbs elementary, Morriss is a long-time figure skating judge and one of Victoria’s go-to sources for the sport. She was part of the organizing committee when Victoria hosted the Skate Canada International event in 2006.

Morriss, accredited to judge at the international level, is the committee chair.

She credits a “mostly” full time teaching contract for the flexibility to fly to France and Switzerland to judge during the winter season.

“I have an 80 per cent teaching contract that allows me to put 20 per cent of my time towards judging and volunteering for figure skating,” she said.

She wants fans to know not all of this week’s 250 volunteers at SOFMC and Archie Browning arena (practice rink) are from the figure skating community.

“In fact most aren’t. A lot of the crew from 2006 have moved on. The volunteers we’ve brought in come from curling and golf and all sorts of activities around town.”

The event has changed a lot since Morriss twice competed at the national junior level in the 1970s. Back then, juniors didn’t have their own show. They skated as part of the national program.

Junior nationals conclude

The Skate Canada 2011 Junior Nationals continue until Thursday and are $10 per ticket. Practice times are free to spectators.

While the novice and junior level events are going on at Save-on Foods arena, the youth nationals are being held at Archie Browning arena.

The schedules for the juniors and this weekend’s nationals are available at www.skatecanada.ca.

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