(September 15, 2008 - VANCOUVER, BC) – With less than 18 months to go before the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, members of the Skate Canada Senior National Team trained on the Olympic ice surface this past week.  The camp, which ran from September 10-13  in Vancouver, B.C. at the Pacific Coliseum, was a joint effort between Skate Canada and Own the Podium’s Home Field Advantage Program.   

Twenty-one members of Skate Canada’s National Team who will compete on the  upcoming Grand Prix Series attended the camp, which gave them a competitive simulation in the 2010 Winter Olympic venue.    They were joined by newly-retired World Champion Jeffrey Buttle.  

It was another step in preparing athletes for the next two competitive seasons, and also building the notable team spirit that exists among Canadian skaters. Many of the team members had not seen each other since the last camp that was held in June in Toronto, Ont.  The team and Skate Canada executives attended a reception Wednesday evening hosted by new sponsor T-fal.  T-fal is the designated official cookware and small appliance partner of Skate Canada events and the Skate Canada National Team.

On Thursday the skaters hit the ice for practice!  During these sessions the athletes had a chance to get advice from the Skate Canada Performance Enhancement Team and their peers.

Also on Thursday the on-sale date for tickets to the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships® 2009 was announced.  Canadian athletes will compete at this prestigious event at the Pacific Coliseum, February 2-8, 2009 alongside the top competitors from the USA, Japan, China, Korea and other non-European countries.

On Friday and Saturday competitive simulations were held.  Conditions were kept as close to real-life competition as possible.  Skaters prepared as they would for an Olympic day with a morning practice, followed by late afternoon and evening competitions. This marked the first time for most of the team that anyone other than their coaching staff had seen their programs for the 2008-2009 season.  It also included debuting new costumes and look for their competitive programs.   

Skate Canada worked with Speed Skating Canada to create an Olympic style experience.  The ice was expanded out to Olympic size, and featured the unique system in place that replaces the standard ice-rink boards.  As well the ice was adapted to create optimum conditions for figure skaters in the morning and evening, and short track skaters in the afternoon.

Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s Director High Performance was pleased the camp met its objectives.  “This was the first time the skaters could skate on Olympic-size ice here with the padded system instead of regular boards.  We could see the ice conditions as they switched between short track ice and figure skating ice and could give feedback to the venue on how it worked.”

He added “It was also an opportunity for our athletes to show their new skating programs in a competitive environment and to receive feedback from technical officials and international judges.  This is a key element to help them prepare for the upcoming season.”

2008 World Silver Ice Dance Medallist and Canadian Ice Dance Champion Scott Moir said  “It was comforting to know what the padded boards will be like when we are here for the Olympics” while his partner Tessa Virtue enjoyed seeing her fellow national team members.  “It’s always great to see everyone again, especially in their element on the ice”.

Joannie Rochette, 2008 Canadian Women’s Champion also appreciated the on-ice experience.  “I enjoyed skating on the Olympic-sized ice surface, with the padded boards in place, and the ice system that prepared the surface for both short track and figure skating.” 

2008 World Bronze Medallists in Pairs, Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison, used the camp to help them to simulate what the Olympic experience will be.  “We came in the morning for practice, then had a rest in the afternoon, and came back to the rink for the evening competition, which will be our Olympic schedule” said Jessica.  Bryce added that “skating on the bigger ice was a good experience for us.  It helps us develop our programs to fill the larger ice surface.”  They also appreciated having their coaches with them to receive feedback on the programs.  “Because our programs are still in development at this point in the season, we can still change things, try out new moves, and understand how we can increase our point value on different elements” said Bryce.

Patrick Chan, 2008 Canadian Men’s Champion felt more relaxed at this year’s camp.  “I used the camp to try out different ways of preparing for the competition, knowing it wouldn’t affect my results.  It will really help me to plan for being here at the Olympics, so I know what to do, when to start my warm-up, and feel comfortable in the rink.

On Sunday the skaters departed for home.  The next time the National Team will all be together will be at the 2009 BMO Canadian Figure Skating Championships in Saskatoon, Sask., at the Credit Union Centre from January 14-18, 2009.

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