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Figure skating women's bronze medalist Canada's Joannie Rochette gathers her thoughts during the medal cermonies Thursday February 25, 2010 at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Figure skating women's bronze medalist Canada's Joannie Rochette gathers her thoughts during the medal cermonies Thursday February 25, 2010 at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. (Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Beverley Smith

Bold young skaters are picking up where Joannie Rochette left off Add to ...

With the Canadian figure skating championships being held this week in Moncton, N.B., many may ask: “So where is Joannie Rochette when you need her?”

The likes of Rochette have been rare in Canada for many years, with the women’s discipline struggling to find skating stars that could go toe-to-toe with the world’s best.

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Well, that may be changing.

For the past two days in Moncton, Canada’s young novice and junior skaters have been showing their wares. And young Canadian women from 13 to 15 in both ranks are brazenly doing the kinds of things that Rochette used to do, on her own. There is not just one promising skater, says Michael Slipchuk, director of high performance for Skate Canada, there is evidence of talent throughout the fields.

The majority of the novice girls are doing at least one triple jump in their routines, if not two. And in the longer free skates, a couple of skaters tried triple Lutzes, the most difficult jump that most senior women do. (Only a handful do the most difficult of all triples, the triple Axel.)

One of them is Haley Sales of Kelowna, B.C., only 15. She finished only third at the novice event on Tuesday, but delivered a triple Lutz. One young girl who didn’t even make it to the Canadian championship – Jayda Jurome – won a qualifying event for the national championship while doing a triple Lutz in both the short and long programs. Jurome, who trains out of British Columbia, is injured.

Rochette dazzled throughout her career, winning the novice title when she was 14 with two or three triple jumps in her arsenal and the junior title when she was 15. The following year, she stepped up boldly to the senior ranks and finished third with an entire array of triple jumps. And then, finally 10 years after her novice win, she won a bronze medal at the Vancouver Olympics, despite the death of her mother.

Slipchuk doesn’t know why all of a sudden there are crowds of young girls all pushing each other with difficult tricks in Canada. He thinks a part of it may be the ability to watch online international junior Grand Prix skating competitions, so that coaches and skaters know what they are up against.

This group of bold young girls is Canada’s answer to Russia, who is overloaded with young, talented skaters at the same age range. (In the early days, the women’s discipline was the weakest. Now it is the strongest.) Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, age 14, won the Skate Canada International Grand Prix last fall against top senior skaters.

“They have one girl that sets the world on fire and the next year, they’ll have another,” Slipchuk said. “Watching here, I’m led to believe that we’re starting to go in that direction, too.”

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