The Gold, the Silver and the Wildcard

On a clear day in Arborg, Man., I’d have my pick of CBC, CTV or CKND (Global). However, most days, it was usually CBC programming, which explains my love for Degrassi Junior High.

CBC showed memorable movies back then, such as Love and Hate-The Story of Colin and Joanne Thatcher, and Loyalties. For me, and probably for most skaters in the Arborg area, of the best figure skating movies: Skate.

The movie Skate was known internationally as Blades of Courage and it starred Christianne Hirt as Lori LaRoche. LaRoche was a talented, but undisciplined figure skater who won the bronze medal at her first Canadians. In a controversial move, the CFSA, known as Skate Canada now, decided to send LaRoche to the Worlds rather than the silver-medallist.

After a 10th place finish at the Worlds, high-ranking coach Bruce Gainer, played by Colm Feore, is enlisted by the CFSA to train LaRoche – with devastating results. Since LaRoche left her small town coach, she begins to lose her sense of self. She has a meltdown on the ice at Sectionals, leaves the big city to return home and falls into a depression.

Of course, I wouldn’t love this movie if it didn’t have a happy ending. LaRoche returns to the ice the following year, and qualifies for the Canadians. The rest, I won’t ruin for you.

When this movie first came out, little did I realize an incident similar to this happened already on Canadian soil.

It was at the 1980 Canadians in Kitchener, Ontario when a spunky 12-year-old Tracey Wainman flew through her long program at lightning speed, and left an impression on the figure skating community and the CFSA. She captured the bronze medal with four-minute program that included a triple salchow. It was an Olympic year, so the CFSA made an eyebrow raising decision. They sent the 1980 Canadian Champion Heather Kemkaran to the Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, and Wainman to the Worlds in Dortmund, Germany.

After the long program at Worlds, Wainman jumped in the standings from 20th to 14th place overall. David Dore, the former head of the CFSA touted her as the “future.” Kemkaran placed 15th in Lake Placid and turned professional thereafter, while Wainman would go on to win the Canadian championships in 1981.

Another example of the CFSA slashing someone’s dreams was in 1998 and a young talented Emanuel Sandhu placed second in 1998 at the Canadians, enough to qualify for the Olympics in Nagano, Japan. However, the Canadian Olympic Committee refused to send him. Sandhu meet the requirements of the CFSA, however, he did not compete in any Grand Prix events during the 1997-1998 competitive year due to injury. Jeffery Langdon, the bronze medalist from Smith Falls, Ontario, would go in his place finished 12th.

At the 2001 Canadians, Nicole Watt gave a spitfire performance to snag the silver medal. Watt, who suffers from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, was short on international experience. So Watt did not have the chance to skate in front of her home country the Worlds in Vancouver. Bronze-medallist Annie Bellemare slid into her place instead.

It baffles me every year when skating organizations make figure skaters wait to hear if they have made the World Team based on Grand Prix and international results. If skater wins the gold or silver medal in their country and they are bumped, sometimes, it can be a hard climb back.

In the movie, of course, LaRoche is the protagonist and the silver-medallist is the antagonist, so nobody wants the antagonist to succeed.

However, in reality – what hurts the most is being so close.