An Interlake Regional Memory – Capturing a Golden Figure Skating Kodak Moment

After researching the archives, I learned 1989 wasn’t the first year the Arborg Skating Club attended the Interlake Regionals. In the late-70s and early-80s, the Arborg SC pretty much owned the podium.

And in 1979, the Primary Dance gold medal went the Arborg Skating Club’s Penny Helgason and Darcie Eliuk. A feat that was repeated ten years later. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

January meant one thing went I skated: the Interlake Regionals.

In 1989, the Arborg Skating Club competed for the first time in several years, bringing home a gold and a bronze.

Technically we brought home three medals.

Skating together in 1981. Tammy, in the blue jacket; my sister, in red jacket.

My older sister and I are only 20 months apart. As kids, we fought, constantly.

Once, we were buckled into our car seats. Dad heard another fight ensue. He turned to see his angels, each with the other’s ponytail in their tiny fists, head kinked to the side and wailing at the top of their lungs. Dad calls this the missed Kodak moment.

We weren’t always trying to maim each other, however, I think my parents were relieved when we weren’t in the same CanSkate group.

My sister “retired” after the 1987/1988 season. Today, regardless of the level, retirement isn’t reserved for the big names. The upcoming season, I was enrolled in private lesson under the CFSA (Canadian Figure Skating Association). The CFSA changed their name in 2000 to Skate Canada.

After a year, my sister hobbled out of retirement, and she returned the ice. Even though I was slightly ahead in dance, we competed at the same level.

Our first competition was the 1989 Interlake Regionals in Fisher Branch, Manitoba. The Arborg Skating Club’s new coach, Joanne Hough, had been with us for about three months. When my sister retired, she was learning elements that would be equal to the Canada’s STARSkate program: sit-spin, toe-loop, etc. With my coach, my sister mastered her flip, sit-spin, loop, and scratch spin.

My repertoire included a half-Lutz, half-flip, two-waltz jumps in a row, and a sit-spin that looked like a curtsey.

My sister and I planned to compete in singles at the regionals, and then our coach had a cool idea. Since we almost at the same dance level – pending my sister’s double dance test in one month – why not compete for another medal? In dance?

Sign me up! I mean, what could go wrong?

Every chance I had, even on our rink my dad made us at home, I practiced those dances. Alone. At one point, Joanne told my parents – in a nut shell – that we probably wouldn’t place because we weren’t practicing together.

We had one more half-hour session of dance where Joanne added head movements to the second dance, which looked pretty cool.

On January 28th, around 20 eager Arborg skaters converged at the Fisher Branch Figure Skating Club at 7:30-ish a.m.  As a teenager, waking up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. for competitions wasn’t difficult.

Regardless, it would be a long day. Our singles event was first out of the blocks, but the dance event dropped the curtain. And back then, if you placed in the first event, you waited until nightfall for your medal.

In the singles event, my sister was a strong medal contender, but she fell on a flip. I had to take the ice right after her – and I watched her skate off. She was crushed. She had a chance at a medal and with the slip of a blade it was gone.

After my 10th place performance to the love theme from Flashdance and theme song from Fletch, I thought it’s okay, we have another crack at a medal tonight in dance. And we’ll perform two perfect dances. Even at 12 years old, I was extremely competitive. My dad videoed the event, and I swear you can see veins pulse in my head when Joanne was giving my sister and I advice. Two skaters almost careened into us, and I actually glared at them. It was hilarious how much I wanted to win.

I’m the fourth from the left. Back then, in local competitions, we could keep the flowers. At this one, we received a single red rose. Credit: Interlake Spectator

And 25 years ago today, we did win.

I’ll never forget the crowd of people when the judges posted the results. And how my coach sauntered through the chaos and a pathway cleared for her. I’ll never forget when she turned to me with her index finger held up and said: “First!”

I stared at Joanne for a brief second – totally in disbelief – and then I raced to the dressing room to tell my sister. We did it! We won the gold!

Joanne told us later we received first place ordinals from all the judges on both dances. Later, I checked the results and learned, including my sister and I, there were twelve teams.

Standing on the podium and receiving a gold medal with my sister is a special moment. When I look back on the footage of the medal ceremonies, and she and I tower over the other skaters. Sure, we were on the top step, but we were also a couple years older – as were other competitors in the same category.

But, some things never change. In the footage, I appear to I look down and say something. my sister says something back, then she looks into the crowd with a sweet smile.

I said: “I think I’m going to cry.

My sister replied: “You do, and I’ll push you off.”

Now, that’s a Kodak moment!

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