In 1989, the “first” Interlake Winter Games were held in my hometown of Arborg, Manitoba. It was a trial run from what I was told to gauge participation. In other words, medal winners didn’t advance to another competition. They needed to wait and try again the next year in Gimli, Manitoba, who hosted the 1990 Interlake Winter Games.
I didn’t realize it, but this was like the Winter Games, the Olympics. Really? Cool.
Besides singles, the Games also included precision, or synchro as it’s referred to now. In 1990, individual skaters needed to place in the top two to advance to the Manitoba Winter Games in Carman, Manitoba. The synchro team who placed first would go to the Games.
On March 6, individual skaters will compete in the 2014 Power Smart Manitoba Games.
The competition is a tad different now. Gone are each section’s qualifying round and synchro from the competition. It’s not easier, just different from 1989. For example, I competed against 13 girls from my region. In 2014, the Competitive Level I Women are up against 29.
In 2014, there are two components in the event. For the Competitive Level I Women, the first portion is the Competitive LTAD [Long-term Athlete Development] Jump Competition. It’s similar to the jump elements at competitions: Axel, double-toe, double loop, etc. In the Winter Games, though, there are three rounds. The final round, skaters need to perform a jump combination. The second portion is the free program. The Competitive Level II Women skate their short and free programs. Men are combined into one category and skate their short and free, however, there aren’t any men at the Manitoba Games this year.
In 1989, we had compulsory elements, interpretive and a free program.
During the compulsory elements, without music, the judges made you sweat in fear as you performed the same jumps and spins as the previous skater. Then you drew – out of a paper bag – for the final element: double toe loop, double Salchow or flying camel spin. It would’ve been less stressful I could land higher than a half-flip at the time, but I gave the a double toe loop my best effort!
Between every warm-up, the ice was flooded. There were so many falls that day, it was like going on the ice with your guards on. The ice was so saturated for all the excess water. We didn’t have a Zamboni – just a tractor with a water tank behind it. Quite primitive at the time, and it did the trick for our regular sessions, but not competition.
The second portion was interpretive. This was always my favourite part. It’s similar to artistic skating. The music is played twice while skaters are on the ice. I would barely move while I was on warm up. I couldn’t risk someone stealing my moves! No jumps or spins either, unless it’s a funky corkscrew or flip on a beat. The on-deck skater is hidden behind a curtain or door so they can hear the music while the current skater performs. The skater isn’t allowed to watch the competition until they’ve competed.
Then, it was time for our free program. By the end of the afternoon, skaters were so tired. It wasn’t just the skating. It was the waiting, the watching and the anxiety.
After the free program – and I came to terms with my second last finish – the medals were handed out for the individual competition. And some skaters could go home to their nice fluffy beds. However, in those days, synchro was part of the Winter Games. I competed on Arborg Senior Team. We really weren’t at the senior level, we were just the oldest group in our club.
There we two portions to this event, compulsories formations and the program. Two people fell in the program. I remember when they went down, they actually had slush on their costumes from the ice. When I got off the ice, there was actually slush on my blades. Despite two falls in our program, our team came away with the silver medal from our first Interlake Winter Games. I was relieved. After a long day, in front of a hometown crowd, I was just wanted to go home with a medal, preferably silver, because we knew we couldn’t beat the top team – yet.
The next year, the one that really counted, we took home bronze. Not the colour we wanted at those Games, but that’s for another blog.
When I look back on our first Interlake Winter Games, 25 years ago, it’s a blur. There are moments I’ll remember, hopefully forever. I smile when I think about those puddles of water on ice. Or the fact I fell during my free program because my feet locked during a field move – right in front of my sister, who watched me from the crowd so she could throw a flower on the ice. Once she finished laughing of course. I remember one of my club mates choreographed her own program on the way to the rink. And our Goodie Bags were filled with little tidbits of Arborg. There were perfume samples from the Avon lady, orange balloons from the IGA and Bazooka Joe bubble gum from Uncle Roman!
There’s a saying, you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. To the skaters at the Manitoba Winter Games, take it all in.
This is your moment!
Skate Canada: LTAD
2014 Power Smart Manitoba Games
Interlake Spectator, 1989