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  • Kendra Zamzow

Grace Under Pressure

As the morning’s rays broke over the cloudy gray horizon, eager spectators seated on yellow concrete bleachers primed to be awestruck in one of the most highly anticipated events of the Games, were not disappointed. Figure skating, a dazzling and elegant performance of skill and grace was appreciated by a crowd left in awe, when female figure skaters competed against each other in the Level 1 Short Program. 


In the opening ceremony, teams from Alaska, Alberta North, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon skated out onto the ice, proudly displaying their colorful regional flags. Each participant has less than three minutes to impress the scorekeepers. Before competing, girls warmed up on the ice, overcoming slips and spills as they practiced stunning jumps, spins, and glides. 


The costumes, an array of imaginative design and color:  gold sparkling lame′, bright pink with a pink fringe skirt, a simile of gold or red flames on a black bodysuit, or white with a lime green ruffle.


Natalie Stark of Team Yukon was the first out, sweeping her arms over her head then drawing them up and down to the music as she launched into her performance.  Following was Aidyn Lewis of Eagle River, skating on her home rink, snapping her fingers in time with the jaunty “Puttin’ on the Ritz”.  Skaters choreographed their moves meticulously, artfully moving to music like pop, classical, and instrumental music. By now the stands were full of people rallying and cheering with each axel and sit-spin.


Team Nunavut competed for the first time since 2018.  While other teams had five to eight girls, Team Nunavut was represented by 2, Tia Awa Kilabuk and Kimberly Gissing, both 14 years old.  This was the first event that either girl had ever competed in. Although they didn't know it until later, the Nunavut Minister of Community and Government Services, was applauding in the stands with friends, who took video of much of their performance.


“I’m so proud of them,” said coach Janna Lynn Maclachlan, “It’s enormous pressure to be in a small outfit in the cold in an event. They have to have the physical skills and the artistry and be comfortable in front of a crowd. To feel confident enough to perform is amazing. And they are just such nice girls."


Tia started her program with an arm drawn across her face, stock still until the music began. Then she leapt into a spin. “I landed my first axel!” she said when asked about the best part of her program.  That is impressive, to be confident enough to try such a hard move in front of an audience!   Kimberly’s forte was embodying the music, an instrumental, which she did exceptionally well, making full use of the entire rink. Asked if she had chosen the tune, Janna said the music was chosen by the National Coach, but the girls had time to work with the music and practice. 


Team Nunavut skaters are based in Iqaluit, a town of 8,000 residents where the sport is small yet growing. “We have four or five good coaches now,” said Janna. “And this event has been great for networking.” She is learning about more events in Yellowknife and the Yukon. But she also hopes to be back in Alaska someday.

"The views are amazing, and the people are all so friendly."

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