Stallaert To Attend 2013 World Figure Skating Championships

Chatham skater Olivia Stallaert – CKSN.ca File Photo

Olivia Stallaert from the Chatham Figure Skating Club will be on the ice at the ISU 2013 World Figure Skating Championships. She won’t be wearing any medals, but will probably be wearing many big smiles, as she will be sharing the ice with the “biggest and best” figure skaters from across the world, March 11-17, 2013 at the Budweiser Gardens in London. Olivia was selected from a group of 54 pre-selected skaters from the Western Ontario Skating Section who vied for 1 of 20 volunteer positions as a flower retriever. The World Championships is like the Stanley Cup (maybe not a good example this year), or the Super Bowl of Figure Skating. It will be televised on National/Inter-National television and viewed by over 160 million people world wide. It’s considered an A-list international television event.

In order to attend the auditions 2 weeks ago at the Budweiser Gardens, a pre-approved process had to take place. The criteria that had to be met by all 54 hopefuls from all over Southwestern Ontario was: They had to be ages 9-13yrs old by March 5, 2013. A Skate Canada member, Male or Female competitive figure skater who qualified to attend The Western Ontario Sectional Championships a few weeks ago in the Juvenile, Pre-Novice or Novice levels, where Stallaert finished in 11th place out of 43 skaters. The skaters also had to reside or have access to a residence within a 1 1/2 hr. drive of London.

Once at the auditions, the skaters were put to the test. With their competitive attire and skates on, they were put through drills in comparison to what they would have to actually do at the Worlds competition. 3 Judges from Skate Canada judged the hopefuls on their skating skills, speed and personality on the ice, plus their ability to work as a team off the ice. ” Race onto the ice and scoop up flowers, teddy bears and candy and then skate off the ice as quickly as possible. Don’t drop anything and look as elegant and professional as the ones they are retrieving for. And don’t forget to smile. And remember when they have to pick up all of these items after the likes of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, they will have no extra time than they will for the skaters from other countries with not as strong a following. They need to be very decisive, to do it effortlessly and gracefully. It’s like a performance out there.” That will be a lot to do in the minimal time they are allotted between skaters. They will be running on live TV so they have to make sure they stay on the minute. Spectators often show appreciation for their favourite figure-skaters by tossing symbols of their fan-dom on the ice after a performance. That has led competition organizers to ensure all the items are cleaned up, quickly and thoroughly, before the next skaters go on ice. Enter the volunteer role of flower retrievers. The flower retrievers often cross paths with the skating stars as they gather the gifts and deposit them with ice captains. The ice captains then deliver the items to the skaters.

After they went through the on-ice portion of the audition, they had a brief interview with the officials where they were asked a few various questions.

Many accomplished figure skaters have also been known to be flower retrievers. Such is the the case of a young skater who was a flower retriever in Ottawa many years ago, Elizabeth Manley went on to win Olympic silver at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.

Also at the audition event, Vancouver Olympic 2010 bronze medalist Joannie Rochette was announced as the Athlete Ambassador for the championships. As Athlete Ambassador, Rochette will participate in promotion, ceremonies, media interviews, receptions, autograph sessions and in-venue entertainment. She also won her first and last national championships in London.

The 20 successful candidates will attend 2 training sessions in the upcoming year in London. One if February and one right before the Championships in March. Skate Canada will be supplying the flower retrievers with a custom made dress for the event.

When asked how Olivia felt about this accomplishment, she replied, ” It will be an honour to represent by home club of Chatham and welcome the skaters to Canada. I hope that I will be able to meet some of the top world skaters. It will be awesome to watch them skate at ice level.” She also stated that Joannie Rochette is her hero for what she accomplished at the Olympics. “She went out and skated her best, even though her mom had just passed away. It shows me (and all athletes) that we can do anything if we put our mind to it.”

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