Young skater overcomes training hurdles as nationals approach

A figure skater from Windsor-Essex has crossed as many hoops as he has double axes as he trains for this week’s national championships.

Jake Ellis, 16, who has skated for the South Windsor Skating Club for nine years, is en route to Ottawa to compete in the junior men’s division of the Skate Canada National Championships.

His trainer, Lori Lafferty-Vilneff, told he was eager to resume competition, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put a damper on those plans.

“We’ve been at the nationals before but last year we weren’t there because Windsor-Essex was off so we didn’t have any ice,” said Lafferty-Vilneff. “The Skate Canada National Championships were canceled last year. The year before, we have been there. He was then a novice and he finished fifth as a novice. Now he is in junior competition this year.

The problems began when the Ontario government adopted a modified Stage Two reopening plan to curb the spread of the contagious variant of Omicron. Most of the public rinks were closed. Lafferty-Vilneff said “Olympic path” skaters, those most likely named to the Canadian Olympic team, had easy access to the ice in Toronto.

Jake was left looking for a local place to practice. Provincial restrictions, however, made it possible to grant elite amateur status to figure skaters. This is the same designation that was given to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to allow teams like the Windsor Spitfires to continue playing. Lafferty-Vilneff then jumped onto the computer and sent messages to the City of Windsor and the towns of LaSalle and Essex.

“What is happening is that the province and Skate Ontario are coordinating a letter that is sent to all high performance athletes and their coaches to allow them to continue training even though the facilities have been closed,” Lafferty-Vilneff said. “Essex was the first to apply so we’re training in Essex. “

After training was over, Jake and his trainer faced another obstacle. They were forced to find another way to get to the nation’s capital after their flight was canceled.

“He’s due to train on Tuesday, and we were going to fly in the morning and train in the afternoon in Ottawa, on the competition rink there. So now we’re driving, ”Lafferty-Vilneff said with a nervous laugh. “We’ve had a few roadblocks, but we’re going to get there.”

Jake will participate in his short program Wednesday afternoon at the Canadian Tire Center.

Other skaters with Windsor-Essex ties heading to the National Championships include Katharine Karon of the Riverside Skating Club, who compete in junior women. Abby Bouma, previously with Riverside and Skate LaSalle, will also compete in the Junior Women. Kieran Thrasher of South Windsor will skate with Quebecer Chloe Panetta in junior pairs.

—With files from Millar Hill

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