The Australian National Figure Skating Championships were held at the Penrith Ice Palace from November 28 to December 4. Starting with Synchronised Skating events and Adult events, the week concluded with the Senior Ladies' Free Skate on Friday.
It was a week of non-stop action, with events running almost all day, every day, for seven whole days. The efforts of the organising committee and the army of volunteers that made it possible must be applauded, for the event ran problem-free, save for only a few minor hiccups that occur at every such event. It was long days in the rink for many of them, and their efforts created a wonderfully successful event.
The Synchronised Skating opened the event with a lot of very, shall we say, boisterous enthusiasm! If you are ever in attendance at a Synchro event, I thoroughly recommend ear plugs, the type you can buy at a hardware store. You should still be able to hear the music, but it might serve to dull some of the screaming! It was delightful to hear and see the way the teams all supported one another, and some of the patterns could become quite mesmerising.
The Adult events were also held on the weekend days, and these are truly an inspiration. Adult events tend to be made up of two kinds of skaters: those who started truly as adults, from beginner up, and those who have returned to skating as adults or who started as teenagers but have aged out of competition at the regular levels. Each of these adults is worthy of admiration and respect, for to remain an athlete of reasonably high level at an age beyond that which athletes normally go is quite a feat. And the quality of the skating on display was very high. There were adults of all shapes and sizes and ages, and it is pleasing to see the growth of Adult skating in Australia.
The Championship events began on Monday with the Intermediate Ladies and Men, the Novice Ladies' short program, the pattern dances for the Primary and Novice Ice Dance, and the Primary Men. It was quite a long day - both the Novice and Intermediate Ladies had over twenty entrants in each division - but well worth the time to watch. The standard in all divisions was very high, and there were many highlights. Personally, I enjoyed the pattern dances very much - for the Primary division, the Fourteenstep and the European Waltz, and for the Novice division, the Starlight Waltz and Kilian. There is something very intriguing about watching the different couples perform the same set pattern dance to the same set music.
Tuesday saw the Primary Ladies, Junior and Senior Pairs, and the Novice Ladies' free skate and Novice Men's long program. Holly Harris stole the show in the Novice Ladies, landing triple jumps in her free skate and charming the crowd. Watching the pairs was wonderful, especially to see the improvement in Paris Stephens and Matthew Dodds, who have been working very hard. My only problem is that I find pairs to be quite scary to watch! (It's the lifts!) Giuseppe Triulcio was busy stealing hearts in the Novice Men's, where a fierce contest would ensue over the top places.
Wednesday the stakes rose higher, with the Junior Men and Ladies coming out to play, along with the Novice Men's free skate, the pairs free skates, and the free dances for the Primary and Novice couples. James Min and Charlton Doherty were both superb in the Junior Men's short, while Kailani Craine stamped her authority over the Junior Ladies with the first of four spectacular performances. Jessica Rotondo and Ryan Dodds were the stars of the Junior and Senior pairs, but the show was stolen by the two gorgeous brother-sister pairs in the Primary division. The Kiel-Chisholm siblings were very polished and refined for their level, a delight to watch, but the tiny Burton siblings were simply adorable, and so cute.
Thursday dawned with international assignments and reputations on the line. The short dances for the Junior and Senior ice dance, the Junior free skates, and the Senior short programs were all scheduled, and the tension in the rink was palpable when you walked in. The incredible lineup didn't disappoint. The short dances were all amazing, all of the Junior men attempted triples (and most landed them) as James Min dazzled, while Kailani Craine stole the show by dominantly winning the Junior free skate and turning in an almost perfect performance in the Senior short within four hours! And the fans were left to gasp in delight at the first triple Axel and quadruple jump attempts of the week, with Brendan Kerry having flown straight from Japan to Sydney.
Friday was the sort of day a skating fan lives for. Junior and Senior free dances, and the Senior free skates. The dancers opened the day with some truly fabulous performances and proved that the future of dance here is in good hands. They were followed by the spectacular Senior Men's event. There may only have been five skaters, but all five rose to the occasion magnificently, and provided us with some amazing skating. Every one of them landed triples, and the performances themselves were wonderful. Ryan Dodds impressed in his first outing at Nationals as a Senior. Cameron Hemmert showed that same lovely grace that saw him take the silver last year. Jordan Dodds had his best outing of the year to date, including a fantastic triple Lutz to open. Andrew Dodds was simply magical, with his stirring Warsaw Concerto pulling you in and his incredible triple Lutz leaving you gasping for more. Unfortunately for Brendan Kerry, two full competitions in a five-day turnaround proved to be too much to ask, but his long program was still beautifully performed, and the technical ability of his jumps still of the highest quality.
And that was just the men. A battle royale on two levels was brewing in the ladies' event. Yancey Chan, Katie Pasfield and Amelia Sadler were all fighting for promotion within the Australian ranks, and the chance to be sent overseas next season, while Kailani Craine, Brooklee Han and Chantelle Kerry were fighting over the championship itself. Chantelle was gorgeous, reminding everyone why it wasn't so very long ago that she was the Australian ladies' champion, and proving that her long injury layoff will be no burden. Brooklee clearly gave her heart and soul to her performance, and her spins were easily the best of the entire event. Though her jumps weren't quite there, her quality was that of the Olympian she is. And Kailani laid down yet another incredible free skate, landing the triple loop-half loop-triple Salchow combination with ease, nailing her other jumps, spinning beautifully, and performing out of her skin. It brought goosebumps to the flesh and tears to the eyes to see such a wonderful skate to close out the event. And it was equally wonderful to see the hug exchanged and genuine respect between Kailani and Brooklee on the podium.
For the majority of skaters, the season is now over, ended with the highs and lows of Nationals. But for those few on the international scene, it is a long way from over. Four Australian skaters have the minimum technical scores required to attend the Four Continents Championships, and though the team has yet to be formally named, barring injury it will be: Brendan Kerry, Andrew Dodds, Kailani Craine and Brooklee Han. There are still some Senior B events for Chantelle Kerry, Jordan Dodds and the Stephens/Dodds pair to attempt to acquire the scores, so that may yet change.
And then after that, it will be on to Boston...where the world awaits.
Mixed Age Synchronised: Majestic Ice (NSW)
Adult Synchronised: Revolution Adult (NSW)
Basic Novice Synchronised: Adelaide Ice Magic (SA)
Advanced Novice Synchronised: Iceskateers (QLD)
Junior Synchronised: Iceskateers Elite (QLD)
Senior Synchronised: Nova Senior (QLD)
Silver Men: Richard LYNCH (NSW)
Silver Ladies: Anne-Marie GUT (VIC)
Gold Ladies: Josephine KOOYMAN (ACT)
Masters Ladies: Lauren MOORE (SA)
Elite Ladies: Jennifer TOMS (VIC)
Primary Ladies: Anna NIKISHINA (NSW)
Primary Men: Alex SUN (NSW)
Primary Pairs: Emma KIEL-CHISHOLM/Chris KIEL-CHISHOLM (QLD)
Primary Dance: Merryn O'KEEFE/Nicholas MCCREARY (VIC)
Intermediate Ladies: Chiari FLURI (WA)
Intermediate Men: Juan Camilo YUSTI (VIC)
Novice Ladies: Holly HARRIS (NSW)
Novice Men: Giuseppe TRIULCIO (SA)
Novice Dance: Micol CARMIGNANI/Mitchell FRENCHAM (QLD)
Junior Ladies: Kailani CRAINE (NSW)
Junior Men: James MIN (SA)
Junior Pairs: Jessica ROTONDO/Ryan DODDS (QLD)
Junior Dance: Matilda FRIEND/Will BADAOUI (NSW)
SENIOR LADIES: Kailani CRAINE (NSW)
SENIOR MEN: Brendan KERRY (NSW)
SENIOR PAIRS: Paris STEPHENS/Matthew DODDS (QLD)
SENIOR DANCE: Emily PIKE/Patrick ADDLERLEY (NSW)