Sports

Figure skater ‘flying’ up the ranks

Emily Bator of the Langley Figure Skating Club was selected to skate in the Holiday Festival on Ice at the Langley Events Centre in December. The 17-year-old is aiming to one day skate at the international level. - Gary Ahuja/Langley Times
Emily Bator of the Langley Figure Skating Club was selected to skate in the Holiday Festival on Ice at the Langley Events Centre in December. The 17-year-old is aiming to one day skate at the international level.
— image credit: Gary Ahuja/Langley Times

It is easy to understand why there is such excitement in the stands or on TV when a figure skater lands a beautifully-executed jump on the ice. Just asking the question to a figure skater shows why.

The question was posed to Emily Bator, and immediately her eyes got bigger, a smile crossed her lips and she leaned forward in her seat to respond.

“It is nothing like I have I have felt before,” she described. “It is like I am flying, it is unbelievable.

“It is the most amazing feeling.”

Bator, who turns 18 later this month (April 27), has been on the ice since she was three years old.

Her grandmother would take Bator and her younger sister Evelyn (16) to an outdoor rink near their house where they grew up in Grande Prairie, Alta.

Bator loved being on the ice, and while she did a bit of ballet growing up, figure skating was her passion.

The family moved to B.C. four years ago to Maple Ridge, where Bator met coach Regan Taylor.

Figure skating has two streams: recreational and competitive. And since Bator had competed in smaller towns with smaller clubs, she began in the recreational stream.

Slowly, Bator began shifting from the recreational stream to the competitive stream, doing both for awhile until completely switching last year.

The decision was an easy one to make as she had passed the highest level test at the recreational level and won back-to-back provincial championships.

“Plus, I have always been a competitive person and I love working towards something,” Bator said.

“Going to competitive was just the next step for me.”

Taylor said it is rare for a skater to go from recreational to competitive at this stage of their skating career, and more often it is the other way, a skater shifting from competitive to recreational.

“I pointed out that it would be more training and she would get her butt kicked especially at the start because the other skaters  had been competitive since they were about 11 and she was 16 at the time so they had much more competitive experience and were much better,” Taylor explained.

“But she really stepped up to the plate and took the challenge.”

The coach said her pupil’s work ethic, intelligence and the fact she is very coachable are her best traits.

“She is a dream to coach because you can challenge her and she rises to the challenge,” Taylor said.

And once Bator achieves a goal, she is quick to see what she can do next, never ready to rest on her laurels.

When Taylor switched clubs to the Langley Figure Skating Club, Bator followed the coach across the Golden Ears Bridge.

Bator calls Taylor one of her biggest influences.

“She has her own family but she manages to put so much time and energy into coaching, she is unbelievable,” Bator said.

“She has given so much time above and beyond what she is paid for. Her passion is definitely an inspiration.”

Bator and the rest of her Langley Figure Skating Club members began the competitive season this past weekend in Parksville for the Super Series Vancouver Island Skate International competition.

Bator skated to a pair of silver medals.

This is the skaters’ first competition as they work towards the provincial championships in November.

Bator competes in the junior (under 19) ladies category and placed eighth in 2013.

“The goal is to have — by provincials — three or four triples in my program,” she said. “And hopefully a top four finish at provincials.”

But just because the season is starting now, doesn’t mean the skaters haven’t been hard at work the past few months.

Since January, Bator has been working on the upcoming season, whether it be learning new technical elements, designing the costumes she wears, or even the music she will skate to. This is all done in conjunction with coaches and choreographers.

At the junior ladies level, each skater strives to have two or three different kinds of triples in their repertoire.

Bator is working on triple salchow, triple toe loop, triple loop and a triple flip and was excited to land her first triple salchow in competition over the weekend.

A skater will plot their two programs — the short routine is 2:40 and the long routine is 3:30 plus or minus 10 seconds for each — and each program is built to include one or two jumps that have risk elements that could result in a fall.

“The reason that is done is because if you land everything, a program is not hard enough,” she explained.

And falling doesn’t hurt as much as it looks since the skaters ate trained to protect themselves.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t potential to get hurt.

Twice within a month four years ago, Bator dislocated her knee. And even when she was ready to return physically, there was still the mental hurdle to overcome.

“It took me over a year to feel like myself again,” she said.

While she has always loved skating, Bator has had her doubts along the way.

“Just whether it was worth all the effort because I didn’t think I was getting anywhere,” she explained.

“But I ended up pushing through it and right now, I love it more than ever.”

Bator, who graduates this June from Maple Ridge Secondary, is off to SFU in the fall, having earned a partial academic scholarship.

While she studies, she will continue to skate as she works towards her ultimate dream: skating internationally either for Canada or perhaps Poland. Her parents emigrated to Canada about 10 years before she was born so Bator is eligible to apply to skate for Poland at their national championships.

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Other results for Langley Figure Skating Club members in Parksville:

Mackenna Kerr and Kianna Atash finished one-two in the Star 4 under 10 group 1.

Kate Boyes won gold in the Introductory Interpretive and was fifth in Star 4 under 10 group 2.

Evelyn Bator was sixth in senior silver ladies, Katherine Mantel was ninth in Star 5 ladies 13 and over and Diana Hong was 11th in pre-novice short and 15th in the long program.

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