PORT McNEILL—All season long, the more experienced members of the Port McNeill Figure Skating Club worked on their half of a dance skating routine.
Last week at Chilton Regional Arena, they finally got a dance partner.
Sidney Hamilton and Kaitlynn Lasota, guided by veteran skate instructor Patrick O’Brien, both completed their gold-level certification in dance, which covers four disciplines, during testing last Thursday.
Also, Whitney Murgatroyd passed her gold dance test in quick step.
O’Brien, who recently relocated to the Okanagan Valley from Vancouver Island, has returned to Port McNeill each year for the past 25 years to assist the young skaters with their dance routines. But he is in town only a few days each year, which puts the onus on the skaters to perfect their routines alone and then make an abrupt transition to skating with a partner for the tests.
“I teach the kids their steps, their patterns and their timing,” said Elizabeth Kines, the club’s head coach. “Then the partner comes and skates with them, which is quite a feat. It’s amazing that our girls are able to handle that situation.”
In the larger clubs, in more populated areas, skaters have more consistent access to a dance partner. But the expense of bringing an experienced male dance skater to the North Island on a regular basis is prohibitive.
Kines has been appreciative of O’Brien’s travel to work with her skaters, especially considering his move off-Island this year. He appears for a couple of days each summer during the PMFSC summer school at Chilton Regional Arena, then returns each March for the annual tests.
“That’s why we keep Mr. O’Brien,” said Kines. “He is excellent with our girls. He understands the stress they’re under.”
“We have a great working relationship,” said O’Brien, who was joined at the arena by Lynne Henderson-Drake, the Vancouver Island Region chair for Figure Skating B.C.
Drake served as judge for the skaters tests, which included not only the dance, but free skate and skills level exams.
“Patrick comes back every year because he’s the best partner,” said Henderson-Drake, who playfully refused to acknowledge O’Brien’s new Interior location while insisting he is an Island skater.
Alyssa Busch and Mikayla Walton also earned gold level, in skills.
Notes — Port McNeill Figure Skating Club’s annual summer school will be held in two sessions at Chilton arena. Canskate participants will skate from June 25-July 6, and the junior-senior program will run June 25-July 19. Kines said a registration date in early June at the arena will be announced soon.