Photo Courtesy of Justine Chiu

One of the things I like best about being part of the figrue skating family is the people I knew as children around the rink are some of the same people I still know.Take David Islam and Deborah (Debbie Albright-) Islam. You may know them as the parents of Mitchell Islam or as figure skating experts in their own right – David as a well-known and very successful dance coach and Deborah as an international singles judge. What it also means is that they are ooooooooolllllllllldddd!.(Not Louis Stong old but Pj Kwong old <lol>) I was interested to find out how they as a family are able to balance having not one but 2 elite athletes in the family.( Mitch’s sister Rachel is on a track scholarship at a University in the US.)

Alex and Mitch  had come to watch the competition in Thornhill and cheer on buddies from their rink. They had planned on competing but Alex suffered a minor muscle pull (“no big deal”) behind her knee and they opted to play it safe.

I never knew the story of how they got together? Mitch said that after the breakup of his partnership with Joanna Lenko, he spent the better part of a year skating on his own which was in his words “the toughest thing I have ever had to do.” Just after Nationals in 2009, when Alex and her partner had also split, the skaters who had been friends for years, skated together for the first time: “At our rink, on any day when 2 skaters are at the rink skating by themselves, they get paired up and skate the exercises together.”  Alex continued by explaining that the rationale is there are things that skaters will notice while trying to adjust to a different skater that they wouldn’t necessarily with their regular partner which results in an opportunity to fix things.

If waiting to find a new pafrtner wasn’t tough enough – so was this last season where Paul and Islam were the alternates for the ice dance contingent competing at Worlds. With the delay after the Japanese tsunami causing Worlds to be moved to Moscow 5 weeks later, it was a very long time to stay focused on programs from that current season on a “what if one of the teams doesn’t go…” basis. They stayed training right up until the day the Canadian team left and the overwhelming lesson was: “We don’t want to ever be alternates again!” from Mitch.

Already hard at work to make their goal a reality, they have developed programs that will showcase a more ‘adult’ side to this team. The Short Dance music is from the main theme from the movie 2046 and Havana Slide and was choreographed by Romain Haguenauer. The Free Dance is to Elton John’s ‘Tonight” and was put together by Kelly Johnson and David Wilson. the skaters said the skeleton story behind the free dance is one of personal struggle. Mitch explains: “Basically we are a couple who have an abusive relationship. It is about her ability to forgive and also be drawn back to him.” What excited me about their description was the fact that they also talked about the moments of hope built into the program and the exploration of a relationship. Sophisticated stuff.

Not ones to leave things to chance, the Spring was spent on a lot of grunt work like stroking, stroking and more stroking to improve their strength and speed.

Alex says with a smile that she always loved to skate to music “and singles just wasn’t my calling.” It’s  a good thing  (for us) too  – watch for Paul and Islam at NHK during ther Grand Prix Season.

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