The purpose of summer competitions, like the one in Aston, PA is to provide a place for the skaters to work the kinks out of a new program and to gain some competitive experience.

Walking into the rink this morning, I ran into Bruno Marcotte who was speaking to 13 yr old student Luke West from Lake Placid, who had just skated his free program. It wasn’t the skate he had hoped for so the goal, as Bruno so aptly put it, was to try and figure out what happened and how to cope differently the next time. Based on the smiles from the skate, ,Bruno did a wonderful job of framing what had happened so Luke has the courage to skate another day.

So much preparation ahppens during the summer and it sometimes feels like you are seeing skaters for the first time. Skate Canada’s high performance director Mike Slipchuk travelled to Pennsylvania to monitor Patrick Chan but has already started the rounds of visiting skaters. Recently, he spent the first couple of days of a weekin Arizona where Canada’s pair champions Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison had gone for some additional support from former Canadian pair champion and now coach, Doug Ladret.

Michael said: “The skaters had a great week. They decided that they needed to do something differently in order to move from 6th in the world.” He elaborated that that included some great new entries into lifts that he calls “cutting edge” as well as enhancing technique.

Primary coach Annie Barabe is pregnant so the idea of expanding the teamto include Ladret and create additional support made sense for everyone. Montreal is their home base with Ladret coming in from time to time to see them. By all accounts they are a brand new team; it will be exciting to watch.

You can sense the enjoyment that Michael has as he makes his way from one skating location or competition to the next. He is the first to admit that he doesn’t do it alone and also looks to members of his team in order to asess skaters when he can’t get to see people. As a former skate and Olympian, Michael knows first hand what has to happen as the athletes go through the season and it seems as if helping to pull the Canadians to the next level is personal for him. You can feel his pride in developing skating.

Also exciting to watch were the Senior Ladies at Liberty. A special shout out has to go to 2 time world junior bronze medallist Ashley Wagner. A young woman I didn’t intially recognize took the ice today, looking elegant, tall and mature. The last time I saw Ashley Wagner up close, she ws cute and perky and a totally adorable girl to watch. Here was a powerhouse young woman who skated with confidence and speed. Gone were the somewhat suspect jumps, replaced with clean ones. She gets my vote for most improved.

Fellow American and 2010 Junior ladies American champion Agnes Zawadzki was a total surprise for me. I don’t know what I was expecting when I was told that I needed to see this girl, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Powerful and elegant, she was totally reminiscent of a Carolina Kostner type – on a good day- with the best kind of feminine and graceful style.

More surprises to follow.

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