It has already been a fall to remember for several members of the Fuller Lake Skating Club.
Four figure skaters from the club recently passed gold tests, a remarkable feat that marks the highest level they can achieve, and nine senior skaters, including the four who passed their gold tests, attended a seminar in September with four-time world champion Kurt Browning.
The quartet of skaters who passed their gold tests included Paris Hanke, 17, Amber Ree, 16, Caiden Varasteh, 15, and Jazmin Wheeler, 13.
“It’s the pinnacle,” proud coach Shannon McKinlay said. “The top achievement under Skate Canada. It usually takes a career of skating to get to that level.”
Each of the four have been skating for about 10 years. Hanke and Varasteh passed their gold tests in skills, which covers jumps and technical elements, and Wheeler did her test in dance, which is more about expression.
Ree decided to do both gold tests, and is now working on her diamond dance test, an optional pursuit for skaters after the gold level.
“It didn’t really feel like I was done,” Ree said of finishing the gold tests.
Completing the tests gave the skaters a chance to reflect on all the time they have put in.
“The Dutch Waltz feels so long ago,” Wheeler said, referring to one of the preliminary patterns that young skaters have to master early on.
Although he has been retired from competition since 1994, the 50-year-old Browning is still an icon even to figure skaters who were born several years later. So when Skate Canada’s Vancouver Island Region brought him to Parksville for a seminar, the Fuller Lake Skaters, who had to be at or above the Star 4 level, were thrilled to attend.
Hanke called the experience of meeting Browning “amazing.”
“It was really in depth,” added Ree, who, with Wheeler, got her skates signed by the legend.
Browning emphasized the importance of having fun with the sport.
“He brought it down to our level,” McKinley said. “So many good things came out of that. It wasn’t all about him. It was about how he can relate to what they’re going through.”
The four gold test skaters have vowed to keep skating as long as they can, and tried to explain why they love the sport.
“Jumping and spinning in the air, where else can you do that?” Hanke asked. “You can always improve. I’m an athlete, but skating is a big challenge.”