In the midst of a July heat wave, the only ice most of those in Prince George will find is at the bottom of a tumbler glass.
But after a six-week hiatus from the May long weekend to June 29, the ice is back in at the Elksentre and that's just fine with the Northern B.C. Centre for Skating.
The club is in week four of its annual nine-week summer skating training session where junior, intermediate and senior figure skaters are honing their skills for the 2015-16 competitive season.
And while it may be tough for some athletes to spend as much as two-and-a- half hours at the rink five days a week during the summer, NBCCS director of skating Andrea Ludditt said it's worth it in the long run.
"Having extra time on the ice is an overall gain," she said. "If we stop the season until September, they're back to where they started. If they do three to four weeks in the summer, that translates into two to three months (in the winter). The improvement in the kids is outstanding."
The summer session attracts not only athletes from Prince George, but those from as far away as Williams Lake, Quesnel and Vanderhoof. Skaters work on their free skating, technique and positioning as well as rule changes in their programs as mandated by Skate Canada.
One NBCCS skater who has taken advantage of the summer ice time is 13-year-old Justin Hampole.
Skating fans in Prince George will remember Hampole's captivating bronze-medal performance in pre-novice men's at the 2015 Canada Winter Games at Kin 1.
This year, he has jumped up a level to novice men's and is testing out his programs this week in Michigan at the 34th annual Skate Detroit competition.
He takes to the ice for his short program on Thursday and will conclude with his free skate Saturday.
"We kept his short program and we added more (elements) to his long because it went from three to three-and-a-half minutes," said Ludditt. "His programs are working really well together. He just needs more triples (jumps). He just has one triple - a triple Salchow which is really beautiful. And he has his double Axel. A lot of these kids he's competing against already have four or five triples."
There are 36 skaters in Hampole's group, including 14 Canadians. Among them are Stephen Gogolev from Toronto, who stood beside Hampole on the Winter Games podium when he captured the pre-novice men's title.
Hampole is the first skater from Prince George who has competed nationally at the novice level.
Ludditt said the club membership has continued to grow over the years and she hopes the success of figure skating during the Winter Games, where fans crammed into Kin 1, will add to the popularity of the sport at the local level.
"The support Justin had (during the Games) was just amazing," said Ludditt. "Our CanSkate program is full and our power skating program (beginning in August)... we're still building."
The youngest athlete the NBCCS has is three (in the junior academy), while the youngest in the junior program is five.
The club resumes its regular training schedule in September when school goes back in session.
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Prince George Citizen - by Andrea Johnson
When Justin Hampole steps onto the ice, he's always nervous.
But the Prince George skater has always found a way to conquer those jitters at provincial- and national-level figure skating meets.
Thursday was a different beast though prior to his short program.
The 13-year-old, who skates out of the Northern B.C. Centre for Skating, was in Michigan for the annual Skate Detroit to compete in the novice men's division.
"I'm always nervous at a competition and this is my first international competition," said Hampole Friday from Detroit.
"Once I got on the ice I felt pretty good. When they announced my name, it was nice to be the only one from northern B.C. and I'm proud to represent northern B.C."
Out of 36 boys in his category, Hampole wound up in a respectable 10th place with a personal-best score of 38.24 points going into today's long program.
He perfectly executed his double Axel but fell on his triple Salchow. He still received full marks for the triple since he still managed to fully rotate it.
"I was really happy with my spins and especially that I rotated the triple Salchow," said Hampole, who won the bronze medal in the pre-novice men's division at his hometown 2015 Canada Winter Games in February.
"I also did well on my step sequence and received bonus points for it."
Hampole's coach Rory Allen, NBCCS's director of skating, said the novice men's event is a tough field.
Since the U.S. does not have age restrictions on its levels, Hampole, in his first year as a novice and in only his second meet as a novice, is competing against boys as old as 18.
Allen, who's in Detroit with Hampole, said his pupil had an excellent skate in the short program.
"It's fantastic coming here," said Allen. "It was only the second time in competition Justin attempted that triple and it's only been consistent in the last two weeks of training.
"He's competing against kids who have year-round ice so it teaches kids to use their ice time efficiently.
"He's only been on the ice for three weeks.
"The whole experience of being here is so eye-opening seeing kids here from Florida, Indiana and California."
In today's long program, Hampole has planned two triple Salchows, one as a single element and the other in combination.
As per U.S. Figure Skating rules, skaters are allowed to execute a double-double-double jump combination. Skate Canada rules allow only a double-double jump sequence.
Hampole will attempt a double Lutz/double toe/double in combination.
"I'm most thinking about my triple Salchows.
"I want to get one down, show people I can rotate them," he said. "I want to perform to the judges and have a good skate."
It's also Allen's first foray as a coach at the international level since Hampole is the first figure skater from northern B.C. to skate at an international meet.
Allen has learned a lot and will bring that back with him to Prince George.
"For us, it's how the U.S. is doing and how do we fit in here," said Allen.
"Justin just needs more mileage on his triples, he's just a novice.
"He's never competed this early in the season. It's now an indication of what he needs to spend his time on. He'll shift working on his toughest triples for a bit early in practice instead of at the end.
"I'm so proud of him. He's only 13 years old. I didn't do my first international competition until I was 16."
Skating fans can tune in online at 2:30 p.m. PDT to watch Hampole's long program at proeventphoto.com/skate-detroit/.
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