A former gold-medal winning Canadian Olympian dropped by the Spruce City Skating Club this week to help the students with their flexibility training as they prepare for the skating season.
Lori Fung won the first-ever gold medal awarded in rhythmic gymnastics during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. For the past decade Fung has worked with numerous athletes on their flexibility in Vancouver.
When her son Alexander Methorst was invited to Prince George last weekend to tryout for the Prince George Cougars, Fung gave Spruce City director of skating Rory Allen a call to see if she could work with some of his athletes.
It didn't take Allen long to let his athletes know about an impromptu session Monday afternoon at the Elksentre Arena, which about a dozen skaters showed up for to work with the 2004 Canadian Sports Hall of Fame inductee. Fung was inducted in the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.
"Several years ago I came up to Prince George and did a figure skating seminar," recalled Fung. "I saw so many fabulous skaters up here with a lot of potential.
"What I was doing [Monday] is the off ice flexibility program that's my specialty," she added. "I work with not only figure skaters, but with gymnasts, dancers, trick skateboarders and hockey players all needing the component of flexibility. Some need it for the aesthetic value, others need it for injury prevention. Flexibility is the root of all sport."
She said that rhythmic gymnastics is known for it's flexibility so it's a natural fit for her to teach other athletes to learn how to stretch their muscles to achieve a more flexible body.
Among the Spruce City skaters at the workout was Danielle Sidsworth, a 17-year-old novice skater who was surprised with some of the exercises.
"We learned how to go deeper into a stretch, which hurts, but it feels good especially knowing you get more flexible," said Sidsworth.
After the hour-long session was over, Fung pulled out her gold medal, allowing a few of the students to put it around their necks.
"It was really cool, different than I expected," said Sidsworth. "It was a lot heavier."
Fung said her memories of winning the medal came floating back when she was watching the London Games.
"It brings back the feelings and the memories like they were yesterday," said the 49 year old. "It's never going to change. The goose bumps that I got when I was watching an athlete prepare to go for their event. It was 28 years ago but I still remember."
She said she would like to return to Prince George for another flexibility session with the Spruce City skaters this winter and, perhaps she'll be visiting her son a year from now. Methorst, 14, was among the early cuts from the Cougars and he returned to Vancouver to prepare for the final tryout with the B.C. Major Midget League's Greater Vancouver Canadians.
"Maybe they'll watch him this year," said Fung about her middle son. "I think what he learned here is going to take him a step up and I really think it's going to help him."
After being recognized for 28 years as a gold medal winning Olympian, Fung said she enjoys her new role watching her three boys fulfill their sports dreams.
"Now I'm a hockey mom," she said.
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The tearing down of the Kin Centre has resulted in the building up of a beneficial new relationship between the Prince George Figure Skating Club and the Spruce City Skating Club.
As the Kin Centre goes through partial demolition and reconstruction for use during the 2015 Canada Winter Games and beyond, ice space in the facility has been at a premium. That being the case, the two local skating clubs -- traditional rivals -- merged for the running of a six-week summer school. The pooling of coaches and skaters from the organizations had a positive impact on athlete development and that is reflected in the fact that 11 area skaters will compete at B.C. Summer Skate from Thursday through Sunday in Burnaby.
"This is definitely a record [for participation]," said Rory Allen, director of skating for Spruce City. "Last year, Spruce City as a club had two."
The P.G. and Spruce City clubs are planning a permanent merger in the near future. Allen said it's "very close" to happening.
Other summer school coaches were Andrea Ludditt, Nicole Collins, Jennifer Auston, Courtney Powney, Allison Aikens, Jim Douglas and Alicia Mettauer.
Summer Skate is a provincial Super Series event and, on a much smaller scale, will have the look and feel of a Skate Canada. The competition will be broadcast online at skatinginbc.com.
"The live streaming is similar to what you'd see on TV," Allen said. "They'll have their names announced and it's all professional. They'll have a little area they go in to hear the marks. It's really, really cool for the kids."
The highest-level local skater going to B.C. Summer Skate is 16-year-old Danielle Sidsworth. She'll be on her blades in the novice women's category.
"The Olympic level is senior, below that's junior and below that's novice, so she's getting up there," Allen said.
"Danielle's chances [at Summer Skate] are high. She has developed great consistency on her double-double combinations. She carries herself well and she's got great coverage across the ice. It's great to do two crossovers and be halfway across the ice. She's one of those types of girls that people just want to watch, before they even do any elements."
In the pre-novice women's division, Prince George will be represented by Chelsea Raful and Samara Thew. Then there's Justin Hampole, who will do his best to impress the judges in the juvenile men's U-11 category. Hampole is so talented he's on the verge of moving up to pre-novice.
"There are no competitors in his [current] group because he's so good at such a young age," Allen said. "He's starting triple jumps at age 10. In pre-novice, he'll have the chance to qualify for nationals. The average age in pre-novice is about 15 or 16 but Justin has the right combination of everything. He has some natural talent, a ton of drive and determination and he listens very well to his coaches."
The local contingent going to Summer Skate is rounded out by Emma Bajestani (juvenile women's U-14), Fort St. James's Sydnee Schlamp (Star 4), Ally Norum (Star 3), Jayna Mason (Star 3), Asia Gill (Star 3), Myah Milner (Star 2) and Valyce Mamic (Star 2). The nine-year-old Milner and eight-year-old Mamic are from Fort St. John and Quesnel respectively but have been training in Prince George.
"Myah stayed with a grandmother, and to not see her family and be home for more than six weeks is pretty astounding," Allen said. "Valyce, she travels up through the entire winter from Quesnel, several times a week, and she spent her summer here as well. There's a lot of dedication at a really young age, which is quite a big change for figure skating in Prince George."
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