By : Allan Wishart
PG FREE PRESS
Justin Hampole will probably be looking up to a lot of his competitors next week at the Skate Canada Challenge in Regina.
That’s not because Hampole, who skates out of the Northern BC Centre for Skating, is in awe of his fellow skaters in the Pre-Novice Men event. It’s basically because Justin just turned 12, and Pre-Novice Men is for skaters 16 and under, which means a lot of them will be taller than him.
This is the pose Justin Hampole of the Northern B.C. Centre for Skating will be striking the first week of December, when he competes at the Skate Canada Challenge in Regina. Allan WISHART/Free Press
“I’m used to going up against older skaters,” Hampole says, sitting in a change room at the Elksentre before a practice this week. “It’s the youngest age level they have, and it’s what I competed in at Sectionals.”
Placing fourth at Sectionals in Richmond earlier this month got Justin the chance to go to the national event, the first time in 10 years a Prince George skater has done so.
“I’ve been skating for about five years,” Justin says. “Some days I would come to the rink with my family for public skating and we would get here early. There would be figure skaters on the ice and I thought it looked like fun. I saw it on TV too, and it looked like a lot of fun.”
Then, reality sort of set in.
“Wen I started, I thought, ‘This ice is so slippery’. I couldn’t believe how effortless the pros made it look. But right from the start, I liked it, so I stuck with it.”
In Regina next week, Justin will skate two different programs, a short and a long.
“The short program is two minutes and 30 seconds, and the long one is three minutes and 10 seconds. They can deduct points if you’re not right on the time.”
Each of the programs also has a number of elements, including jumps and spins, which must be included.
“My coaches made sure I could connect to the music we were using for my programs. I can really connect with them, which makes it easier to skate to them.”
While he has had the long program for about a year, the short program is relatively new, since he started it just after SummerSkate, about four months ago.
Although going to the Skate Canada Challenge is something new for Justin, the arena might not be.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll be at the Co-Operators, and I’ve skated there before.”
Centre for Skating director of skating Rory Allen says the trip to nationals is a step in a plan they have set up for Justin.
“We were gearing up to this with the 2015 Canada Winter Games in mind,” Allen says. “It’s part of the plan for the development of the athlete.”
He expects Justin to skate well in Regina, but says the results aren’t the most important thing.
“This is an experience thing for Justin. If he can finish in the top half of his event, that would be great. There will probably be 35 to 40 skaters in that event.
“It’s fantastic for him to get the opportunity so young. He still has time to develop at this level.”
Allen says Justin’s qualification speaks to the work of the staff at the Centre for Skating.
“This isn’t a one-room schoolhouse, where one coach has to coach all the aspects. We have coaches here who specialize in certain kinds of spins.
“What we could use is more ice time, both in numbers of arenas and in longer seasons.”
The Skate Canada Challenge runs Dec. 4 to 8 in Regina.
NOVEMBER 21, 2013
If getting there is the hardest part, Justin Hampole will be on easy street by the time he skates at the Skate Canada Challenge national figure skating championships next month in Regina.
The 12-year-old Hampole proved he belongs carving ice with a mostly older crowd in the pre-novice (under-16) division two weekends ago at the B.C./Yukon section championships in Richmond, where he placed fourth to qualify for the national event.
When he gets to Regina, Hampole, a member of the Prince George-based Northern B.C. Centre for Skating, won't have the pressure of trying to qualify for a higher-calibre event. He can just focus on trying to be at his best. He's the first northern B.C. skater in 10 years to qualify for a national competition and he's aiming for a top-10 finish.
"I made the B.C. team and I get to go nationals now and I'm really excited because I get to really promote skating in the community and the north," he said. "My score at Autumn Leaves [a month ago in [Chilliwack] would have put me in the top-10 at nationals last year. I really want to push the envelope with the top skaters who are always used to winning and really push them."
This is Hampole's fifth year of skating and his second season at the pre-novice level. He moved up two levels from pre-juvenile after a second-place finish at the section event in 2011. He's starting to work on triple jumps in practice and is still working out the bugs in his double-axel, a jump he began executing correctly a month ago.
"I've been getting closer to getting it fully rotated," said Hampole. "In Prince George we don't have ice year-round and sometimes that's kind of a disadvantage, but I do work hard when we do have ice and that makes up for it. I think I'm improving my speed and I've been working hard at that. In competitions I tend to hold back on my speed and I want to improve that for nationals."
Hampole, a former swim racer with the Prince George Pisces, skates at least once every day and sticks with his conditioning routine off the ice, focusing on stretching exercises and his plyometrics homework. In Regina, he'll be among 36 skaters in his group.
"Justin is still only 12 and there are kids in his group who are 15, so he has room to grow physically," said Rory Allen, the Northern B.C. Centre for Skating head coach. ""He's going to a national championship knowing he's not going for medal contention, he will be going for experience and to build for the Canada Winter Games. It's a chance for him to get the double-axel done because he's had a few more weeks to train and there's no pressure because he doesn't have to make the cut."
Hampole and 14-year-old clubmate Emma Bajestani will represent Zone 8 at the B.C. WInter Games in Mission in February. Their success this season is being used as a motivational tool in his club, especially for the younger skaters.
Just two male skaters in men's singles will qualify for the B.C. team at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, which is open to skaters under age 16. Next year's section provincial championship [the 2015 Games qualifier] will be held at Kin 1, Nov. 6-9, 2014.
"He's very coachable and he loves skating so much," said Northern B.C. Centre for Skating coach Andrea Ludditt, who is choreographing Hampole's routine. "He's a very sport-specific athlete and at this level, that's what kids have to do. It's hard for him because there's no other competitive male skaters in the region, so he has to go to Vancouver to see what the top guys are doing. He has a pretty intense, time-consuming schedule but he's a good student and that helps with the time he can spend at he rink."
Since kindergarten, Hampole has been a French immersion student at Lac des Bois elementary school and he's s now fluent in French. He also plays piano and loves table tennis. His father Rahul, a Prince George urologist, finished fifth while competing for Saskatchewan in table tennis at the 1983 Canada Winter Games in Chicoutimi, Que.
Justin is looking forward to seeing the pros in action live at CN Centre at the Holiday Festival on Ice, Dec. 8 at CN Centre. Hampole has a front-row seat to watch Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko, Jeffrey Buttle, Joannie Rochette, Shawn Sawyer, and Sinead and John Kerr. The show happens the day after Hampole competes in Regina.
"I really like Joannie Rochette, she's an awesome skater and she's a fighter," said Hampole. "Her mom died two days before she competed at the  Olympics and that's pretty hard to get through.
"You have to be tough mentally. You see people in your group doing some really cool things and sometimes self-doubt comes in and that can play with your mind. The days that you're off, I think you learn from them most. It motivates you."
NOVEMBER 15, 2013
Justin Hampole is poised to become the first Prince George figure skater in more than a decade to compete in a national championship.
Hampole, a 12-year-old member of the Prince George-based Northern BC Centre for Skating, collected 53.63 points on the way to a fourth-place finish in the pre-novice men's competition over the weekend at the Super Series B.C./Yukon sectional championships in Richmond.
With that result, Hampole has qualified for the Skate Canada Challenge national finals in Regina, Dec. 4-8.
In other NBCCFS club results, Emma Bajestani, 14, placed 16th in the juvenile women's event, totaling 21.43 points, a Super Series personal best for Bajestani, who successfully landed five different double jumps and a double-double combination.
The sectional event is the biggest provincial competition of the season. Prince George will host that event in November 2014, which will serve as a test event for the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
The most recent Prince George skaters on the national stage in the competitive stream of figure skating competed in late January 2003, at the junior national championships in Brampton, Ont. Three Spruce City Skating Club pairs teams made the grade that year, including: Amanda Ribeiro and Jeff Dinelle; Kalina Manning and Chris Steele, and Ashley Krantz and Brant Abbott. Lacey Jackson and Kyle Postmus represented the Spruce City club in the 2003 senior national championships in early January in Saskatoon.
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