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."
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