Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

If it's August - It's Taking the Ice Time

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I have been spending time this weekend at the Figure Skating Boutique’s Thornhill Summer Competition in an arena complex just north of Toronto. It is a competition that has been around for a very long time (I competed in it!) and went through a variety of locations before landing in Thornhill at the Community Centre.

The reasons for going are the same every year: it’s a great time to catch up with what has been going on in skating since last season’s end at the end of March. It has competitors from bottom to top in terms of level and features international skaters who are eager to get their programs out in competition before the “real” season starts in the Fall. This year’s event the added bonus for me of being the first of a series of appearances and book signings for my book Taking the Ice ( which is due to hit the stores in the middle of September.

It was at this very competition a year ago where I met with my publisher from Bookland Press, Robert Morgan, signed my contract and started to interview my subjects. Robert and I had met initially the week before to talk about the possibility of this book and by the end of our lunch, I was writing it. In my mind, from the moment I left the restaurant, I started to plan out what I was going to do and being able to interview skaters, coaches and parents at the Thornhill competition would be key. I wanted to be able to snag as many subjects in one place and at one time as I could. Robert had only one request and that was that the Canadian champions appear in the book and there be a section devoted to the 2010 Olympic Games. None of us could have known that the stories from the figure skating venue could have been as compelling.

Back to the Summer of 2009 and my interviews. If you have been in figure skating as I have been for most of my life, you get the chance to know a lot of people. What you don’t always get the chance to do is to really talk to people. Being able to ask the questions that I wanted made me feel like a kid in a candy shop. Actually having those questions answered was really a dream come true. Olympic Champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were only Canadian champions with 2 world medals and coming off a season of injury when they sat down to talk to me a year ago. Their magical performances in Vancouver were the stuff that (skating) legends are made of. They debuted the Free Dance in 2009 at Thornhill that won them their Gold. It was an ordinary August day in 2009 with a regular skating audience on their feet watching an extraordinary choreographic (master)piece. I knew it then and said all season long that they were the ones to beat. Sitting down with them then as now, you can’t help but be charmed by their warmth, friendliness and humility.

They weren’t the only ones; there wasn’t anyone that I interviewed who wasn’t candid and open and generous with their time. I am grateful for the experience and for the support that I have felt the entire time. In trying to put together the section about the Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City and the judging scandal in the pair’s event where Canada’s Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were ultimately awarded a Gold medal, I tracked down 37 friends who were there and asked them to share their part of the story. As I was burning up the phone lines in North America and meeting European colleagues at events I was ever mindful of the time that people were taking out of their lives to help me and it meant a lot.

I am a lucky person. To me, the rink feels like home and the people just part of my extended family.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Pj Kwong

Pj Kwong is a figure skating expert and writer currently working for CBC Sports. Her first book, Taking the Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating (BookLand Press), will be in stores in September 2010.

Go to Pj Kwong’s Author Page