Manitoba figure skater Breken Brezden’s ear-to-ear grin and bear hugs from her coaches when she left the ice spoke volumes about the performance she had just delivered at Skate Canada Challenge on Friday.
Brezden, 16, posted a score of 52.78 — on par with her personal best — in the junior women’s short program opener at Winnipeg’s Seven Oaks arena. That was enough to rank seventh among 38 contenders.
On Saturday, the Skate Dauphin member will be looking for an equally strong free skate to punch her ticket to the Canadian championships in Oshawa. Only the top-scoring 18 competitors advance to the sport’s national showcase in January.
“I’m happy that I was able to put out there what I’ve been doing at home, in training this past couple days, weeks and months. It’s a really good feeling to be able to do what I’ve been practising and put it out on the ice when it counts,” Brezden said.
“I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m in a good position for (the free skate finale), for sure.”
Her short program included a solid triple salchow-double toe-loop jump combination and triple-loop jump. All three spins were judged to be the highest calibre level 4 with difficult variations of position.
“Today, I definitely didn’t feel as much nervousness as I did in past competitions. I was just comfortable with my training and felt way more confident than I have going into other competitions.
“After this high of being able to put out a clean program, I just want to calm down and refocus with the same confidence for tomorrow that I had today,” Brezden said.
B.C.’s Kara Yun emerged atop the leaderboard and heads into the final with a score of 62.03, followed by Ontario’s Hetty Shi (60.39) and Quebecker Aleksa Volkova (59.7).
Yun and Shi nailed triple-triple jump combos, a high-scoring element that Brezden intends to master before the new year.
In the past several years, Brezden had been making five-hour round trips from Dauphin to Virden to train.
This year, she made the move to Hamilton, Ont., for a summer session and then decided to stay through December with Virden coach Patty Hole’s endorsement. Hole was at rinkside Friday along with Brezden’s new coach Jen Jackson.
“We have a plan in place and we’re working at it. It’s a great plan to build and build, and this is the performance we were waiting for here today,” said Hole.
The athlete credits her optimal training situation in Hamilton — three hours on-ice plus one hour of either strength, jump or dance classes daily — with helping to improve her jump consistency and performance ability.
Brezden said she knows sacrifices have to be made to achieve her goals and has been happy to make them.
Hole saluted the Brezdens’ dedication to the sport and the commitment necessary to succeed in it, saying, “The whole family are rock stars.”
Meanwhile, Skate Winnipeg’s Emma King sits twenty-fourth among 31 competitors following the senior women’s short program. King skated well, showing a triple toe-double toe loop jump combination and triple lutz, but low difficulty levels on two spins and the footwork sequence cost her valuable points.
Climbing into the top 16 in Saturday’s finale to qualify for Canadians will be a tough ask of King considering so many of the competitors, such as first-ranked Kaiya Ruiter, brought their A-game.
Making her national debut in the senior ranks, Ruiter heads into Saturday’s final with 65.86 points awarded for her captivating and technically solid routine.
Ruiter, 16, has not competed at Canadians since winning the junior title in 2020. The 2021 event was cancelled due to the pandemic, then she was off the ice much of last season after slashing her lower leg with her skate blade in a freakish fall.
Quebec representative Justine Miclette sits second (62.27), while Ontario’s Fiona Bombardier, daughter of three-time Canadian women’s titleholder Josée Chouinard and twice national pairs champion Jean-Michel Bombardier, is third (60.55).
Reigning Canadian champion Madeline Schizas and former national champ Gabby Daleman have byes to nationals.