BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW
It?s late in the afternoon and inside the Cambrian Arena the ice is being carved up as figure skaters from the Sudbury Skating Club gear up for the upcoming Northern Ontario Sectional Championships in North Bay this weekend.
The Sudbury Skating Club has a long history of producing nationally competitive skaters and this year is no different.
A total of a dozen skaters from the club will take part in the North Bay competition, which starts today.
The sectionals are a qualifying event leading to the Western Challenge, which takes place in Calgary from Dec. 4-7.
From there, winning skaters advance to the National Championships.
Two skaters looking to make noise this weekend and beyond are Sudbury native Marianne Laporte, 15, and Sturgeon Falls resident Matthew Penasse, 15.
Laporte will compete in novice ladies competition. The graceful skater has made it to Junior Nationals in 2000 and
It will be her second crack at the novice level. Last year she pushed herself to a 16th place at nationals.
This year she?s looking to improve.
?I think I can do much better this year,? said Laporte. ?I would like to finish in the top five at nationals.?
Laporte trains 15 hours a week, every week to stay at the top of her game. The long hours are worth it.
?When you land a hard jump, it?s worth it because it gives you a feeling you wouldn?t get from anything else,?
said Laporte. ?Skating takes up a lot of my time, so it?s pretty much my life. It?s like a career.?
Laporte has been working extra hard this year for her shot at glory.
?I?ve improved a lot from last year,? said Laporte. ?My double axle has more speed and my triple jumps are more consistent.?
Laporte?s coach, Heather Basso, likes what she sees.
?She has the ability to rise to the occasion and to the pressure,? said Basso. ?She?s always had natural ability and she?s a great performer.?
Laporte loves the allure of a roaring crowd.
?I like performing and being in front of audiences,? said Laporte. ?I do it for myself, but I like to make the audience happy.?
Penasse has been to Sectionals three times. Two years ago, Penasse made it to nationals as a juvenile and finished 11th.
This year?s Sectionals is a little different for Penasse. He?s one of only three skaters competing, meaning all three skaters will automatically advance to the Western Challenge (the top four at Sectionals make it).
Penasse isn?t concentrating on winning. He?s looking to fine-tune his style.
?I want to have a clean skate,? said Penasse. ?I want to get my triples and solo program more consistent. This time around I have worked on my artistic impression, spins and triple jumps.?
Penasse also trains 15 hours a week. He?s glad to get an automatic bye into the Western Challenge, but would have relished more competition.
?It?s good to get an automatic spot, but it would be better for myself to have a challenge.?
Along with Laporte and Penasse, the club is hopeful other skaters from the club will also make an impact at the
North Bay extravaganza.