Jane Gray can fly.
Gracefully gliding across the ice at the Canmore Rec Centre on a Sunday afternoon, she spreads her muscular arms outwards in a readied position.
Methodically, she swivels onto her right skate, bends her knee and explodes into the air, a spinning dervish, landing flawlessly. An expression of contentment crosses her face as, after 11 years of skating, she has mastered her triple jumps.
The soaring 17-year-old hopes those explosive triple jumps will propel her into the ranks of Canada’s figure skating pantheon. As the top athlete the Canmore Skating Club has produced in 30 years, Gray is a sight to behold.
She’s come off a successful summer where she won a silver at the Wildrose competition in Leduc and finished fourth at Summer Skate in British Columbia. Her skating is strong.
“Now it’s really good. I’m landing all of my triple jumps and my spins are getting better,” Gray said.
This year, her goal is to finish in the top four at sectionals and qualify for junior nationals in Moncton. To do that, she has to gain confidence competing and transferring meticulous training routines, which usually land her on the ice six days a week, into flawless performances in front of crowds.
“She’s very athletic – one of the most fit junior ladies in the country,” said Gray’s coach Jan Ullmark, a former Swedish national champion himself and coach of Canadian pairs Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. He says it’s a matter of Gray putting the hours in, putting the pieces together.
Working with personal trainer Shelley Collier at Athletic Evolution and Embody Pilates, Gray’s fitness level is quite evident. Her muscle definition is incredible and she is returning from a pelvis bone injury that kept her out of action for six months last year.
“I’ve been training full on and going to school,” Gray said. She wants to be a veterinarian when her skating career is over, however, she hopes to have a long skating career.
“This year, I want to do everything that’s needed, building my confidence. That comes from successful training every week,” Gray said.
She’s succeeded at improving her technical skills and is now focusing on her artistic side.
“I’m training to become more graceful,” Gray said. “It’s about building confidence.”
There are so many elements that go into creating a successful skater, and putting together a winning program takes time, Ullmark said. “She can do the triple jumps only a few girls can do in the world.”
Gray finished third as a novice at nationals, and hopes to land on the podium again this year as a junior.
There is a tough group of top skaters in the junior women’s pool, however, Ullmark is pleased with Gray’s progress.
“She’s the one who’s progressed technically the most,” said Ullmark. “She’s got to put in the mileage.”
Ullmark said it all comes down to how well Gray skates in the coming months. The provincial championships occur in six weeks, followed by the nationals qualifier with the best in the country.
“If she makes it to nationals and skates well, anything is possible,” Ullmark said.
Gray is one of four local skaters that will travel to Grande Prairie for the sectional championships in six weeks. Tomoyo Shiono of Banff recently passed her novice competitive test (comparable to the gold free skate test) and has already reached the gold standard in the compulsory dance and skating skills competition. The title means she’s recognized as a triple gold achiever by Skate Canada – another rare accomplishment.
There have been a handful of changes with the club. Maiysha Glaude has been hired as a new coach with the club after spending several years performing Cirque de Soleil-style ice shows aboard cruise ships. Glaude has also coached national level skaters and competed as a figure skater and gymnast on the United States college circuit.