RED DEER, Alta. – Canmore’s Jan Ullmark, a decorated figure skating coach, is landing in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.
The longtime instructor will be inducted at the 2020 ceremony on May 29 in Red Deer for building the sport for nearly five decades.
Humbled by the hall of fame nod, Ullmark, who’s coached at six Olympic Games, said his biggest reward comes from mentoring the next generation.
“I think my biggest thing is how to teach the kids how to do a skill, that’s what I get my award out of it,” Ullmark said, who coaches at Canmore Skating Club along with wife, Cynthia.
“I coach because I enjoy it. I like the kids and accomplishments of each child. Figure skating is one of the most technical and difficult sports because it’s never enough, you always have to jump higher and skate faster ... That’s my interest, you teach someone a skill, but you coach them to perform it.”
The former Swedish national figure skating champion first moved to Alberta in 1973, when he took a coaching job in Lethbridge after being guaranteed $1,200 per month. It was big money back in those days, said Ullmark. From 1977-79, he returned to Sweden for a brief stint before returning to Alberta to accept the director of skating position at Edmonton’s Royal Glenora Club.
The club’s figure skating culture was already established before Ullmark arrived, but his dedication and international experience hoisted Royal Glenora to the next level, which consistently had national and international level skaters emerge from its ranks.
Over his career, Ullmark mentored many of Canada’s top skaters such as Michael Slipchuk, the 1992 Canadian Championship winner, and Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, who won gold in figure skating pairs at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. Ullmark would go on earn Skate Canada Coach of the Year in 2002.
The coach expects respect and discipline from his athletes and says he makes it clear that they’re the driving force towards their goals.
“You’ll never skate for me, you’ll skate for yourself and your achievements are your own,” Ullmark said.
Canmore’s Jane Gray, one of Ullmark’s pupils for the past 12 years, said her coach’s lifelong passion of figure skating fuelled her love for the sport as well.
“He goes above and beyond to make sure each of his students gets unique and individual attention,” wrote Gray, in an email.
“Jan takes an innovative approach in his coaching. He understands that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching figure skating. Jan puts the time into understanding each skater in order to give them the coaching that is going to help them reach their full potential.”
Under Ullmark’s guidance, Gray is the top figure skater to emerge from Canmore Skating Club in over 30 years, competing at the national level.
“I think he has influenced many of the coaches in Alberta and Canada and they constantly go to him for advice,” wrote Gray.
“Jan is always willing to offer his help whether that is just having a conversation with someone about a particular problem, or go to teach a seminar at another club.”
Other 2020 Alberta Sports Hall of Fame inductees and award winners include Deidra Dionne (Athlete, Skiing); Chris Phillips (Athlete, Hockey); Kelly Sutherland (Athlete, Chuckwagon Racing); Michael Robertson (Athlete, Snowboardcross); Terry Morris (Builder, Curling); Ken Babey (Builder, Hockey); Derek Douglas (Builder, Soccer); Nancy Southern & Ian Allison (Bell Memorial Award); John Currie (Achievement Award); Stan Wakelyn (Pioneer Award, Soccer); and Dennis Kadatz (Legacy Award).