BOW VALLEY – Canmore’s Paige Domenico shook off more than a year of rust and nagging injuries to surprise herself at her latest figure skating challenge.
Competing in pre-novice women, the 14-year-old twice won bronze medals at the B.C./Yukon Victoria Day Virtual Event from May 20-23, where clubs submitted videos of athletes’ skating routines in advance for organizers to compile for judges and audiences to stream online.
“It was very nerve-racking watching my first program,” said Domencio. “Right when they were going to announce the score, we lost the [internet] connection.”
After a dramatic pause and a few jumbled moments of frantic texting to friends and her Canmore Skating Club coach, Domencio finally got surprising answers.
Standing in line for a COVID-19 vaccination on May 21, Domencio was amazed to find out she won bronze in the short program.
The next day, Domenico was about to step on to the gondola at Sunshine Ski Village for a day on the mountain slopes when she was shocked again to win a second bronze in the free program.
“It was kind of exciting, but at the same time it didn’t really feel real,” she said. “It was a virtual competition so I wasn’t actually there skating in the moment. It was like I was cheering on one of my friends, it wasn’t like I was the one skating. It was a strange feeling, but it’s quite exciting.”
The results are a bit sweeter for Domencio after nagging ankle issues starting last August kept her off the ice until December.
She had complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – a neurological pathways disruption. Essentially, CRPS sends a message to the brain that there’s an injury despite nothing being physically wrong. It can take up to 18 months to get over, so there was relief it was diagnosed early.
The comeback kid said she felt confident going into the virtual competition because it was on home ice at the Canmore recreation centre. A brief scare during warm-ups on filming day, where she twisted an ankle and it flared up very briefly, only added to the drama of the day.
Shaking off the jitters, Domenico picked two “fun to skate to” routines under the energetic music of a lively tango song and upbeat Broadway number. She said she was happy to land a double Lutz – her most inconsistent jump – during the event.
“This is a really big comeback for her,” said Domenico’s coach Robin Forsyth.
“She followed the plan coming back, just steps one at a time and regaining her confidence and technical abilities and it actually got to show through in this event, which doesn’t sometimes happen so I was really pleased for her so she can feel she’s on the right track now.”
Along with Domenico, three other Canmore Skating Club athletes competed in the virtual event.
Banff’s Maya Gonzalez, 14, finished fifth in the pre-novice women short program – a big accomplishment for competing in a higher category for the first time.
Olive Schmaltz, 13, also competed in her first pre-novice women’s short and free programs. The Banff athlete has come a long way technically, said her coach.
Hazel Schmaltz, 11, made a massive jump up to take part in her first competitive category.
"Kids at this age, especially between 10 and 15, they really need goal posts to set some goals to achieve throughout the season and that was really hard this year," Forsyth said.
March 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, marked the last time the figure skating quartet had competed.
Forsyth said because it’s unknown when the next competition might occur, she sensed the girls were quite nervous before filming their one-take routines.
"I was really proud of those four that really handled this hardship well for kids and rose to the occasion and ended up doing fantastic at the virtual event," Forsyth said.