BOW VALLEY – Banff's Maya Gonzalez made a big jump in the national figure skating scene.
“My heart almost skipped a beat,” said Gonzalez, recalling the thrilling text message she received from her mother last week while at school.
“I was really happy, but I had to keep it concealed because I was in class.”
The selection is the teenager's first to the junior development team, which gives rising skaters from around the province and territories access to high-level skating coaching, nutritionists, sports psychologists and mental training.
Being selected is huge step forward in the progress of young athletes, said Gonzalez's coach, Robin Forsyth.
"What I find is it is a motivator for them," said Forsyth. "They feel special, they get recognized for their hard work and that they’ve been able to achieve something and that tends to spark fast progress throughout their skating careers ... That really tends to set them on a trajectory for success."
This year's selection process was presented differently due to COVID-19 causing all competitions to be axed.
Instead, athletes competing for a spot on the junior development team submitted a video of them doing different spins and jumps that were judged by a panel of experts.
As a juvenile woman U14, Gonzalez’s submission was no small effort, and had to contain at least five different double jumps.
It prompted the gifted student to go big and attempt a double axel – one of figure skating's hardest spinning jumps that involves a 900 degree rotation that lands on one foot.
“I haven’t landed it yet, but they were pretty good that day so we decided to film some," Gonzalez said. "I fell, but still it’s a big jump and it’s a big step so to just show that I’m almost there, kind-of, is cool."
While working closely with the Canmore Skating Club over the past three years, Gonzalez's soaring improvement in technical skills has impressed her coach, especially this past season.
Forsyth knew her pupil had a real shot at being picked as one of the nine juvenile women U14 when submitting the video.
“We’ve been working with [Gonzalez] a lot on how to let her talent shine through under control,” said Forsyth.
“She definitely had raw talent right when she was a little kid; you could tell she had a little spark, but it was getting her to focus on technique and to be able to perform the harder skills under pressure that she’s really come a long way from in the last few years.”