Canada’s Young Stays Close to Top

Nicholas Young

Canada’s Nicholas Young has big aspirations for the 2004-2005 season. He said his goals are to “medal at every competition I do and long term to medal at Worlds and the Olympics.” The 2000 Canadian junior men’s champion made the senior international team for the second straight year by finishing fifth at the 2004 Canadian Nationals. He was also fifth in 2003 and finished seventh in both 2001 and 2002. Last season, he also won the Nebelhorn Trophy, took the bronze at the Karl Schaefer Memorial in Vienna, finished fourth at the World University Games and placed seventh at the Cup of China, his first senior Grand Prix event. This season, Young finished seventh at Skate America and sixth at the NHK Trophy in Japan.

Young started skating when he was about five. “I started skating so I could play hockey,” he said. “My dad played hockey. I didn’t start actual figure skating until I was nine.” As a result, he was 16 before he landed a clean triple, but then he landed all of them except the axel the same year. But no jump is his favorite. “I don’t care what jump it is,” he said. “I like them all. Each jump has it challenges but finding a common ground with each, makes it a lot easier to jump.”

He moved on to trying quadruple jumps when he was 17. “I’ve tried quad salchow, toe, flip and lutz,” he said. “I’ve landed a toe. I have also landed a lutz but tore my thumb ligament when I had an accident landing it last summer. So I trained with a bright orange cast for three weeks and got it taken off two days before Minto. What made things worse is that I was throwing the opening pitch at an Ottawa Lynx’s game after Minto for Skate Canada Day at the ball park.”

Young enjoys sports. He participated in soccer, baseball, tae kwon do, and swimming and ran cross country in school. He’s still involved in other sports, noting, “I play the odd pick up hockey game in the winter and shoot some hoops and some soccer from time to time.” He also likes car racing, snowboarding, rollerblading, shooting pool and playing golf.

Other off ice interests include going out with friends and watching comedy and action movies. He said he’ll read “anything that catches my eye.” He doesn’t have any collections but does have one dog, a Pomeranian named JT Kool. Young also said, “I love traveling. I can’t really say that one place was better than another, but I can tell that each adventure I’ve had in each country was worth it.” He hopes to see Hawaii and Australia.

The talented 21-year-old has trained with Josee Normand And Sebastien Britten for the last year. He works for about three to four hours on ice every day and puts in another eight hours of off ice work weekly.

Last season, Young used his martial arts moves in his programs as he skated to Duel by Bond for the short and Kodo and Cherry Blossom by Hugo Chouinard for the long. This year, Young will debut two new programs. Britten choreographed his short program to Dueling Banjos and Help, Help, while David Wilson choreographed his long program to the soundtrack of Peter Gunn with music by Henry Mancini.

Young doesn’t have any particular process for choosing his music for each season. “Usually it happens by accident,” he said, “but this year there were suggestions by my coaches that I accepted. I’ll skate to anything as long as I like it and can connect to it.” As for off ice music, he said, “I like everything but mostly listen to hip-hop right now but that could change at any moment.”

Although Young hasn’t decided on a future career, he’s currently studying political science at Concordia University. For now, he’s just enjoying his chosen sport. “I like skating because when I’m doing it, nothing else matters,” he said. “It’s just me and the ice. It’s a very peaceful experience.

Suguri Moves to Chicago

Fumie Suguri

Japan’s Fumie Suguri was faced with a dilemma this summer. The closure of some Japanese ice rinks and the increase in the number of high-level Japanese ladies skating at her rink meant reduced ice time and contact with her coaches. So she decided to move to Chicago to train with noted Russian coach Oleg Vasiliev. Previously, Suguri had worked with Nobuo Sato for many years. “There just wasn’t enough practice time available in Japan,” Suguri stated.

“Fumie first came to train at our rink for four or five weeks in the summer,” said Vasiliev, who also coaches Russian pairs team Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin. “Lori Nichol worked with her on the choreography while she was here. Fumie also asked me some technical questions while she was training and I helped her. When she went back to Japan, she asked her coaches and the federation about coming to train with me. So she started with me at the beginning of September.”

“She already had her programs and choreography,” Vasiliev continued, “so we have just been working on her technique. I always liked her work ethic. She’s always ready mentally and physically. But she needs to improve her upper body strength, her leg extension on her spirals, and her speed. We will be working this season on increasing the power in her stroking and also improving her edge jumps. The salchow is about 90 percent where it should be technically, but it needs time to be perfect.” Suguri trains for three hours a day, five days a week with Vasiliev. On Saturday, she also skates a short session by herself. Vasiliev has also added some new off ice work to increase her strength and improve the quality of her skating.

Nichol has choreographed Suguri’s programs for the last eight years. This season, she is using The Pink Panther for her short program and a Latin motif for her long. The medley includes Tango Para Percussion by Lazlo Schifrin, Carmen Fantasie by Franz Waxman, and George Bizet’s Carmen. For her exhibition program, Suguri is using Lara Fabian’s Adagio.

“Both of my programs are new,” Suguri said. “I try to change every year. This year, we had a choice between my normal classical programs and Pink Panther. I thought about how the audience always wants new things from skaters so Lori and I tried to create a new part of my skating. It’s the same as we tried last year with Paint It Black. Now I’m sure I can do different things. But I really love the classical style.” Suguri tries to get the audience involved in her programs. “I like it when the audience is excited, when you can send a message to the audience by skating with your heart,” she explained.

Suguri had an unusual reason to become a skater. “When I was three, we moved to Alaska for my dad’s job so we played a lot of winter sports there. When we moved back to Japan, my mother was afraid I would forget my English. She thought if I continued to do sports, then I’d remember Alaska and remember my English.

Suguri, the 2004 ISU Grand Prix Final medallist, has twice won the Four Continents Championships and taken two bronze medals at the World Championships. She also finished fifth at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. She has been on the podium for eight straight years at Japanese Nationals, winning four golds, three silvers and a bronze overall. Suguri started this season with a fourth place finish at Skate Canada in Halifax.

But Japan now has the strongest ladies field in the world after sweeping all of the ISU championships last season except Europeans where they couldn’t compete. “The new generation is coming,” Suguri stated. “We need to take power from them while keeping the good part of the old ways. They have new thoughts, a different way. They think outside of this (making a box with her hands). Not that it’s good or bad.” Now her younger sister, Chika, who is 20, is among her rivals. She has also been competing in seniors for the past three years and recently finished eighth at the Vienna Cup. “I’m more nervous when I see her skate than when I skate,” Suguri said. “And she’s nervous for me. That’s not good when I have to skate after her.”

She’s not sure how the new judging system will affect her placements. “I wish we had it last year so I would have been much higher at Worlds,” she lamented. “After the qualifying round, I was always climbing the stairs. It’s good that we can win if we do poorly in the short. But it’s kind of hard to tell what it will be like this season. The good part is that they see more of the artistic and not just the technical. But when you think negatively, there are fewer parts that we can create. You have to do this, this and this to get the higher level. That makes it hard for choreographers.”

And hard for Suguri as she does not yet have a triple-triple combination in her arsenal for this season, instead using a triple lutz-double toe loop and triple flip-double toe in her long program. She also uses the triple lutz-double toe in her short. “We plan to add triple-triple combinations,” Vasiliev said. “And we hope to work on a triple axel right after Worlds next year.”

As for her off ice activities, Suguri said. “Cooking is my hobby now. When I was in Japan, I was living at home so I didn’t have to cook, but now I’m living by myself in an apartment in Chicago so I have to do it. It’s a lot of fun.” She also likes to read. She used to play the piano, but no longer has time. And she no longer collects anything, except clothes. “I’m not a stuffed animal collector,” she related. “I take them to the children in the hospital.” She doesn’t have any real animals either. “My parents said we already have two pets, me and my sister,” she laughed.

Suguri finished her university degree in social sciences two years ago, but thinks she will remain in the sport in some capacity. “I cannot take skating away from my life,” she said, “but I won’t be one of the new judges. I don’t like to judge someone.”

Patenaude Returns to Competition After Decade of Coaching

Martine Patenaude & Pascal Denis

Canada’s Martine Patenaude, 30, had been out of the competitive arena for a decade before she teamed up with 29-year-old Pascal Denis to challenge for a podium spot at Canadians and a possible Olympic berth in 2006. Although many spectators mistook Patenaude for a teenager because of her youthful beauty and superb physical conditioning, the lovely blonde is less than a year older than Megan Wing and a bit younger than Marie-France Dubreuil. “We will skate for at least two years, maybe more,” Denis said. “The Olympics is a goal we have not reached yet. After that we will sit down and talk about the future.”

“It wasn’t difficult to get back to competing, but it was difficult to get back into competition shape,” Patenaude remarked. “My skills were perfect but I hadn’t been skating a four-minute competition program. I was a little nervous in Obertsdorf since it had been a long time, but I’ve learned a lot from coaching so I understood things better than before.”

Patenaude had previously skated for seven years with Eric Masse, reaching the podium at Canadians at all levels including bronze in seniors in 1994, bronze in juniors in 1991, and silver in novice in 1989. The couple finished fifth at Junior Worlds in 1990 and seventh in 1991. Patenaude’s last major international was at Skate Canada in 1992, when she and Masse finished eighth.

She originally began skating when she was six. “My two older sisters skated and I was at the rink with them,” she recalled. “I skated six years in singles, before switching to dance. My coach said I had good skating quality and got me a partner and we skated together from when I was 12 to 19. He stopped and I tried to find another good boy, but I couldn’t find one at that level so I went on to other things.”

“I went almost immediately into coaching,” Patenaude continued. “I only taught dance, working with Bruno Yvars and Emilie LeBlanc. We have fourteen dance teams now. I’m still working with all the same students, coaching and training at the same time.” Both Patenaude and Denis spend three to five hours a day coaching. He works with three dance teams under different coaches.

Denis began skating when he was seven. “I liked watching ice shows,” he said. “I went to see Ice Capades and Ice Follies in person.” He was dancing within three years. “A non-ice dance coach matched me with Josee Piche when I was 12,” he remembered. “Honestly I don’t know why. It was just circumstance I guess, but I liked it. I loved the communication with the audience and a partner. Skating alone is just not the same thing. I kept doing freestyle until I was 16, but I was too tall. Long legs don’t make it easy to jump. They could wrap around me three times. I got up to a double lutz and that was it.”

The couple had finished in the top seven three times at Four Continents and eleven times at Canadians, winning the silver medal in 1994 and bronze medals in 1993 and 2000.

“When Josee finished in April, I wasn’t ready to quit,” said Denis. “I was having breakfast with Bruno and Martine and said I needed a tall blonde. I turned and looked at Martine and asked her if she would consider it. We’ve already known each other for 18 years.” “I took about half a day to consider it,” Patenaude said. “I wasn’t sure it was a good idea but we did a tryout. We had the same style so it went well. At the end of June, we started our real training.”

In their first competition, the couple finished second at the Nebelhorn Trophy in 2004, eleven years after she won the dance title there in 1993 with Masse. “We were notified two weeks before,” Denis said. “We were hoping for an international and were happy not to get Vienna or Finland where the dance was cancelled.” “We hoped it would open the door to the Grand Prix series,” Patenaude added. “We don’t have a ten-year career so there’s no time to wait.” Two days afterwards, they were invited to Skate Canada, where they finished eighth.

The dancers train in Montreal with Bruno Yvars. They work for three to four hours a day on ice, five days a week. Aime LeBlanc also assists in their on-ice training. In addition, the couple works off ice with ballroom dance coach Ginette Cournoyer. “We don’t take ballet but we work with her one or two days a week,” Denis said. “She’s very good. She was second at the world championships in ballroom.” Neither of the skaters is involved in other athletic activities although Patenaude occasionally rollerblades. “I used to play a lot of sports when I was young, but not anymore,” Denis noted. “We have to keep our energy,” Patenaude explained.

Yvars is the couple’s official choreographer, but Denis said, “Basically we did the choreography ourselves and our coaches and others put in their ideas. I like to use a lot of upper body movements – moves that are more interesting than the classical poses you use forever.” The duo closely follows the results from the new judging system to adapt their programs. “Every day, we work with the sheets,” Patenaude said. “We’ll have increased levels of difficulty for Nationals. The system is a good guide for training. I know all the rules and taught my students all the rules.”

For this season, they are using “Sparkling Diamonds” and “Tango de Roxane” from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack for their free dance. Their original dance incorporates a Charleston to the opening of the Chicago soundtrack, a foxtrot to “Nowadays” and a Charleston to “All That Jazz.” “All of us work together to choose the music,” Denis said. “I found the original dance music but for the free dance, we threw many ideas on the table. Our first idea was a tango, so we found a tango.” “We wanted a song that people knew so that they could relate to it,” Patenaude added. “But next year, we want someone different to do our choreography.

Off ice, Denis said, “I listen to so many kinds of music. It depends on what I’m doing but there’s no limit to what I’ll listen to. My favorite is Celine Dion, of course.” “I listen to everything, even to people who are unknown,” Patenuade said. “I even watch American and Canadian Idol. I get the music and download it.”

Both skaters intend to continue their coaching careers after they finish skating together. “My passion is dance and choreography,” Denis said. “I do all the programs for my teams now. I’ve been teaching figure skating for about four years and dance for about a year.” Patenaude has also done choreography for her students for most of the ten years that she has been coaching. “I always go with what the skaters do best, what suits their style.”

Denis is still taking one or two courses a year in public relations at the university. “It’s something for me that’s very relaxing,” he explained. “There’s normal people doing other things who are not athletes. After I finish skating, I’ll take more classes.”

To relax, Patenaude likes to spend time with her boyfriend, go out to movies with friends and watch television. She enjoys painting and photography. “I like painting a lot,” she said. “I do scenes from publicity posters, flowers, all kinds of things. I even paint Christmas ornaments. I take lots of black and white photos of all sorts of things – people, monuments, flowers”. She also collects clocks, a hobby that her boyfriend started with a Christmas present. As for stuffed toys, she doesn’t have any left from her previous career but said, “I may keep the first one I get now.” Denis said, “I keep the ones with special messages, but the others I give to Josee’s aunt to give to poor kids.”

Denis keeps himself busy off ice with cinema, music, piano, and volunteer work. “To relax, I like to go to the shopping center with my friends,” he said. “I really like to shop for others. I also love to travel. I don’t have any favorite places but I like to see different places and different things. When you’re young, you don’t appreciate it when you go. Once I went to Obertsdorf for two weeks for a seminar and never saw the village. Now I’ve rediscovered Europe and I appreciate it more. I’ve never been to Paris, London or New York City so I’d like to go there.” “I went to Obertsdorf ten years ago and it’s still one of the nicest places to stay,” Patenaude noted. “I want to go to Greece and Venice for sure.”