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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 7th Malaysian Figure Skating Championships

** This is a guest post written by coach Cheryl Khoo **

A total of 11 skaters from Singapore competed at the 7th Malaysian Figure Skating Championship held at Sunway Pyramid Ice on the 17th and 18th February 2012. They were accompanied by two coaches. This is my 2nd time bringing a team out as a coach for an ISU competition.

Skaters :

  • Lena Helou (Represented ISAM)
  • Tala Helou (Represented ISAM)
  • Akari Kinoshita (Represented Japan Skating Federation)
  • Ayako Nonaka (Represented Japan Skating Federation)
  • Melinda Ang (Singapore)
  • Rachel Chong (Singapore)
  • Alexandra Iona Skillen (Singapore)
  • Alexandra Crombie (Singapore)
  • Rong Joe (Singapore)
  • Johanna Ekman (Sweden)
  • Filippa Ekman (Sweden)

Coaches :

  • Sunny Man
  • Cheryl Khoo

We arrived at Sunway and checked into our hotel at about 5pm in the afternoon on Wednesday, 15th February 2012. Melinda, Rachel, Ayako, Alexandra and myself stayed in 2 rooms that were interconnected.

The skaters had their first public session in a very crowded rink at 5.30pm. They needed to get used to the ice and familiarize themselves with their programs in the rink before their Thursday morning ice time. This was where the tension for competition built up among the skaters. Despite my advice to take it easy to just feel the ice and fitting their program into the rink, the skaters were hammering jumps and spins and constantly coming to me for advice. This was when I knew, the skaters felt the pressure of competition. The girls had an early night to prepare for a 7am ice time.

The best part of having interconnecting rooms is that the coach jumps on the students to wake up in time for their ice time especially when it is early in the morning. We had two 45-minute sessions, in which I split the high level and lower level up to ensure that we have optimal training time on the ice. During these 2 sessions, skaters were starting to find momentum building up to the competition. Some had clean practices but some were still struggling with their jumps and spins. You could see the worried looks on their faces after the practices.

As a young coach, I felt the need to be there for my skaters, on and off the ice. I would relate my previous competitive experience with them to give them confidence going into competition. Telling them there was no time to doubt themselves at that moment, it was the “do or die” attitude that they must have. Mentioning to them that as parents and coaches, this is so much we can do, we have worked so hard for them. The rest is all up to them to showcase and perform. That was their moment.

The girls would go for their breakfast together after every morning practice ice time to wind down and relax before heading for their second practice of the day for another one and a half hours. During this practice, the skaters made friends with the other competitors and I met many other coaches from other countries, including Craig Heath whom I once went to Hong Kong to train with. It was not only a good experience for me to see the various level of competition, but also the different style and techniques coaches use to help skaters with technique and even mentally.

Having Alexandra Crombie, who turns 9 this year, traveling alone with us was a little bit of a challenge. She is a very active kid who is constantly moving around and being very picky with food. The best moment was watching Lena Helou telling her to finish eating her breakfast during Friday morning breakfast table. Usually I would take on that role. But nevertheless, she was the happy kid in our team who is always smiling and making us laugh.

Tala Helou, 5, the youngest competitor in the competition, is another energizer bunny who always runs around with Alexandra Crombie. Both of them brought laughter and joy to the team. This bonded the team together.

As the start of the event approached on Friday, I decided to skate with the skaters on their last public practice before the start of the event. I wanted to take their mind off the competition and just relax. Competition is not only about competing, but it is also the fun they have on and off the ice as a team. I challenged all of them to different jumps and told them if I land the jump that they are doing, they got to land it to. It was not only a challenge to them, but also for me who had stop practicing 7 months ago. I think this session really did the trick.

When events came, the skaters handled the pressure better. They were calm going into warm up. When they stepped on the ice to perform, I emphasized that this is their moment and they should skate the best they could and finish the program with no regrets. Yes, there were tears, but I told them all we could do is working on consistency and doing it at that one chance.

Overall, everyone did great in their performance with good feedback reflected in their scores. It gave me confidence as a coach to keep pushing myself and my skaters to not only improve in the jumps and the spins, but also overall as a skater. To persevere, take on challenges and to live and enjoy the moment. In sport, it is not about winning, but about doing your best and performing at your best at the moment. As a coach, all I can ask for is my student to take back each experience and work on them. Work on the process rather than worry about the outcome.

The highlight of the event was watching the juniors and senior skaters competing. Landing triple jumps and double axel in the rink that is about the same size as kallang ice world. It was simply inspirational and breathtaking. Especially for the skaters who have yet to see triple jumps before them, and not on youtube.

At the end of the competition, some of the girls had a sleepover at my room to enjoy the last night before the start of a new week. Some of them had to fly back to Singapore for their regular Sunday plans. Overall, I think it was a productive and good trip for the skaters and a good(?) preparation for the Singapore Nationals 2012.

Over here in Singapore, I would like to thank all parents for their support and hard work in sending the skaters to the rink and preparing their costume, make up and being mentally there for the skaters. Without them, this trip would not be as successful.

Results of the Malaysian Nationals are at:

** Cheryl Khoo is a full time undergraduate student at Nanyang Technological University pursuing a degree in Sports Science and Management. She coaches part time at Kallang Ice World and is training to compete at the ISU International Adult Figure Skating Competition in Germany as soon as she is eligible. Cheryl has her sights aimed on being a competitive skater as well as a high-performance coach.

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