BY BRIAN POUND
Back in 2010, Coquitlam’s Larkyn Austman was a flower girl at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. She is returning to another Winter Olympics (PyeongChang, South Korea) in February only this time she will be there representing her country in women’s singles figure skating.
Austman, coached by Zdenek Pazdirek and Liz Putnam, nailed down the third spot on the women’s team with a great comeback in her long program, jumping from sixth place after the short program to third overall. She joins Ontario’s Gabrielle Daleman and Kaetlyn Osmond as Canada’s three-woman team. Daleman won the national title with two perfect performances scoring 229.78 points, a Canadian points record. Osmond, the defending champion, had falls in both her short and long programs and wound up second with 218.73 points. Austman finished with 169.62 points.
With her third place finish Austman becomes the first BC-Yukon woman skater to make the Olympic team since Mira Leung in 2006 and the first since Leung in 2008 to reach the Senior women’s national podium.
She was excited afterwards. “I was confident I could go from sixth to third,” she said. “After completing my first four jumps successfully I knew that confidence was there. I’m just so happy that I was able to show people what I can do.”
Burnaby’s Sarah Tamura failed to hold her third-place spot after the Senior women's short program, making too many mistakes in the long program and fell to ninth place overall. The Section’s Kelsey Wong was behind Sarah in eleventh spot.
The Canadian Tire National Skating Championships (January 7-14 at UBC Thunderbird Arena) were also a successful one for other BC-Yukon Section skaters. In addition to Larkyn’s bronze medal, our skaters won a national Junior title, two more bronze and two silver medals.
The Junior women’s crown was taken by Kelowna’s Olivia Gran. Coached by Jason and Karen Mongrain, Olivia sat in second place following the Junior women’s short program, 1.13 points back of Quebec’s Sarah-Maude Blanchard but fashioned a near-perfect free program to come out on top149.65 points to 148.52 points over the Quebec skater. The Section’s Emma Bulawka finished sixth (131.93) while Vasilisa Matantseva was eighth (125.50).
Afterwards Olivia was elated. “Winning in BC is so amazing and to do it in front of family and friends made it all the more special. The crowd really got behind me and pushed me.”
The Section's Aleska Rakic took home a national silver medal after finishing second in Novice men, Daria Carr took silver in Novice women, Miku Makita and Tyler Gunara took silver in Novice Dance.
Dancers Ashlynne Stairs and Lee Royer made a remarkable jump from eighth place after the short dance to finish third overall in Junior Dance, their long program second best.
For Champs International's Kevin Reynolds, it was not the ending he had hoped for. Competing in his final Senior nationals, Reynolds had hoped to go out with one more national medal and a spot on the Olympic team. It looked promising when he finished second behind Patrick Chan after the short program but the effort in the free program fell short of what was needed to make the team. Looking to land four quads, he completed only one of them cleanly and a few other mistakes pushed him down to fifth place overall. But the good news for this young man who has given so much to BC skating is that he was one of three men chosen to represent Canada at the ISU Four Continents championships January 22-27 in Taipei, China. Vancouver's Liam Firus had problems in the short and free programs and finished eighth overall.
Ice Dancers Sarah Arnold and Thomas Williams, together with Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker were also rewarded with spots on the Four Continents team. Arnold and Williams were fifth in Senior Dance; Sales and Wamsteeker finished sixth.
“Overall we had a strong showing but of course our hearts go out to Kevin Reynolds & Liam Firus both many times Natonal Medallists. They are both extraordinary and wonderful young men who we are all proud of. We are thrilled with Larkyn’s journey onto the Olympic team and hope she continues to improve in the lead up to the Games.” Said Ted Barton, Skate Canada BC/YK Section Executive Director.