Landing right partner first leap of faith

RYAN PYETTE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

There's one vital step in becoming the next Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, ice dance stars.

Find the right partner.

It doesn't matter how or where.

But it's necessary.

London's Scott and Michaela Botsford, who helped kick-start the BMO Skate Canada junior nationals in the compulsory novice dance competition last night at the Western Fair Sports Centre, only had to look across the dinner table. They're brother and sister.

"There's advantages and disadvantages to that," 17-year-old Scott said. "One good thing is when something goes wrong during a session, we're never afraid to talk about it.

"You have that hour-and-a-half ride home to talk about things."

And if you can't scream at your brother in frustration, then something's wrong.

Sometimes, though, there's a partner screening process.

Glencoe's Kylie Knight and Benjamin Mulder were paired together. It's like the blind dating section of skating.

Hit it off on the ice during a tryout and see where it goes. If there's no connection, move on to the next one.

Often, it just boils down to good scouting.

Ten months ago, Ilderton skater Allan Stoll was at Waterloo's RIM Park looking for a new partner. His sister Emily suffered a bad back injury and had to beg off. From the stands, he spotted Guelph's Jade Marrow.

"She was a singles skater and I thought she'd make a good dancer. So I went up to her and asked her if she was interested."

Marrow didn't look at Stoll like he was from Mars. "I thought why not give it a try," she said, "and when I did, I liked it."

Who knows where it will lead?

"We're looking at building for the future," Stoll said. "We'll see where it goes."

Maybe, someday, to Virtue-Moir-like success.

Five years ago, Tessa and Scott, who return today to for another Canadians, were just out of junior at senior nationals in a jammed John Labatt Centre.

They finished fourth.

Now, they're on top.

And these young skaters are watching their every move. Learning. Taking note.

"They're great to look up to," said Michaela Botsford, who skated for Scott Moir's mom Alma before pairing with her brother.

But not to copy.

"They're at a different level," said Scott Botsford, who learned all the ice tricks from Moir's aunt Carol. "You see some of the things they do out there. You hope you can follow their same path and they're fun to watch."

The Virtue-Moir goose lift is amazing. But Scott Botsford doesn't need another concussion trying it. He's already dealing with one -- and playing through it.

"We didn't stop skating," he said. "We just took it a little bit easier while I recovered. We finished 14th (at the Eastern Challenge) in Mississauga, so we're not expecting a lot this week."

Just something to impress the hometown folks.

There's more pressure on home ice, "And you don't get off school to skate," added Scott, who goes to Aquinas while sister Michaela is at Mother Teresa. "You still have to go."

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP

Senior

At the John Labatt Centre

Thursday: Compulsory dance, 6 p.m.

Friday: Women's short program, 9:55 a.m.; pairs' short, 12:55 p.m.; original dance, 4:55 p.m.; men's short, 7:25 p.m.

Saturday: Pairs' free skate, 11:30 a.m.; women's free, 3 p.m.; free dance, 7 p.m.

Sunday: Men's free, 4 p.m.

Tickets: All-event package, $125-150, plus tax. Online at www.johnlabattcentre.com, by phone at 1-866-455-2849 or in person at the JLC box office.

JUNIOR NATIONALS

At the Western Fair Sports Centre

Today: Junior pair short, 9:15 a.m.; novice men short, 11:05 p.m.; Novice pair short, 1:30 p.m.; junior compulsory dance, 3:25 p.m.; novice women short, 5:55 p.m.; junior men short, 8:20 p.m.

Tomorrow: Novice free dance, 9 a.m.; novice men free, 11:20 a.m.; novice pair free, 2:05 p.m.; junior dance original, 4:10 p.m.; novice women free, 6:20 p.m.; junior women short, 8:55 p.m.

Thursday: junior dance free, 9:25 a.m.; junior men free, 11:45 a.m.; junior women free, 5 p.m.; junior pair free, 8 p.m.


Photos