Duo ahead of schedule

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:10 AM ET

Sue Sutherland had a nice little two-year plan laid out for the ice dance duo of Kathryn Fenske and Martin Nickel. She wanted her skaters to finish in the top-three in the juvenile dance event at last February's Junior Nationals before moving up to pre-novice this season.

But the Skate Thompson duo got slightly ahead of itself by winning the juvenile dance crown in February. Sutherland, though, isn't complaining.

"I think the bonus was the realization that this is possible even from Thompson, Manitoba," said Sutherland.

"But the real benefit was training to do that and then doing it."

Yesterday, Fenske and Nickel won the pre-novice dance event at the BMO Financial Group Skate Canada Manitoba sectionals at Pioneer Arena. They advance to the Skate Canada Western Challenge, Dec. 2-5 in Mississauga, Ont., the qualifying competition for the Skate Canada Junior Nationals, Feb. 2-5 in Sainte-Foy, Que.

"We have a lot more experience now and we're getting stronger," said Nickel, a 15-year-old Grade 10 student in Thompson. "Everything we're doing now is a lot harder but we seem to be coping with it. Our coach helps us a lot."

"It was a new feeling and it was a really good feeling (winning the juvenile crown last season)," added Fenske, who is also in Grade 10 and turns 15 next month. "But regardless we still have to go back this season and do the same things and be the same team and do everything we've always been doing."

Conventional wisdom holds that to improve in figure skating you have to head to one of the larger centres in Winnipeg, Edmonton or Southern Ontario. But Fenske and Nickel have so far resisted the temptation to leave their hometown behind.

"It has a lot to do with who your coach is and we're really lucky to have ours," said Fenske. "Not every big centre has a really good coach with good technical (skills) and a good base."

In the other results, Devinder Singh of Skate Winnipeg edged out Winkler's Christopher Ali to win the senior men's event yesterday. It was Ali's first competition since suffering a level-three concussion after crashing on a triple Salchow and striking his head on the ice during practice in early October.

Skate Winnipeg's Valerie Nicholls captured the junior ladies' event, getting past Logan Renard of Virden.

The top four finishers in each event qualify for the Western Challenge. Singh and his sister Neeta also qualified as the only entry in the junior pairs event.

The top eight in each event at the Western Challenge qualify for either the Canadian Championships, Jan. 17-23 in London, Ont., or the Skate Canada Junior Nationals.

In the case of Fenske and Nickel, they will take the comments of the judges and other coaches and see where they still need work.

"Sometimes you get (feedback on) things that you totally overlook," said Fenske. "You didn't see it and you use what they say to improve. But sometimes it's things that our coach tells us over and over and over."

"It's stuff that we hear at home a lot and you get here and it's like, 'I guess we should have done more of that.' "


Videos

Photos