Hard work fails to pay off for skater

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

It was far from the type of day Harmonie Wong was hoping for. The London Skating Club member had worked hard preparing for the national figure skating championships.

Her hope was to qualify for the short program. But expectations turned into disappointment as she failed to qualify.

"I was working for the last three months," she said.

It wasn't the best of days for local skaters. Even though Lauren Wilson qualified, she fell several times

Skating in the same qualifying group as national champion Cynthia Phaneuf, Wong was hopeful after a good start.

"The beginning was strong but I lost momentum going into my triple," she said. "Then it was on and off. Then I just didn't push hard enough. I'm disappointed. I had four triples in my program. I wanted to do those and I only did one."

After she missed the first, she found it difficult to focus. She only fell once but double-footed several landings.

"Mentally, (with) so many thoughts going on in your head, it's hard to organize your thoughts for the next jump," said Wong, in her third senior nationals. She was 29th in 2003, 25th in 2004.

It has been a difficult few months for her. Her mother, who has breast cancer, was able to watch her skate even though she has struggled with the disease.

"She's not doing very well," said Wong. "She had to go to Toronto to be treated because she couldn't be treated in London because of the severity. But she came home. She did chemo for eight months, but she stopped. She didn't want to do it anymore."

Skating has helped Wong cope.

"Skating is a stress reliever," said Wong. "It's like an outlet to take out my emotions."

Despite her difficult day and trying circumstances, Wong proved gracious. She will head back to York University where she is studying kinesiology and political science.

"There's ice at York, so I may skate by myself the next year and see," she said. She will reassess her situation before deciding where she goes in skating.

Her career may still be a work in progress.

It was a work in progress the first day of the Canadian championships. In an effort to make the judging as fair as possible, a new scoring system has been implemented. A degree in advanced math would be helpful. It's going to take a while to figure out.

The first few women who skated had to wait as long as five minutes for their score to be calculated. As the day progressed, so did the speed of the calculations.

A small crowd was on hand for the women's qualifying, not an unusual occurrence for the event. It was obvious even in qualifying the vast disparity in talent.

It was rare to see a routine finish without a skater putting butt to ice more than once.

In the first qualifying group, Quebec's Joannie Rochette, one of the favourites for the women's title, was clearly the class of the group, followed by British Columbia's Mira Leung.

"I'm happy. Of course this is only qualifying. There were some mistakes with the Lutz. . . . It was a stupid mistake and I'm going to be more focused the next time I do it," said Rochette. "But overall, I was feeling great."

She has been working on a triple, triple, double combination she might use in her final program.

There is great anticipation of the battle expected between the 19-year-old Rochette and 17-year-old Cynthia Phaneuf, the future of Canadian women's figure skating.

Even with the dominance of Jennifer Robinson, who won the Canadian title five years in succession before Phaneuf won it last year, there was never the hope of success on the international stage that there is now with Rochette and Phaneuf.

The best, hopefully, is still to come.


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