Skater able to use own rink for practice

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:52 AM ET

Funny, Michelle Moore hardly looks like a rink rat.

It would be nice to report the statuesque skater drives the Zamboni at the Burlington rink she partly owns and that the bubbly teenager got to the Canadian figure skating championships as a result of unlimited ice time.

What a story line -- like Wayne Gretzky honing his skills on the backyard rink toward hockey stardom, a Zamboni-driving figure skater rockets from her own rink to world renown.

Alas, Moore's dad is majority owner of the Burlington Pond and won't let her behind the wheel of the ice flooder. And the place is so booked for hockey there's not that much free ice available.

After a personal-best performance in the singles short program at the John Labatt Centre yesterday, Moore says having a rink at one's disposal isn't bad, though.

"I get to work on my spins and footwork when I'm home weekends," she said. "I work at the rink but my dad won't let me drive the Zamboni. He thinks I'll crash it," she added with a laugh.

"I work the snack bar, answer the phone, do cleaning, just about everything."

Moore, who went from 23rd to 19th in her first two Canadian championships, is heading in the right direction at her third. Yesterday's 49.77 points marked a competitive high point for the 18-year-old, who trains during the week at the Mariposa club in Barrie.

Then, it's home to Burlington for the weekend to do rink chores -- and oh, yes, get in some spins and footwork.

Figure skating clearly is a different kind of sport.

Take locals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. The first step in their ascension into senior figure skating just completed, they stood as yet another good example why their sport differs from most others.

Not just that they were a resounding fourth out of 14 couples in yesterday's compulsory dance segment in their debut, but the fact they're suddenly skating as seniors.

It's a sport that stands apart from all the rest in so many ways.

In what other do the athletes hire -- and fire -- their coaches? And in what sport other than cricket do athletes end up competing for days at a time? Surely it's the only sport in which some of the participants don false eyelashes before going out to perform.

It's far from the 82-game seasons of other sports, and one that has just three big stops. After the national championships, a skater might go on to the world championships or the Olympics. And no matter how big the various Grand Prix are, these are the three that count.

They still call it figure skating even though compulsory figures were finally dumped years ago, except for the finely tuned figures of the participants.

There are other anomalies.

As the weekend unfolds, visitors to the JLC will see a considerable departure from the usual on-ice fare. They won't hear booing, particularly since the new scoring system separates the judges from their scores.

And where they're more accustomed to seeing cups and popcorn boxes cascade down, in figure skating it's a barrage of stuffed bears and other soft critters. It used to be bouquets of flowers until everyone finally placed a pox on the posies due to the dangerous conditions errant stems and other greenery sometimes caused.

Leading the stuffed toy salvos yesterday, incidentally, were Virtue and Moir, who were accorded a 25-toy salute (plus a couple of floral bouquets) after their senior skating debut.

Maybe a few await the rink rat from Burlington today in the senior women's free program.


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