Did competitor's crash affect Mabee's skate? Maybe

JIM KERNAGHAN, Free Press Sports Columnist

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

In the world of figure skating performance, it cannot be known what effect witnessing a compatriot plow head-first into the boards might have on one's performance, but Christopher Mabee was clearly rattled. How rattled, he couldn't say, but watching a ski jumper go kersplat just before you jump or the employee ahead of you hurled from the boss's office comes to mind.

When Nicholas Young hit the low boards right behind where the west-end hockey goal normally sits at the John Labatt Centre, the bang could be heard in the press box.

Fans winced as the Pembroke skater lay still an instant, shook his head and arose to complete his short program at the Canadian figure skating championships. Next up was Mabee.

"Yes, I saw it," he said. "The poor guy. It was a terrible thing to happen. He's such a talented skater. He deserves a lot of respect to get up and keep going."

Mabee didn't pin his own performance, one he termed average, on the incident. He felt Young's crash could happen to anyone. Still, in this high-emotion crucible, anything out of the norm can't be helpful.

All Mabee knows is his own performance could have been much better.

"I was expecting fourth or even third overall coming into the free skate," Mabee said. "I expected a lot more from myself. I got ahead of myself.

"I was thinking too far ahead," he said of a planned triple he downgraded to a double, at considerable cost in points. "When we get to (tonight's free skate), it's going to be one jump at a time."

An exciting skater who draws energy from the fans, Mabee knows something about odd setbacks. He didn't smack the boards but the result was similar.

Last time he was about to step onto the ice in competition, for the men's qualifying round Tuesday, his nose began pouring blood. A nostril plugged with gauze after a quick visit to the medical room, the 19-year-old went out and had one of his best skates of the year to finish fourth among the 36 seeking to qualify.

Mabee placed sixth at last year's nationals but was added to the team when Skate Canada decided to up the manpower from five. It was clearly a vote of confidence in his abilities, one that has helped benefit his career considerably due to additional support.

Speaking of his career, it took a bit of a change in direction last spring when he left Barrie's Mariposa club and coaches Doug and Michelle Leigh for the Onyx Skating Academy in Rochester, Mich., and coaches Doug Haw and Heather Hayward.

"I moved to Michigan in May and I moved back to Barrie in November," he said.

"I moved because I felt I needed a change and that I was getting too comfortable where I was. Michigan was good because there was tons of ice and nobody around and I had a lot of me time."

Trouble was, there wasn't enough hey-you time. He needed the added incentive of someone to provide impetus.

"I wasn't getting the push I was getting at Mariposa so I decided to come back. They greeted me with open arms, so it was great."

You are inclined to wonder whether all these events crammed into his skating career might be of some benefit down the way. Not many top athletes get to the top without some bizarre tales about their road there.

So, a nosebleed going onto the ice, a skater doing a basher into the dasher, a change of coaches and locales and a change back might one day be interpreted as competitive hardening agents en route to something big.

Mabee? Maybe.


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