Still the queen of the ice

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:38 PM ET

Forty years old, now a three-time world champion ... and to hear Jan Calnan tell it, the best is still yet to come.

"I'm definitely going to try to improve even more," said the Rideau Skating Club coach from Manotick Station, who keeps making quite the name for herself in the adult figure skating world.

For the second straight year at the International Skating Union's adult figure skating competition -- the discipline's world championships, for all intents and purposes -- Calnan stood on the top step of the podium in Oberstdorf, Germany.

She accepted the masters' ladies II (age 36-45) gold medal from ISU president Ottavio Cinquanta, then did it all over again after the masters pairs event (she shared that honour with Montreal's Stephane Vachon, who also won masters men's gold).

Now Calnan dreams of showing up at next year's adult worlds with a triple jump in her arsenal. Not exactly the kind of thought that entered her mind until last season, when she ended a 20-year hiatus from competitive skating.

"Even three or four years ago, I wouldn't have realized I'd be doing this," she said this week after returning home with the double gold. "I'm really glad that I am, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it."

Clearly, the competitor's spark is burning bright inside. Ask Calnan about her golden skate in Oberstdorf, and she frets about the one fall that marred her performance.

"I didn't skate as well as I did at nationals (in Ottawa in April)," she said. "I came off the ice disappointed because I fell on one jump. It took the perfect feeling away."

But then Calnan saw her score -- 36.23 points, an improvement over her winning total in 2005 and the top score among all the adult women's categories (which included skaters 12 years her junior).

"I was really, really happy about that," said Calnan, who called her program "twice as difficult as last year."

Improved spins and spirals helped make the difference -- she didn't even need the double Axel she'd mastered before heading for Europe. Add it all up, and Calnan, who won by less than a point in 2005, earned a 5.28-point margin over silver medallist Elizabeth McGlauflin of the U.S.

The pairs gold was almost equally convincing. Calnan and Vachon were 3.14 points better than Americans Kim Sailer and David Garbert. Not too shabby for a duo that just started doing overhead lifts in mid-April.

"We had a great skate in pairs," said Calnan. "Neither of us did pairs as a kid ... but when we got the (overhead) lifts, we knew we could float for the rest of it."

Canada sent 15 skaters to the event -- triple the size of the group that went a year ago -- and they arrived wearing sweaters and pins provided by Skate Canada. They came home with seven medals (three gold, one silver and three bronze) in all.

Former world champion Donald Jackson, the executive director of skating at the Minto Skating Club, accompanied the group as team leader.

"We definitely benefited from him being there," said Calnan.

Yes, this is getting to be a bigger deal. Calnan noticed "significant improvement" in the quality of skating at the competition. And whispers were in the air that soon, the ISU will require skaters to qualify by country for a spot in the field.

Jan Calnan intends to keep growing right along with it all. Her renaissance as a competitive skater, you see, is anything but complete.

GYM DANDY EVENT: The Gymelites Club of Gatineau will be the hosts for the Pan American gymnastics championships, which are set for Aug. 25-27 at the Palais des Congres. It's the first time Canada has held a Pan Am senior or junior gym meet. Some 15 countries are expected to send athletes to the meet, which was last held in 2004 in El Salvador. A selection camp for the Canadian team will be held Aug. 16-20 in Laval, Que. The Gymelites' Catherine Dion, who was fourth on balance beam and eighth overall at the recent Canadian junior championships, hopes to make the cut for the squad. "I guess my vacation will have to wait," Dion said at a press conference earlier this week. "For the next 21/2 months, I plan to work extremely hard and polish and improve my routines so I can make the team."

WHITEWATER WONDERS: Ottawa paddlers snagged five of nine Canadian team berths for the world junior whitewater slalom championships, set for July 8-9 in Slovenia. Following national trials in Kananaskis, Alta., Ottawa River Runners athletes -- Julian Potvin of Chelsea, Cameron Smedley of Dunrobin and Ottawa's Spencer Pomeroy -- earned all three men's C-1 positions on the team. The Ottawa area will also be represented by Katrina Van Wijk and Kathleen Tayler in women's K-1. In addition, local paddlers Andrew Schissler, Michael Tayler, Ian Williams, Thea Froelich and Alison Gifford were named to the provincial team for Ontario junior development races in B.C., Alberta and Washington later this summer.

AROUND THE AMATEUR SCENE: The Hillcrest Hawks completed an unbeaten junior boys high school rugby season by routing the Bell Bruins 45-15 in the National Capital final ... Ottawa's Fern Hill School was recently named the grand prize winner of the Canadian Olympic school program.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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