Cross-border skating

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:49 AM ET

The young Manitoban skated out of almost nowhere to shine in the spotlight in Saskatoon last week.

In only her second major competition, Kate Charbonneau earned a gold medal in junior women's singles at the Canadian figure skating championships, scoring 120.41 points.

Charbonneau's only previous competition was the Western qualifier where she earned a silver medal.

"I'm definitely drained but it's been a great week," Charbonneau said when reached in Saskatoon on Saturday. "Winning the gold was really a surprise. Actually, I still can't believe it. It's just been so wonderful the last few days. It's really something."

So is she. Charbonneau is only 15 and has been commuting to Manitoba from her home in Minneapolis to compete in meets for the past 11 years. But that has not hampered her development, obviously.

"It's not a problem and we go back and forth a lot," she said.

Charbonneau, whose mother, Lorie, coaches her, was fifth after the short program. But her free skate score of 79.39 -- the highest of the competition -- vaulted her to the top.

"It was so much fun," Charbonneau told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix after the most impressive performance of her young career. "I can't explain it. I've never enjoyed skating so much before. Even when I fell on my flying sit, I was like, 'Whatever,' and I just kept going. I've never done anything like this before. It was just really exciting and really fun."

Ontario's Rylie McCulloch-Casarsa, who had won the Western qualifier, finished third with 114.82 points. B.C.'s Cambria Little took the silver with 119.18.

"I improved, definitely," Charbonneau said. "I was just more focused and knew what I had to do. I just had to have a better skate, which I did. I just learned how to focus and better pace myself."

Her best moves are the triple Lutz and the lay-back spin.

"This is definitely going to give me some confidence and I just love to skate," said Charbonneau, who started when she was three.

Now, she is waiting word to see if she cracked the national junior team.

"Me winning here definitely gives me a better chance," said the Grade 10 student who boasts an A academic average. "I'm hoping to go to the Junior Worlds in Sofia, Bulgaria in March.

"If not, I've got to get a new pair of skates because the ones I have now are pretty beat up. They are really broken down."

But whether or not she makes the grade this year, Charbonneau is hoping to strut her stuff on Olympic ice some day soon.

"I'm hoping to go to the Olympics in 2010 (Vancouver)," she said ambitiously. "If not, I will try for 2014."

Charbonneau, who won the Minnesota state junior title last year, comes by her skating talent honestly. Her mother is a former competitive figure skater and her father, Danny, played hockey competitively. In fact, both her brother and sister play hockey.

But Charbonneau prefers the jumps and Axels to pucks and sticks.

"It's just so different than any other sport I've tried," she said. "It's just so much fun, I can't explain it. But I wouldn't trade it for any other sport."


Videos

Photos