Good thing Cole Vandervelden is used to skating in front of crowds.
He had a big cheering section yesterday during the BMO Skate Canada junior nationals at the Western Fair Sports Centre.
"It was something like 40-strong," the novice men's singles skater said.
Vandervelden grew up in London before moving to St. Albert, Alta., 4 1/2 years ago. He skates out of the Ice Palace Figure Skating Club, which is housed in the massive West Edmonton Mall.
"People are always walking by and stopping to watch some of our practices," he said.
On their way to buy a pair of jeans at The Gap or a coffee at Tim Hortons or check out the sea lion exhibit, they often pause to watch the on-ice action.
"It's warm in there. I didn't move there for skating. My dad was offered a job in St. Albert (right near Edmonton), but I was blessed that we moved to a place that had great coaching.
"My skating really took off when I went out there."
And it nearly landed the former London Skating Club member a novice podium spot yesterday.
Vandervelden finished fourth with 96.03 points after turning in the third-best free skate on the day. B.C.'s Jordan Ju won with 117.35 points ahead of Quebec's Samuel Angers (99.38) and Stirling's Peter O'Brien (98.60).
"And now, I'll be heading to my first season of junior next year," Vandervelden said. "My goal is to be in the top five or 10. That means you're on track. That would mean a lot."
"It's so big," Vandervelden said. "It's not what I was used to. But I had a great time. I got to see a lot of people I hadn't in a while and I felt so fortunate Skate Canada held the senior and junior nationals together this year.
"Otherwise, the juniors would've been somewhere else."
With his competition done, he'll now watch how the big boys prepare for the senior ranks.
He's been in the John Labatt Centre crowd -- though not yet a teen -- when the senior nationals were here five years ago.
"I remember we had tickets and as soon as we showed up to our seats, Patrick Chan (then a junior) was on the ice skating."
Is Chan -- defending men's champ -- ready to go in tomorrow night's short program and beyond to Vancouver? "That's a loaded question," Vandervelden said. "I sure hope he is."
When they were juniors, Chan and Kevin Reynolds were the young men to watch. These days, it's B.C.'s Nam Nguyen, the head-spinning 11-year-old who's fourth heading into the men's free skate today at 11:45 a.m. He's worth the price of admission.
And so are the energetic brother-sister dance duo Edrea and Edbert Khong, who skated an exhibition during the final installment of Battle of the Blades.
The Khongs were originally tabbed kings of the novice dance yesterday with 88.84 points. But a scoring error against Kelly Oliveira and Jordan Hockley was later resolved and bumped the Scarborough couple ahead of the Khongs with 89.31 points.
Edbert Khong had to finish up his free dance with his sister, then quickly prepare for his novice single's competition right afterward. He finished eighth.
The junior nationals wrap up today at Western Fair.
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CANADIAN FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS
At the John Labatt Centre
Today: Compulsory dance, 6 p.m.
Tomorrow: Women's short program, 9:55 a.m.; pairs' short, 12:55 p.m.; original dance, 4:55 p.m.; men's short, 7:25 p.m.
Saturday: Pairs' free skate, 11:30 a.m.; women's free, 3 p.m.; free dance, 7 p.m.
Sunday: Men's free, 4 p.m.
Tickets: All-event package, $125-150, plus tax. Online at johnlabattcentre.com, by phone at 1-866-455-2849 or in person at the JLC box office.
At the Western Fair Sports Centre
Today: Junior dance free, 9:25 a.m.; junior men free, 11:45 a.m.; junior women free, 5 p.m.; junior pair free, 8 p.m.