Call it a dress rehearsal for skaters heading to the 2011 BMO Canadian figure skating championships and junior nationals in Victoria in two weeks.
More than 40 skaters who will attend used the John Labatt Centre Thursday for a dry run.
The simulation is something Skate Canada does every year about 10 days to two weeks ahead of the nationals, said John Briscoe, Skate Canada Western Ontario Section technical director.
The purpose “is to allow the skaters to practise and perform in a competitive atmosphere in a larger arena” that resembles the Victoria ice surface, he said.
Ice dancers Sarah Arnold of Mississauga and Justin Trojeck of Union, just south of London, said the simulation works.
“I’m feeling a little more adrenaline,” Arnold said after a morning session. “The larger rink makes us adjust our patterns, which is good practice for the nationals.”
Although getting to the top of ice dancing is going to be difficult given local Olympic gold medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the young team is setting its sights at a top five finish.
“That will get us on the national team,” Trojeck said.
Briscoe said Virtue and Moir are incredible ambassadors and “many have joined (Skate Canada) or taken up dance,” after seeing their gold medal performance last year in Vancouver.
Tourism London’s general manager John Winston said figure skating “is one of those sports tourism niche markets that’s really paid off for us.”
In 2005, when Skate Canada brought the nationals to London, the John Labatt Centre was recognized as one of the best figure skating venues in the country, he said.
In 2007, the world synchronized championship was a phenomenal success that led to the 2010 nationals and the 2013 world championships being awarded to London.
Winston estimates the worlds are worth about $25 million to London and Ontario.
Perhaps even more important may be the “awareness (of London) at a world level, with 45 countries watching with an audience of 400 million, we are welcoming the world,” he said.
Forty-four skaters who qualified during the first week of December in Mississauga are at the simulation. They range in age from 12 to 22.