Judge and Tkacheva Make Most Of Maiden Junior Grand Prix

Irish skaters Dillon Judge and Sophia Tkacheva have concluded their ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating debuts finishing 21st and 25th in their respective categories in Kosice, Slovakia.

Judge took to the ice at the Steel Arena on Day One of the event in the Men’s Short Programme. Skating to “Mack the Knife” performed by Bobby Darin, he attempted a triple Salchow-double toe loop combination, a double Axel and a triple flip. Despite a mishap on a flying sit spin, he managed to earn a new personal best score of 34.52 points leaving him in 22nd place overnight.

The following day, Judge was back to skate in the Free Skating segment of the competition. He opened with a triple Salchow-double toe loop combination, a double Axel and this time round successfully completed a flying sit spin. He also included solo triple Salchow and second double Axel attempts as well as two other jump combinations in his routine to a medley of songs by Jamie Callum. He scored another personal best of 62.99 points for the free to give him a total of 97.51 points to move up one spot in the overall standings.

“It was great being surrounded by some of the best Junior skaters in the world,” Judge said. “It gave me the opportunity to see how they perform close up and take away some ideas which will help me improve. It was great being in an environment where everyone was passionate about ice skating.

“I have learnt from this performance that I need to work harder on elements. I lost some significant points due to small errors. Using the feedback received from the judges, my coach Margaret and I will use this to help improve for my next performance.”

Tkacheva made her Junior Grand Prix debut in the Women’s Short Programme on the evening of Day One. She began her programme with a double Axel and a double Lutz-double toe loop jump combination. Both a flying sit spin and a change foot combination spin were graded Level 4 by the technical panel. She received a new personal best score of 32.00 points which saw her in 25th place at the midway stage of the competition.

After a day’s break between the short and free, Tkacheva returned to the ice on Day Three. Performing to “Voila” by Barbara Pravi, she attempted three jump combinations in her routine as well as a double Axel. She once again secured Level 4 for a change foot combination spin and posted another personal best score of 49.07 points for the free. She finished with a total of 81.07 points.

“My experience at my first JGP was unforgettable,” Tkacheva said. “I made some mistakes which gives me something to work on for the rest of the season. The atmosphere of the Grand Prix was incredible and being able to participate in a competition where people come from all over the world is something I will always remember.

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens to go for every element and to learn from any mistakes. It’s also very important to enjoy the experience of being at a competition like the JGP.”

Performance Videos

Dillon Judge Short Programme

Dillon Judge Free Skating

Sophia Tkacheva Short Programme

Sophia Tkacheva Free Skating

Stakelum Selected For Beijing Olympics Figure Skating Qualifier

Conor Stakelum (28) has been selected by the Board of Directors of the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) to represent Ireland at this season’s Nebelhorn Trophy (22-25 September) in Oberstdorf, Germany, the final qualifying competition in figure skating for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games.

Stakelum last competed internationally at the European Figure Skating Championships held pre-pandemic in January 2020 and is relishing the opportunity to get back out onto the ice.

“I am very happy to have been selected to compete at the Nebelhorn Trophy,” he said. “I have worked very hard in the absence of competitions over the last year to improve my skating, increase the difficulty of my programmes and to be ready to compete when the chance came. I’m glad that the ISAI board have recognised this and I’m excited to have to opportunity to compete again!”

This will be the Dubliner’s third attempt at Olympic qualification. His two previous tries in 2013 and 2017 provided him with invaluable experience that he hopes to put to good use this time round.

“I learn from every competition I have competed in,” Stakelum said. “The most important thing I remind myself of at these types of events is to focus on my own performances which is all I can control and to enjoy the opportunity.”

The five-time Irish national champion will also be debuting two new programmes in Germany, one of which will have a particularly Irish flavour.

“My short programme is set to a piece of music called ‘Soulseeker’ by Thomas Bergersen. It is a powerful cinematic piece of music which I think suits my style of skating well.

“My free programme is to ‘Riverdance’. Obviously, this is a very well-known piece of music which many people enjoy. I have always wanted to do a programme with an Irish theme so I am glad to be doing so this season.”

Beyond the Olympic qualifier, Stakelum is looking to a more normal season ahead and breaking new ground in terms of his own skating.

“My goals for the season are to enjoy every event I get the opportunity to compete in after such a long time with no competitions. I would also like to show the improvements I have made and hopefully score some personal bests.”

Stakelum will be competing in Germany against athletes from 25 other countries to secure one of the seven remaining places in the men’s event at the Beijing Olympics.

Judge And Tkacheva Line Up For Junior Grand Prix Debut

This week will finally mark the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating debuts for Dillon Judge (17) and Sophia Tkacheva (15) when they take to the ice at the Steel Arena in Kosice, Slovakia. They were also selected to represent Ireland last year in the series which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both skaters will compete tomorrow (2 September) in the first part of their respective events. In the morning, Judge is scheduled to perform at 11:38 Irish time in the Men’s Short Programme. Tkacheva will be in action later in the Women’s Short Programme at 18:54 Irish time. The Men’s Free Skating will take place on Friday afternoon (3 September), while the Women’s Free Skating will be held on Saturday afternoon (4 September)

Judge is looking forward to being back out on competitive ice again this week after the long break due to the pandemic.

“I want to give the best performance possible and improve on my Short and Free Programme scores from my last international competitions.”

For Tkacheva, preparations for this season have not been ideal due to the ever-changing restrictions, but she is hopeful that the competition will go well.

“I have been working very hard with my coaches for the last couple of months and I will present my new free programme.”

The ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series features skaters aged 13 to 19 (21 for male Ice Dance and Pair Skating partners) from all over the world. The 2021/2022 season marks the 24th edition of the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating that was introduced in 1997. This season more than 300 skaters from over 50 different nations are expected to compete in the series.

This week’s Junior Grand Prix in Kosice, Slovakia will be broadcast live on the ISU’s dedicated YouTube channel. Direct links for each of the segments are as follows:

Men’s Short Programme (2 September)

Women’s Short Programme (2 September)

Men’s Free Skating (3 September)

Women’s Free Skating (4 September)

The conversation about the series can also be followed by using the #JGPFigure hashtag on social media.

Junior Grand Prix Beckons For Irish Trio

After the cancellation of last season’s ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this week marks its welcome return with the first event to be held in Courchevel, France. Three Irish skaters will compete in the series this season at subsequent stages in Kosice, Slovakia (1-4 September) and Linz, Austria (6-9 October).

Dillon Judge will be the sole representative for Ireland in the men’s category this season. The 2020 Junior National champion will finally be making his Junior Grand Prix debut after missing out last season. It was a challenging year for Judge who had to adjust to the ever changing restrictions in the United Kingdom where he is based.

“While the ice rinks were closed, I worked to keep my fitness up using a cross trainer and skipping,” he said. “I carried out a lot of off ice training working on jump rotation. This was done with my coach online and also by myself at home.

“In addition, I travelled with my coach to train in Hungary so that I could get back on the ice. When the rinks in UK opened, I returned and worked hard on improving my strength and fitness and practicing my routines.”

At his two assignments in Slovakia and Austria, Judge is ready to show all that he has worked on since he last competed.

“I want to give the best competitive performance possible and better my Short and Free Programme scores attained in my last international competitions.”

Like Judge, Sophia Tkacheva will also be making her long-awaited Junior Grand Prix debut in Slovakia at the beginning of September. She is eager to get back competing after the ups and downs and interruptions of the past year.

“I was very disappointed to hear that the JGP got cancelled last year as I trained a lot and was well prepared,” Tkacheva said. “This season is quite different. I had a long break since the country went under a lockdown and the ice rink was closed for almost six months. I did plenty of in-line skating but it is certainly not the same. I found it tough to stay off the ice for so long and I’m so happy to be back!

“I regret I haven’t gotten more time to get ready for my first JGP,  but I have been working very hard with my coaches for the last couple of months and I will present my new free programme. I will do my best and fingers crossed I will perform well.”

Tkacheva is looking forward to a return to normality this season so she can continue working on her technical progression.

“This season I will continue to work on my triple jumps. I hope there will be no more restrictions and my training schedule will not be affected as much as last season.”

Elizabeth Golding is the veteran of the trio with previous Junior Grand Prix experience in 2018 and 2019. She is eager to show what she has been practicing during the off season and will appear in the Junior Grand Prix in Austria in early October.

“In terms of my skating, I have been working on improving the quality of my programmes, working on getting those levels on my spins and step sequences, as well as adding choreography,” Golding said. “I have also been working hard on my triple jumps, and attempting to add them in my programmes.

“My goals for the JGP this year are to perform cleanly (with regard to spins, step sequences and transitions) and to show good attempts of the new triple jumps I have learnt this year, as well as get the minimum scores for Worlds.”

More than anything else, Golding is looking forward to getting back on the ice and compete.

“I am going to try to just enjoy myself!”

The ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series features skaters aged 13 to 19 (21 for male Ice Dance and Pair Skating partners) from all over the world. The 2021/2022 season marks the 24th edition of the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating that was introduced in 1997. This season more than 300 skaters from over 50 different nations are expected to compete in the series.

The first of the seven stages will be held this week with live coverage available on the ISU’s dedicated YouTube channel. The conversation about the series can also be followed by using the #JGPFigure hashtag on social media.

Six Speed Skaters Named To 2021/2022 ISAI National Team

The Board of Directors of the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) have selected six speed skaters to the ISAI National Team for the 2021/2022 season.

The following ISAI members have been chosen to represent Ireland on the international stage at International Skating Union (ISU) events::

Short Track Speed Skating

Ryan McAnuff
Sean McAnuff
Liam O’Brien

Speed Skating

Tara Donoghue
Rory McCarthy
Siún Ní Dhúgáin

 

Ryan McAnuff has been selected to the National Team for the sixth consecutive season. At the 2020 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, he finished in 34th place overall. He is currently studying medicine at the University of Limerick.

“I am very excited to once again be named to the Irish Short Track Speed Skating team,” Ryan said. “I am excited for another season with a growing Irish team where we look to qualify for the 2022 Olympic Games.”

Sean McAnuff joins his brother Ryan on the National Team again for the sixth time in a row. He placed 35th at the 2020 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships. Since December 2020, he has been training in Budapest, Hungary.

“I feel fortunate to be able to prepare for the Olympic year with Team Hungary, one of the best teams in the world, ” Sean said. “This opportunity has encouraged me to really have fun in the preparation process, and work harder than ever so that I can be the most well-rounded athlete possible. My goals are not only to succeed in my performance on the ice, but to see growth in my attitude, my perspectives, and discovery of what my definition of success looks like in my sport. It can be so easy to get caught up in thinking about the Olympic Qualifiers each day, so I am working hard to stay focused on living in the moment, celebrating my daily successes, and taking in the enjoyment of this season of life.”

Liam O’Brien has been selected for the Irish national team for the third time. Earlier this year, he finished 25th at European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Gdansk, Poland and 29th at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He currently trains in Seongnam, Republic of Korea.

“I am looking forward to racing again this season,” O’Brien said. “The focus is to be competitive at the World Cups, with the end goal being Beijing at the beginning of 2022.”

Tara Donoghue placed 11th in the Mass Start race at the 2020 World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, the best result ever by an Irish ice skater at an ISU Championships. In 2019, she also became the first ice skater to earn a spot for Ireland at the Winter Youth Olympic Games which she was unfortunately unable to use due to age restrictions.

“My goals for the upcoming season are to qualify for the Senior World Cups in the 3000 metres and mass start,” Donoghue said. “From there on the ultimate goal would be qualification for the Beijing 2022 Olympics.”

Rory McCarthy was the first male long track speed skater to be named to the National Team in 2020. Based in the Netherlands, his favourite distance is the 500 metres.

“For the coming season, I hope to enjoy getting back to competition and seeing how far I can push myself,” McCarthy said.

Siún Ní Dhúgáin was also selected to the National Team for the first time in 2020. In July 2019, she participated in the “Road to Ice” training camp at Thialf Academy in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

You can find out more about our national team members here.

Eight Figure Skaters For 2021/2022 National Team

The Board of Directors of the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) have selected eight figure skaters to the ISAI National Team for the 2021/2022 season.

The following ISAI members have been chosen to represent Ireland on the international stage at International Skating Union (ISU) events:

Senior Men – Sam McAllister

Senior Men – Conor Stakelum

Junior Ladies – Adare Condon

Junior Ladies – Dracy Condon

Junior Ladies – Robyn Foster

Junior Ladies – Elizabeth Golding

Junior Ladies – Sophia Tkacheva

Junior Men – Dillon Judge

Sam McAllister is the 2019 and 2020 Senior National champion. From Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, he is coached by Margaret O’Neill in Nottingham and Sheffield, England. This will be his sixth season as a National Team member.

“My goals for this season are to finally show my new programmes at an ISU event and get back to safely competing,” McAllister said.

Conor Stakelum is a five-time Senior National champion. A native of Dublin, he trains in Dundee, Scotland with Simon and Debi Briggs. He represented Ireland at three consecutive European Championships (2018-2020).

“My goal for this season is to enjoy the opportunity to get back out there and compete and to show the improvements I have made with the extra time to train this past year,” Stakelum said.

Adare Condon placed fourth in the Junior Ladies event at the 2020 Irish Figure Skating Championships. She trains under Megan Doyle and Tracy Doyle in Elmsford, New York. This is her second season as a member of the Irish National team.

“After a year of being fortunate to continue my training but not competing, my goals for this season are to be able to travel and successfully compete internationally for Ireland,” Adare said. “I plan on including a lot of creative choreography and triple jumps and combinations into my new programmes.”

Dracy Condon is the Junior Ladies bronze medallist at the 2020 Irish Figure Skating Championships. She practices alongside her sister in New York City and is also named for a second season as a member of the Irish National team.

“My goals for this upcoming season are to continue to train hard and improve upon all facets of my skating and make it to the podium as much as possible,” Dracy said. “I want to skate faster, with more strength, and to improve upon my presence on the ice. I’m looking forward to performing well to the new music (excerpts from the Phantom of the Opera) I’ve selected for this upcoming season.”

Robyn Foster trains in Coventry, England under Marina Serova and this will be her second season on the Irish National team.

“I want to become a well rounded skater,” Foster said. “I want to work on the consistency of my triples and keep enjoying my training.”

Elizabeth Golding finished second in the Junior Ladies event at the 2020 Irish Figure Skating Championships. She divides her training time between Dubai, United Arab Emirates and Moscow, Russia. In 2019, she represented Ireland at ISU Junior Grand Prix events in Latvia and Italy.

Sophia Tkacheva is the 2020 Irish Figure Skating Championships Junior Ladies champion. From Gorey, County Wexford, she trains on ice in Northern Ireland and Minsk, Belarus. This is her third season on the ISAI National Team.

“In this season, I hope to achieve consistency in my triple jumps and improve my other elements,” Tkacheva said. “I’m looking forward to having a new free programme and I do hope that nothing will get in the way of my training and competitions this season!”

Dillon Judge won the Junior Men’s national title at the Irish Figure Skating Championships in 2020. Born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, he trains in Sheffield, England.

You can learn more about our national team members here.

O’Brien Receives Beijing 2022 Individual Performance Support Award

Irish short track speed skater Liam O’Brien (22) has been accepted to the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) Beijing 2022 Individual Performance Support programme.

In partnership with the Sport Ireland Institute, the OFI will be providing O’Brien with virtual strength and conditioning assessments, nutritional and psychology consultations in the build-up to next February’s Beijing 2022 Olympic Games.

In March this year, O’Brien finished in 29th place overall at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands. This was the highest placement for an Irish skater in the history of the event.

“The OFI and ISAI have been of great support to me in my preparations for the upcoming season,” O’Brien said. “I am delighted to be granted the Beijing 2022 Individual Performance Support Award and this will assist me tremendously for the competition season ahead and Olympic qualifications.”

O’Brien Cracks Top 30 At Short Track Worlds

Irish short track speed skater Liam O’Brien (22) has finished in 29th place overall on his debut at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Dordrecht, The Netherlands (5-7 March).

O’Brien raced six times over the course of the three days of the championships inside the Optisport Sportboulevard Arena where comprehensive testing, hygiene and social distancing protocols were in place in accordance with the Guidelines for ISU Events during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

On Day One, he took part in the qualifying rounds for three distances. He was drawn in Heat 2 of the 1500 metres quarterfinals and came fourth in a time of 2:26.068. The 500 metres heats saw him come fourth in Heat 8 with a time of 43.799 after tripping slightly at the start of the race. His last event of the opening day of competition was the 1000 metres heats where he clocked a new personal best time of 1:28.144 in Heat 5 to finish fifth.

The following day O’Brien was back on the ice for two ranking finals. The first race was the 1500 metres in which he came fourth in a drama-filled Heat 3 with a time of 2:39.298 to finish 25th overall in that distance. He came second in Heat 3 of the 500 metres with a time of 43.245 to place 32nd overall for the distance.

O’Brien wrapped up on the final day with the ranking final for the 1000 metres where he notched up another personal best time of 1:27.564 in Heat 2. He placed 33rd in the distance which gave him an overall championship classification of 29th. This is the highest placement ever by an Irish short track speed skater in the history of the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships.

In addition, O’Brien’s overall ranking well inside the Top 32 means that he has secured two spots for Ireland in the men’s category at the 2022 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships which will be held in Montréal, Canada.

“I’m happy with the end result,” O’Brien said. “It was a different level of competitiveness out there this weekend compared to the European Championships and I felt the nerves on Friday, making mistakes that may have cost qualification into the main event.

“I was able to calm down my nerves on Saturday and compete in the ranking finals so I am happy with the progression. I am looking forward to building on that over the coming months and be back out there racing next season.”

O’Brien Lines Up For Short Track Worlds

Liam O’Brien (22) is back flying the flag for Ireland this weekend as he makes his debut at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Dordrecht, The Netherlands (5-7 March).

The championships are being held in accordance with the Guidelines for International Skating Union (ISU) Events during the COVID-19 Pandemic with comprehensive testing, hygiene and social distancing protocols in place.

O’Brien will be among over 115 athletes from 29 countries participating in the annual event. He will first race on Friday (5 March) in the qualifying rounds for the 500, 1000 and 1500 metre distances with further rounds taking place over the following two days.

In January, O’Brien placed 25th overall at the European Short Track Speed Skating Championships, the highest finish by an Irish short track speed skater at an ISU Championship.

“I am excited to get out there and race again this weekend,” O’Brien said. “The Dutch federation and the ISU have done a great job at organising the event and keeping the athletes and staff safe during difficult times. It will be a strong competitive field and the racing should be entertaining!”

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championships will be broadcast online in Ireland on the Eurosport Player (paid subscription required). O’Brien’s first event begins tomorrow (5 March) from 1:20pm (Irish time).

The results of the championships can be followed on the event results page and on social media via the #WorldShortTrack and #ShortTrackSkating hashtags.

O’Brien Selected For Short Track Worlds

The Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) has chosen Liam O’Brien to represent Ireland at the 2021 World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Dordrecht, the Netherlands next month with Sean McAnuff named as substitute.

O’Brien made his debut at an ISU Championships last month at Europeans in Gdansk, Poland where he placed 25th overall, the best ever finish for an Irish short track speed skater at the event.

“I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to represent Ireland again at my first World Championships in the Netherlands,” O’Brien said. “I learnt a lot from my experience at the European Championships and hope to build off my performance and have a strong competition.”

The World Short Track Speed Skating Championship will take place 5-7 March 2021.