Despite Junior Grand Prix Being Put On Ice, Irish Figure Skaters Look Ahead

This week was due to see the start of the 2020/2021 ISU (International Skating Union) Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating, but the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has put paid to these competitions being held this season. Three Irish national team members selected to represent Ireland in the series are among the hundreds of figure skaters from all over the world affected by the cancellation.

Originally inaugurated in 1997, Ireland made its series debut in 2008 when Clara Peters competed at the Czech Skate Junior Grand Prix in Ostrava, Czech Republic. In fact, this marked the first appearance of an Irish ice skater at any international competition. Since then, Irish skaters who have participated at Junior Grand Prix events have gone on to compete at Junior World, European and World Figure Skating Championships.

This season three skaters – Elizabeth Golding, Dillon Judge and Sophia Tkacheva – had been chosen by the Ice Skating Association of Ireland board of directors to take part in the series.

Judge and Tkacheva would have been making their Junior Grand Prix debut and both skaters were looking forward to flying the flag for Ireland at their respective events.

“When I got the email informing me that I was selected to represent Ireland at a Junior Grand Prix I was really excited,” Judge said.  “I knew my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Dublin would know and they would be expecting me to do the best for Ireland. I now had to ensure that the training I was doing resulted in the best performance.”

“I was delighted and honoured to be chosen to represent Ireland at such a big international event,” Tkacheva said.

On the other hand, this was the third season in which Golding was assigned a Junior Grand Prix event and she was looking forward to demonstrating her growth as a skater.

“It was a great privilege to be selected once again to represent Ireland on the Junior Grand Prix series, as I was excited to show all the new elements and new programs I have worked on in Russia over the past few months,” Golding said.

However, on 20 July the ISU announced that, due to COVID-19, this year’s series would be cancelled. After scrambling to arrange ice time because of the restrictions on the opening of training facilities and travel to various jurisdictions, the news came as somewhat of a let down following the excitement of being selected.

“I was disappointed, of course,” Tkacheva said. “We put so much effort in arranging my skating practice this summer. My mum was constantly in contact with embassies and figure skating camp organisers as things were not clear and we were not sure if we could make it.”

“Due to Covid-19 I travelled to Flims, Switzerland to train as the rinks in the U.K. were shut and, although we had a date for them re-opening, it was too close to the first Junior Grand Prix taking place for me to get enough training,” Judge said. “I was in Switzerland when I found out the Junior Grand Prix had been cancelled. I was absolutely gutted and very disappointed.”

“I felt disappointed, but I didn’t allow it to get to me as I know I have many new competitions ahead of me in the upcoming season where I will have a chance to perform and make Ireland proud,” Golding said putting a positive spin on things. “On the other hand, I felt a bit relieved. I was worried that I wouldn’t perform to my best ability due to the coronavirus situation as I only started training again on the ice in June.”

Over the summer months, all of the skaters have been toiling away on and off the ice despite the uncertainties they have faced.

“I was lucky to attend two figure skating camps in the Czech republic in July, where I had worked on my skating skills, jumps and spins,” Tkacheva said. “There were classic choreography and gymnastics classes. In addition, I spent two weeks in Minsk, Belarus in the Olympic figure skating school where I focused more on my programmes.”

“Whilst in Switzerland, I attended a training camp where I worked on skating skills and jumps,” Judge said. “I also used the patch ice as much as possible to hone my routines and practice. In the months prior to travelling to Switzerland with the rinks closed, I carried a lot training by myself and participated in a number of online classes including those put on by the ISU. I also had lessons with my coach online twice a week.”

“I have been working hard on my triple jumps, particularly triple flip and Lutz, as these are my favourites as well as the highest scoring jumps,” Golding said. “I am especially proud that I am able to practice all my triple jumps to my full potential as I have been working with a sports psychologist who has helped me get over my fear of doing certain jumps. Off the ice I have been working on my power and rotation position in my jumps, as well as training my endurance and stamina through circuit training, plyometric training and jogging every evening.”

With the Junior Grand Prix off the table for this season this least, all three skaters are looking ahead with other goals in mind.

“I want to work more on my triple jumps now, to improve my technique, and spend more time on stretching as this is the key for nice spins,” Tkacheva said. “I hope COVID restrictions will be eased soon, and I will be able to train as usual, and hopefully travel to Slovakia for intense practice in October.”

“My parents and I are also monitoring the COVID-19 situation to see if there are any competitions in safe countries going to take place,” Judge said. “I am also looking for other opportunities to attend training camps. Apart from that my coach and I will carry on with our normal training schedule.”

“My plans for the rest of the season are simple- train hard every day to finally get my triple jumps, and practice my new free programme and my old short programme, which now contains a triple lutz in it,” Golding said.

 

ISAI Communication No.7

The Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) wishes to inform its members of the decision by the Board to remove Basic Novice and Intermediate Novice from the Irish National Figure Skating Championships.

ISAI Communication No.7  can be read in full at the link below.

Useful Downloads

ISAI Communication No.7

Section 400 – Officials

Section 700 – Competitions

Section 800 – National Selection

Seven Speed Skaters Selected To 2020/2021 ISAI National Team

The Board of Directors of the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) have selected seven speed skaters to the ISAI National Team for the 2020/2021 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
Ava Ryan

Speed Skating

Tara Donoghue
Rory McCarthy
Siún Ní Dhúgáin

 

Ryan McAnuff has been selected to the National Team for the fifth consecutive season. At the 2020 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Debrecen, Hungary, he finished in 34th place overall with a career best individual placing of 24th in the 1000 metres. He is currently studying medicine at the University of Limerick.

Sean McAnuff joins his brother Ryan on the National Team for the fifth time in a row. He placed 35th at the 2020 European Short Track Speed Skating Championships with a personal best individual finish of 25th in the 1500 metres.

Liam O’Brien has been selected for the Irish national team for the second time. He currently trains in Seongnam, Republic of Korea under the tutelage of Lee Kwang Soo.

Ava Ryan became the first female short track speed skater to be named to represent Ireland at an ISU Championships in January 2020. She set three national records in her World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships debut. She trains under Simon Cho, 2010 Olympic medallist, at the Potomac Speed Skating Club in Maryland, United States of America.

Tara Donoghue placed 11th in the Mass Start and 18th in the 3000 metres at the 2020 World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, the best results ever by an Irish ice skater at an ISU Championships. Earlier in the season, she also became the first ice skater to earn a spot for Ireland at the Winter Youth Olympic Games.

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

Siún Ní Dhúgáin has also been selected to the National Team for the first time. 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 Named To 2020/2021 ISAI 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 2020/2021 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 retained his Senior National title in February this year. From Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, he is coached by Margaret O’Neill in Nottingham and Sheffield, England. This will be his fifth season as a National Team member.

Conor Stakelum is a five-time Senior National champion. A native of Dublin, he trains in Dundee, Scotland with Simon and Debi Briggs. He finished 34th at this year’s European Figure Skating Championships in Graz, Austria.

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 first season as a member of the Irish National team.

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 a debut member of the Irish National team.

Robyn Foster competed at the 2020 Irish Figure Skating Championships in February for the first time, but had to withdraw due to injury after the short programme. She trains in Coventry, England under Marina Serova and this will be her first season skating for Ireland.

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 second season on the ISAI National Team.

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

You can learn more about our national team members here.

New Directors Join ISAI Board

The Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) is pleased to announce that Odhrán Allen and Clara Peters have joined the ISAI Board of Directors with immediate effect.

Odhrán Allen is a member of the ISAI Figure Skating Technical Committee and qualified as an International Judge with the International Skating Union (ISU) in 2017. He is an occupational therapist and currently works as Chief Strategy Officer with the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland.

“I am honoured to have joined the ISAI Board and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the running and administration of the Association,” Allen said. “I am passionate about ice skating and look forward to playing my part in supporting the national federation to sustain and grow the sport in Ireland.”

In 2008 Clara Peters was the first ice skater to represent Ireland in international competition. She is a seven-time national champion and competed four times at both the European and World Figure Skating Championships. She qualified as a National Technical Specialist in 2019.

“After many years competing on the international stage, I am excited to be back working with the grassroots of Irish skating and growing the passion for ice at home,” Peters said.

Allen and Peters were co-opted to the ISAI Board in line with the ISAI Constitution to assist with the workload of the Association. Both will stand for election at the 2021 ISAI Annual General Meeting (AGM).

 

Tara Donoghue Awarded ISU Scholarship

Irish speed skater Tara Donoghue is to receive an ISU (International Skating Union) Development Programme Junior Scholarship.

The scholarship is given to young skaters of outstanding talent from developing members federations. Athletes are deemed eligible to be considered for the scholarship based on their participation in international competition. The number of scholarships dispensed each year is limited. Donoghue is set to be awarded a scholarship worth 4,500 Swiss Francs.

Donoghue trains under Baanselectie Haarlem coaches Peter van der Rol Brouwer, Manon Spruit and Bart Vreugdehil at the Ijsclub Haarlem in the Netherlands. In February 2020, she became the first skater representing Ireland to finish in the Top 15 at an ISU Championships event when she placed 11th in the Mass Start race at the Junior World Championships in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland. She is only the second athlete from Ireland to be awarded an ISU Junior Scholarship.

“I am extremely honoured to be granted the funding,” Donoghue said. “It shows that my progress and hard work over the past few years as well as my potential for the coming seasons have been recognised. It is also great that the ISU supports skaters from a small country like Ireland.

“I will be able to use the funding for additional training camps, equipment and further competitive opportunities abroad over the course of the next two seasons. This should hopefully increase my performance levels and put me in a position to qualify to represent Ireland at a future Winter Olympics.

“Lastly, I would like to thank ISAI (Ice Skating Association of Ireland) President Karen O’Sullivan and the board for putting me forward for the scholarship and helping me with the funding application and to the ISU for the confidence they have shown in my abilities.”

 

 

New Irish Championships Medals Finally Deliver Their Reward

While this season’s Irish Figure Skating Championships were successfully held at the end of February only a few short weeks before the current restrictions in place on social distancing and movement in Ireland came into effect, even then the impact of the current global health crisis was being felt by the sport here.

New medals for Irish championships in all ice skating disciplines had been designed, commissioned and manufactured earlier this season. There was just one issue. Shipment of the medals from China had been delayed due to the grave situation surrounding the pandemic there at that time. Nevertheless, the show went on with the understanding that the medallists in each of the five categories would receive their physical accolades at a later date.

Over two months have passed since the championships and most of the skaters have now received their medals, but they have also seen their training curtailed to a significant degree with rinks all over the world closed temporarily.

Sam McAllister captured his second senior national title in a row back in February and is spending this period of isolation at home in Nottingham, United Kingdom with his mother and coach Margaret O’Neill and cat Sasha. He is keeping himself well-occupied.

“I keep in contact with my beautiful girlfriend every day through Facetime and messaging.

“I have set myself a schedule for my off-ice and I am making sure to stay fit and healthy to be ready for my return to the ice. I have also learnt how to do a back flip in this time so maybe we can try that on the ice when we return.

“Once this is all over, I will be at the rink and working super hard to make up for lost time in training.”

The most competitive category at this year’s championships was the Junior Ladies event. Sophia Tkacheva claimed the gold medal in the end and she, along with sister Justina who won the Basic Novice title, are in lock down at home in Gorey, County Wexford like everyone else in Ireland. They are combining their school studies with off-ice training involving running, jumping, roller skating and online stretching and conditioning classes with a gymnastics coach.

“We miss our teachers and coaches, doing our programs, learning new spins and jumps – all these thing we can’t do today.

“When this strange time is over, we will try to squeeze all of our favourite things into one first week, and the first thing we will do is replace our roller skates for ice skates and go ice skating straight away.”

Junior silver medallist Elizabeth Golding is back home in Dubai, United Arab Emirates with her parents and dog Mochi. Aside from her school work, she is also busy working off-ice and keeping in shape as best she can by running, jumping and stretching. In her spare time, she is doing a little bit of painting!

Dracy Condon clinched Junior Ladies bronze just ahead of her sister Adare and they are both sheltering safely at home with their family and dog Chester in New York State, United States of America. Like other skaters, they are combining their school work with off-ice training and coaching sessions via Zoom and FaceTime.

“When the time comes, we cannot wait to get back on the ice, hearing the music from our programmes over the rink speakers, and seeing all our friends – and coaches too.”

Dillon Judge picked up his first junior title this season and is with his family and dog Frieda at their home in Doncaster, United Kingdom. He is participating in online classes for strength, flexibility, power and fitness and  practicing his rotations using a trampoline and his jump on a decking area is now where he practices his jumps. He is  also spending thirty minutes every few days walking around in his boots to make sure they keep their shape and his feet still feel comfortable wearing them.

“I am also spending a lot of time with my dog trying to train her to do some new tricks.  My success is limited but now I have had a small insight to my coaches’ frustration when they are showing me new things.”

When normality returns he wants his first outing to be to the ice rink in Sheffield where he trains and actually meeting up with his coach.

“I want to assess the impact on my skating as I have never spent more than five days away from the rink in the last five years.”

Laura Hegarty was this season’s Intermediate Novice champion and was delighted to finally receive her medal.

“It feels like I have been awarded twice!”

She is spending these past few weeks at home with her family and is exercising and concentrating on her fitness and flexibility. She is also trying to work on jumps and the new techniques that she learned this year.

“I cannot predict when the lock down will be over, but I hope to take part in summer camps if they are occurring.”

The Ice Skating Association of Ireland recognises and appreciates the efforts of all those working so hard on the front lines to keep us all safe. We also extend our sincerest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones. We look forward to seeing everyone back out on the ice in better times.

Five Titles Decided At Irish Figure Skating Championships

The 2020 Irish Figure Skating Championships concluded earlier today at the Lee Valley Ice Centre in London with titles up for grabs in five different categories over the course of the two days of competition.

Sam McAllister retained the Senior Men’s title. The Ballymoney, County Antrim skater had a shaky start in the short programme where he fell on a double Lutz-triple toe loop combination and doubled a planned triple flip, but he rallied back with a double Axel and two Level 4 spins to score 41.27 points. In contrast to the short, McAllister opened his free skating with a clean triple Lutz-double toe loop combination and went on to land a triple flip and a second triple Lutz. He earned a free score of 101.41 to give him a total of 142.68 for the gold medal.

Five-time national champion Conor Stakelum was in the lead following the short, but subsequently withdrew before the free due to illness.

There were a record number entries in the Junior Ladies category this year and Sophia Tkacheva emerged as the winner. The Gorey, County Wexford native attempted a double Axel, a double flip-double toe loop combination and a double loop in the short to earn 28.02 which put her in a close third overnight. In the free, Tkacheva opened with two jump combinations and also attempted a triple Salchow during her routine in which she amassed a score of 55.85. She finished first in the free and overall with a total of 83.87 points.

Defending champion Elizabeth Golding was leading after the short and was narrowly beaten for the title. She came second in the free to take the silver medal with a total of 83.56. In her Irish Championships debut, Dracy Condon picked up bronze as she scored 80.19 points overall.

After winning the Advanced Novice title at last year’s Irish Championships, Dillon Judge took his first Junior Men’s title with a total of 80.68 points.

On the first day of competition, Laura Hegarty won the Intermediate Novice Ladies title with a total score of 21.96.

The day before her sister became Junior Ladies champions Justina Tkacheva was the winner of the Basic Novice Ladies event with an overall score of 18.38.

Full detailed results for the 2019 Irish Figure Skating Championships are available here.

Donoghue Shines Bright At Junior Worlds

Tara Donoghue made history this weekend (21-23 February) at the ISU (International Skating Union) World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland as she raced to the highest placings ever by an Irish skater at an ISU Championships.

Donoghue qualified to compete in four events at the championships and began with the 1500 metres on the first day of racing where she recorded a time of 2:12.749 to finish 40th overall.

On the second day of competition, Donoghue started with the 1000 metres where she placed 38th in a time of 1:24.768 , just half a second off her own Irish record. The best was yet to come later on in the afternoon when she lined up for the 3000 metres. She smashed her own Irish record by a whopping nine seconds in posting a time of 4:29.549 to finish in 18th place, the best result ever by an Irish skater at an ISU Championships.

There was more to come on the final day of competition when Donoghue took to the oval for the mass start race. A collision involving a number of skaters meant a rescheduled start for the whole field and on the first points sprint Donoghue captured a point. It was to prove a decisive moment as the point helped her secure a remarkable 11th place to cap a successful weekend of racing.

“I’m really happy with my races in general, especially the 3000 metres and mass start,” Donoghue said. “I stuck to the plan I made with my coach and managed to show everyone what I’ve got. I’m not satisfied with all my performances. I would have hoped to have done better in the 1500 metres. However, I know what to work on for the coming season and I am really looking forward to training hard this summer so I can rise in the ranking next year.”

Donoghue All Set For World Juniors

This weekend Irish speed skater Tara Donoghue (18) competes for the second time at the ISU (International Skating Union) World Junior Speed Skating Championships which are taking place this year in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland (21-23 February).

Donoghue has attained the qualifying times for three individual distances at these World Junior Championships. She will race in the 1500 metres tomorrow afternoon (Friday 21 February) and in the 1000 and 3000 metres the following day (Saturday 22 February) in a field of athletes from 19 countries. She will also participate in the mass start race on Sunday 23 February.

“My goals for my races at these Junior Worlds are to set personal bests in all three distances, especially in the 3000 metres because I feel like I can definitely knock a chunk off that,” Donoghue said. “Furthermore, I want to go for as high as possible a classification in the mass start and just enjoy the experience in general.”

You can watch Donoghue race live on the ISU’s YouTube channel and also follow her progress via the event results page and the #WorldJSpeed and #SpeedSkating hashtags on social media.