McAllister Withdraws From Europeans

Sam McAllister (23) has withdrawn from the men’s event at next week’s ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia (10-16 January) due to a positive pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test.

McAllister had also been selected for the 2021 Europeans in Zagreb, Croatia which were subsequently cancelled due to the pandemic.

“I am completely devastated that my second Europeans has been stopped in its tracks due to the Covid-19 pandemic – first being cancelled and second being unable to travel after contracting the virus two days before I fly,” McAllister said.

“I will come back from this fighting harder and will aim for the World Championships now. A huge thank you to everyone that has been kind to take time out of their busy day to wish me well. I appreciate you all and good luck to Conor in Tallinn.”

McAllister will be replaced by substitute Conor Stakelum who will be competing at his fourth Europeans.

“I feel very bad for Sam, as no one wants to be unable to compete,” Stakelum said. “I wish him a speedy recovery.

“It is not how I expected it to happen, but I am excited to go to Europeans nonetheless.”

Despite Adversity Irish Ice Skating Forged Ahead In 2021

The pandemic continued to disrupt activities in 2021 both on and off the ice, but Irish ice skating has also displayed its resilience throughout the past 12 months.

In January, it was announced that unfortunately the Irish National Figure Skating Championships would not take place in 2021. At the end of the month, Liam O’Brien made his debut in an Irish racing suit at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Gdansk, Poland where he placed 25th overall. This was the highest ever placement for an Irish short track speed skater at an ISU Championships.

O’Brien raced again at the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in March in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. His overall championship classification of 29th was the highest placement ever by an Irish skater in the history of the event and also secured two spots for Ireland in the men’s category at the 2022 Championships.

In May, O’Brien was also the recipient of an Olympic Federation of Ireland Beijing 2022 Individual Performance Support award.

Eight figure skaters and six speed skaters were named to the National Team in July.

After the cancellation of the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating in 2020, Dillon Judge and Sophia Tkacheva were finally able to make their debuts in the series back in September in Kosice, Slovakia. Towards the end of the month, Conor Stakelum participated in the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, the final qualifying competition for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, where he finished 29th. An EGM and an AGM were both held virtually during the month.

Judge return to the Junior Grand Prix circuit in October where he was joined by Elizabeth Golding to compete in the final stage of the series in Linz, Austria. In the middle of the month, Sam McAllister returned to the ice for the first time in over a year and finished 11th at the Budapest Trophy in Hungary. Sean McAnuff and Liam O’Brien got to try out Olympic ice at the test event in Beijing, China which was the first of four World Cup competition to decide quota places for the Games. The Irish short track speed skaters travelled to Nagoya, Japan the following week for the second World Cup.

November began with a team of five Irish figure skaters competing at the Tayside Trophy in Dundee, Scotland. Robyn Foster made her international debut for Ireland in the Junior Women’s category where she finished seventh with Tkacheva in tenth. Judge was second in the Junior Men’s event with Stakelum and McAllister tenth and eleventh respectively in the Senior Men’s division. O’Brien was back racing in the third World Cup in Debrecen, Hungary and was joined for the fourth in Dordrecht, the Netherlands by Ryan McAnuff. At the end of the month, it was announced that sadly the Emerald Skate learn to skate courses would be postponed for a second consecutive year.

McAllister, Stakelum and Judge rounded out the year at the Santa Claus Cup in Budapest, Hungary in December. The announcement of the selection of McAllister to represent Ireland at the 2022 ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia early next year was also made during the month.

While the pandemic is still an ongoing concern as we head into the New Year and the health and safety of our members remains our priority, the ISAI is hopeful that 2022 will see a resumption of our normal activities.


McAllister Selected For 2022 Europeans

The Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) has selected Sam McAllister (23) to represent Ireland at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2022 in Tallinn, Estonia (10-16 January).

McAllister will compete in the men’s singles category at the Tondiraba Ice Hall alongside the cream of European skating talent. To qualify for the championships, each competitor had to obtain a set of minimum technical scores at International Skating Union (ISU) international competitions during previous and/or current seasons.

This is the first time the Ballymoney, County Antrim athlete will make an appearance at the European Championships. He was also selected for the 2021 European Championships, but the event was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He will become only the third Irish skater to ever participate in the prestigious championships which were first held in 1891.

“I am super excited to head to Europeans,” McAllister said. “I just want to go and enjoy my first experience and skate well for myself.”

Irish Figure Skaters Wrap Up 2021 At Santa Claus Cup

Three Irish skaters competed this week at the Santa Claus Cup in Budapest, Hungary.

Sam McAllister (23) and Conor Stakelum (28) took part in the Senior Men’s event. McAllister drew first to skate in the short programme where he opened with a triple flip and went for a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. He also included a double Axel and two Level 4 spins in his routine to score 54.16 points for sixth place after the short. Stakelum skated third and began with a triple loop and a triple toe loop-double toe loop combination. He also landed a double Axel and two of his spins were awarded Level 3 by the technical panel. He scored 50.22 points to sit in eighth position overnight.

Stakelum was the first of the two Irish skaters to appear in the free skating the following day. He started with a triple Salchow-double toe loop combination and went on to land three more triple jumps in his routine. He closed out his performance with a Level 4 change foot combination spin to earn 101.78 points and seventh place in the free to give himself a total score of 152 points. McAllister was on the ice shortly afterwards and commenced his programme with a triple Lutz and a double Axel. He attempted three more triples and executed two Level 4 spins. He scored 99.03 points for eighth place in the free with his total of 153.19 putting him in seventh overall just ahead of Stakelum in eighth.

“This was my third competition of the season and, after a week off with injury, I am proud of how I skated,” McAllister said. “I will keep training hard for my next competition.”

“Although the outcome may not be what I was hoping for, I enjoyed every second of my free programme today,” Stakelum said. “Having struggled a lot with nerves since coming back this season after the long break, I can only thank my wonderful coaches for helping me to get back on track.”

Dillon Judge (17) participated in the Junior Men’s event. In the short, he attempted a triple Salchow-double toe loop combination and double Axel to start and later on in his programme he opted for a double flip. He received a score of 38.55 points which was close to his lifetime best and he stood in 11th place at the first segment of the event.

Judge returned to the ice the following day for the free. As with the short, he began with a triple Salchow-double toe loop combination and a double Axel. Later on he attempted a solo triple Salchow and another double Axel and was given a Level 3 for a flying sit spin. He posted a score of 70.23 points for the free and 108.78 points for his competition total which were both new career bests. He finished in 11th place overall.

“I am feeling really good and my competition fitness is back,” Judge said. “My routines went well and I achieved my highest combined score. After all the time off ice, things appear to be going in the right direction. I want to build on this performance and give better consistent performances.”

Irish Skaters Make Strides At Tayside Trophy

A five-strong team of Irish figure skaters competed over the weekend at the Tayside Trophy in Dundee, Scotland (6-7 November).

First to take to the ice was Sophia Tkacheva in the Junior Women’s Short Programme who skated last weekend in the Tirnavia Ice Cup in Slovakia. She attempted a double Axel, a double Lutz-double toe loop and a double flip in her routine and also executed a Level 4 change foot combination spin. She scored 28.23 points to put herself in ninth place.

Robyn Foster followed Tkacheva in the same category in her debut event representing Ireland. She tried a double Axel, a triple Salchow jump combination and a double flip and her change foot combination spin was also graded Level 4. At the end of the short, Foster was a whisker ahead of Tkacheva in eighth place on 28.24 points.

In the Junior Women’s Free Skating the next day, Tkacheva appeared first skating to “Voila” by Barbara Pravi. She opened with a triple Salchow attempt and also included three jump combinations in her programme. She received a score of 51.07 points for a total of 79.30 which left her in tenth place in the final standings.

“Today wasn’t my best skate for sure and I made some silly mistakes,” Tkacheva said. “I am happy that I attempted my triple Salchow. I just need to learn to combine the hard jumps and the doubles and to stay focused no matter what happens during the programme and to work on my elements overall.”

Foster skated right after Tkacheva and commenced with a double Axel attempt and she also successfully landed a second one later on in her routine to “Scheherazade” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Two of her spins were deemed Level 3 by the technical panel and she posted a free score of 63.38 which moved her up into seventh overall with a total of 91.62 points.

“It was a really good experience to skate for Ireland,” Foster said. “Even though I made some mistakes, I got a personal best, so I know there is so much more room for improvement next time. I’m going to work on being more confident with my Axels and enjoying my programmes to the fullest.”

Dillon Judge was the sole Irish entrant in the Junior Men’s category. In the short programme, he started with a triple salchow-double toe loop combination and went on to land a double Axel and a double flip. He was awarded a score of 38.81 which was a new personal best and had him in second place overnight.

Judge performed to a medley of Jamie Callum songs for his free skating and he opened with a solo triple Salchow which he followed with a double Axel. He also tried to go for a triple Salchow combination later on in the routine and his step sequence was given a Level 3. A free score of 57.87 gave him a total of 96.68 and he maintained his second place in the standings.

“The short programme went very well,” Judge said. “The only slight error was the combo spin where I stumbled, so the next time I’ll improve on that. In the free skating there were quite a few errors which I’m not the most happy with, but the highlight of the programme was the double Axel because I showed the quality of what I can do. Next time I hope that I can improve the consistency of the jumps throughout the programme.”

Conor Stakelum and Sam McAllister were the final two Irish skaters in action as they lined up in the Senior Men’s event. Stakelum was the first to skate in the short programme. He doubled a planned triple loop, but came back with a triple toe loop-double toe loop combination and a double Axel. Two of his spins received Level 4 and he scored 49.05 to place ninth in the segment.

McAllister took to the ice in the following group of skaters and began with a triple flip before attempting a triple Lutz combination. He also landed a double Axel and two spins in his routine got a Level 4 from the technical panel. A score of 45.25 left him in 12th place going into the free skating.

Skating to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film soundtrack, McAllister was first to perform in the free skating. He started with a triple Lutz and a double Axel and then went on to attempt a double Axel-triple toe loop combination, a triple Salchow and a triple Lutz sequence among other elements. He achieved Level 4 for both a flying sit spin and a change foot combination spin and garnered 87.33 points for the free which gave him a total of 132.58 and 11th place overall.

“I had a good start in the free today, McAllister said. “It’s still only my second competition since the whole pandemic began. I’m looking forward to getting out there again at my next event in Poland later this month.”

Stakelum was the final Irish skater to take to the ice at the Tayside Trophy. He performed his free to “Riverdance” by Bill Whelan and embarked with triple flip and triple loop attempts. He landed a triple Salchow and a triple toe loop-double toe loop combination midway through the routine and also was given Level 4 for his flying sit spin and change foot combination spin. He scored 91.11 points for the free which meant he had a total of 140.16 and final placement of tenth.

“I was a bit disappointed with my short programme, missing things that are quite easy for me,” Stakelum said. “Although the free skating had a lot of messy elements, it’s the hardest programme I have ever gone for and landed my flip. There are lots of positives to take forward and I just need to polish things up now.”

McAllister 11th At Budapest Trophy

Sam McAllister (23) has marked his return to competition with an 11th finish at the Budapest Trophy in Budapest, Hungary today.

McAllister began with the short programme yesterday where he performed to “Good News” by Apashe. He opened with a triple flip before attempting a triple Lutz jump combination. In the second half of his routine, he landed a double Axel and executed a Level 4 flying sit spin. He scored 51.63 points to put himself in 11th overnight.

In the free skating McAllister commenced with a triple Lutz-Euler-double flip jump sequence. Skating to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film soundtrack, he also included a double Axel-triple toe loop combination as well three other triple jumps. All three of his spins were graded Level 4 by the technical panel. He earned a free score of 101.58 to give him a total of 153.21 and remained in 11th place.

“Overall, I’m super happy with how I performed,” McAllister said. “Even though they were not my best skates, it was such a great feeling being back out competing again. I achieved my goal of getting three Level 4 spins which I am really happy about as it’s something I have never done before.”

McAllister Returns To The Ice At Budapest Trophy

A mere 598 days since his last competition Sam McAllister (23) is back on competition ice this week at the Budapest Trophy (14-17 October) in Hungary.

McAllister’s last competitive appearance was at the Irish Figure Skating Championships in 2020 when he won his second Senior title and he is relishing the opportunity of performing again.

“I am looking forward to going out to Hungary and enjoying  my first competition back after no competitions for 18 months.”

While he has not been able to compete, McAllister has been using the time to work hard on improvements to the technical aspect of his skating.

“I have recently got three Level 4 Spins and I would be really happy if I could do them in either of my performances that would be a great achievement for me.”

McAllister will skate in the short programme tomorrow afternoon (14 October) and in the free skating on Friday afternoon (15 October). The Budapest Trophy will be streamed live on the Hungarian National Skating Federation’s YouTube channel.

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.

McAllister Remains Positive Even as Euros Dream Dashed

On 10 December 2020, two-time Irish senior champion Sam McAllister received word he had been chosen to represent Ireland at the 2021 European Figure Skating Championships. However, later that same day the International Skating Union (ISU) announced the competition had been cancelled due to the worsening situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. In the week when he should have been making his Europeans debut, the Ice Skating Association of Ireland (ISAI) talked briefly with McAllister about how he has kept his motivation despite all the setbacks he has faced this season. Read more

Bright Spots For Irish Ice Skating Amidst 2020 Challenges

Despite the past twelve months presenting major obstacles for our association and members, 2020 has not been without its highlights for Irish ice skating.

January was a hectic month with the conclusion of the Ice Skating Association of Ireland’s seasonal Emerald Skate lessons, a test session and the annual Winter Challenge. Internationally, Conor Stakelum represented Ireland at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Graz, Austria, while Ryan and Sean McAnuff flew the flag at the ISU European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. Ava Ryan became the first female short track speed skater from Ireland to participate at the ISU World Junior Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Bormio, Italy.

In February, Tara Donoghue continued to make history for Irish ice skating. At the ISU World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland, she placed 11th and 18th in the mass start and 3000 metres races respectively, the highest placements ever for an Irish skater at an ISU Championships. The same month saw the Irish National Figure Skating Championships held at Lee Valley, London where five titles were decided. While it turned out to be one of the final domestic events on the Irish sporting calendar to take place before an initial lockdown in March, the effects of the pandemic were already being felt with the shipment of the championships medals from China being delayed.

Tara Donoghue was the recipient of an ISU Development Programme Junior Scholarship in May becoming only the second Irish athlete ever to be awarded.

Odhrán Allen and Clara Peters were welcome additions to the ISAI Board of Directors in July. Later in the month, the ISAI announced its largest ever national team for figure skating and speed skating.

With a slew of events cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic, it was October before Elizabeth Golding and Sophia Tkacheva became the first national team members to compete internationally when they took part in the Budapest Trophy in Budapest, Hungary.

In November, Golding was back in Budapest for the Santa Claus Cup where she finished fourth.

The ISAI’s Annual General Meeting went online in December with members virtually attending via Zoom.

2021 looks like it will be challenging both domestically and internationally for the foreseeable future with the ISAI’s Emerald Skate lessons for the 2020/2021 winter season and the ISU European Figure Skating Championships next month, for which Sam McAllister had been selected, already cancelled. The ISAI will continue to prioritise the health and safety of its members as we look forward to the day normal activities can be resumed.