Cloverdale’s Faith Benko has just returned from Skate Canada Challenge 2018, a national competition organized by the oldest and largest figure skating organization in the world.
It wasn’t the first time the 13-year-old had flown to Montreal for a figure skating competition, but it was the first time she had competed in a national competition.
Faith, a pre-novice skater, won bronze at the Super Series BC/YK Championships in Parksville, B.C. in early November, qualifying her for the pre-novice program at Skate Canada Challenge in Pierrefonds, Que. from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3.
Faith didn’t win a medal at the Challenge — she placed 27th overall — but she said she’s still “really pleased with [her] skate.”
“I did really good for my first time at Challenge,” she said. “It was my first time competing with all of Canada, and I’m really happy with how I did.”
She skated a short and a long program, and she explained the difference between the two is in the length of the program, the number of elements performed in a skate, and the mindset.
“My short program had one jump and two spins,” she explained. “My long program had six jumps and three spins.”
“For me, the long program is more difficult. But for some it could be the short,” she said, explaining that because there are less elements in a short program, there is more pressure to perform each jump and spin perfectly.
Faith first knew she wanted to figure skate when she was two years old. She’d attend her older brother’s hockey practices, but would insist on watching the figure skating practice on the neighbouring rink instead.
She began skating with the Cloverdale Skating Club shortly after, and at age seven she moved to moved to Champs International Skating Club of B.C., which practices out of Burnaby. She is there today, coached by Jill Harvey under the direction of Joanne McLeod.
Faith works hard — as all skaters must, if they wish to be competitive. Although the skating season typically lasts from April until January, Faith trains year round, both on the ice and off the ice. “I have one night of cardio a week, and two for ballet,” she explained.
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Faith, a Grade 9 student, said that she could see why some might think it would be hard to balance school and skating. She admits it can be difficult sometimes, but she shrugs it off, saying, “I’m a pretty good student.”
Her hard work pays off. Her competitive skating over the past few years shows a skater improving in increments, and then in leaps and bounds. In videos of past performances, once can see Faith fall, pick herself off the ice and keep going. She always keeps going.
The most difficult part of the job, according to Faith, is “persevering when things get tough. Like when learning a new jump,” she said.
Faith spent a year and a half working on her double axel before she felt it was perfect. Although it takes some time to learn a new element, she said, “when I get it, I never miss it again.”
After all, she said, her “favourite part of competing is performing my solos and showing everybody what I’ve been working on,” she said.
One day, Faith wants to compete internationally for Canada.
But for now, she’s persevering, working on her triple loop and toe combination and preparing for next year’s season.