Sunday night’s show on Battle of the Blades was as good as it gets. Arriving early to talk to the skaters, it was like a family reunion with all of the cast members in attendance.
At the end of the night, on her birthday no less, Amanda Evora and Scott Thornton were crowned Season 4 champions. “The time of my life” is how Amanda described her Battle of the Blades experience. For Scott Thornton, ‘rewarding’ is what this has meant to him. Also rewarding (to the tune of $100,000) is the donation to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the charity they both supported.
Marie-France Dubreuil’s efforts are also helping the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Mathieu Dandenault’s supported the Montreal Canadien’s Children’s Foundation and what that means is a shared $30,000 donation from the team by placing third.
Supporting charity has been the driving force behind the show for the skaters. Finishing in second place for Violetta Afanasieva and Jason Strudwick earned a shared $35,000 for the Humane Society of Kawartha Lakes and the Edmonton Inner City Children’s program respectively. “The joy of communicating with the audience” is how Violetta expresses the best thing about her Battle of the Blades experience.
The chance for young skaters to communicate with the audience was exactly what the Mini Blades was all about. Seeing first time Mini Blades champions Georgia-Anne Riedl and Austin Martell from Stayner, Ontario go through their paces was confirmation that harmony between two of Canada’s most prominent ice communities was more than possible.
I wondered when I ran into some of the earlier competitors if they would still feel that their participation had been worthwhile. Marcy Hinzmann, partner to Mike Krushelnyski, has put it all in perspective: “It has been neat to see people from two sports merge. The hockey people watch the show so that they can see some of their favourite players. For figure skaters, it is nice to see hockey fans gain a new respect for the sport. I hope that it will encourage more young hockey players towards power skating and other skating skills programs that will improve their game.”
I didn’t know that when I first spoke with Sinead Kerr’s partner Grant Marshall all those weeks ago that he would become the poster boy for the conversion of hockey player to figure skater. “I love figure skating.” Is what he said to me right off the bat on Sunday. Although he didn’t know exactly what to expect, he came into this season ready to commit entirely to the process. Grant feels that this is the best way to show respect to a sport that isn’t your own. As the weeks progressed, we could all see that this wasn’t just something he was doing, he had fallen in love with figure skating on the Battle of the Blades. “It has taken me to a whole new place.”
Jessica Dube’s experience with partner Brian Savage surprised her in a way that she hadn’t expected: “I didn’t think I had it in me. The show taught me how to get out of my comfort zone. I am a figure skater and skating with somebody I just met wasn’t easy for me, but I found that I learned a lot about myself in the process.”
That whole idea of forging a relationship quickly is one of the unexpected aspects for the skaters working on this show. Paired with Olympic champion and hockey legend Vladimir Malakhov was Olympic Champion Oksana Kazakova: “My lesson was in creating a relationship with a man who is a star.” Surprising notion because in figure skating circles, Oksana is also a star.
For Anson Carter this was the chance to try something new and try to inspire people to not be afraid to fail. Skating with Shae-Lynn Bourne would be in my mind like trying to hold on to a comet which he did amazingly well. In one word, Anson said that the Battle of the Blades was best described as ‘fun’.
I wanted Mathieu Dandenault to have the last word: “Battle of the Blades has been about creating a moment.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Mathieu’s sentiment perfectly reflects my own about the last couple of months. Follow me on Twitter @skatingpj or read my blogs on cbc.ca/olympics as I continue through the rest of the figure skating season.