When Ellie Fisher first stepped on the ice at the local arena in Hillsborough, dreams of representing Canada at an international figure skating competition were a world away.
But nearly a decade later, at 16, Fisher has just competed for Canada in ice dancing.
Fisher, of Lower Coverdale, and partner Simon-Pierre Malette-Paquette, 19, of Laval, Que., placed fifth overall on the fifth stop of the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit in Zagreb, Croatia.
"I was so excited, I've waited so long for that," Fisher said. "It was amazing."
Mother Hilary Fisher was just as excited when her daughter shared the news.
"I started to cry because I just know it's been such a goal for them to have that."
Fisher and Mallette-Paquette have partners less than a year, and this is their first season competing.
"The first day of competition, our short dance wasn't as great as we would have liked," Ellie said. "But for our free dance, we did the best that we could have done."
Since she fell in love with skating at a young age, it's been her goal to represent Canada internationally.
"I think the journey getting here has been pretty awesome," Ellie said.
Ellie now lives in Montreal with her mother, so she can skate with some of the best ice dancers in the world at the Gadbois centre.
It is a high-calibre training facility for ice dancers, established by Canadian and world championship medallists Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon and coach Romain Haguenauer.
"We feel very lucky for her to have that level, that kind of coaching," Ellie's mother said.
Ellie trains with Olympic gold and silver medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and French world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron among other teams from around the world.
Training with elite skaters is important to help her be a better skater, Ellie said.
"It's crucial. I have so many people to look up to every day and just to push me because that's exactly what I want to become, and it's pretty awesome to see world champions.
"Everyone is so amazing. There's not one person that you wouldn't look up to."
Ellie takes online courses for Grades 11 and 12 because they're much easier to manage with her skating and training schedule.
But she doesn't mind being busy living her dream.
"I always dreamed and hoped that I'd be here," she said.
Ellie first stepped on the ice at Fundy Blades Skating Club in Hillsborough at seven years old. For a few years, she and her family travelled around greater Moncton and Petitcodiac for skating lessons.
In 2011, when Ellie was 10, she decided to pursue a more competitive environment, one that would help push her to accomplish her goals in skating.
She also wanted to be in a partnered sport.
"She felt like she'd need to find a partner outside the province," Hilary Fisher said.
Ellie, Hilary and and Ellie's brother, Aidan, moved to Barrie, Ont., while Mike, Ellie's father, stayed behind to continue working at his civil engineering firm in Riverview.
"I moved to Barrie to do singles with [coach] Lee Barkell, and I actually wanted to do pairs, and then one day I ended up having a tryout with a boy for ice dance," Ellie said.
"Then, I never really stopped doing dance."
A year and a half ago, Ellie made the difficult decision to leave Barrie and move to Montreal. Her brother decided to move back to New Brunswick to be with their father. They had been living in Ontario for almost five years, and the decision to move again was, in part, to be closer to home in New Brunswick.
"It doesn't make it any less difficult being away from them sometimes, but I think achieving something I've wanted that's super big for me definitely shows that I'm on the right path."
While Ellie's family home base is in New Brunswick, her partnership represents CPA Lorraine, Que.
The ice dancers' next stop will be at their second Junior grand prix event in Bolzano, Italy, later this month.
"Their goal was to have one international and they ended up with two, so it was just icing on the cake," said Hilary, who will attend with the whole family.
"It's so nice to see your kid starting to reach the goal they set for themselves. It makes your sacrifices worth it when you see them loving something that they're doing."
After Italy, the team will focus on getting to the junior world championships.
Ellie said she hopes she and Malette-Paquette will place in the top two at the Skate Canada national championships this season, "which means that we would go to junior worlds in Bulgaria this year."
Before Italy, the goal is to make their performances even better.
"I'm really excited to leave next week and I hope that we have two great skates, and I know it will be so much fun again," she said.