P.E.I. program gives former figure skaters a chance to break the ice all over again

A program in Charlottetown is giving former figure skaters a chance to lace up their skates and practice again now that they're adults.

'It was a big part of me growing up and it was really hard to just let it go'

Skaters between the ages of 20 and 60 years old take to the ice on Tuesdays to figure skate. (Kirk Pennell/CBC News)

Lindsay Goodridge fell in love with skating when she was two.  At nine years old, she moved hours away from her home in Ontario to pursue a career as a competitive ice dancer.

It was her whole life — until it wasn't. 

"I was 18 when I stopped skating," said Goodridge.

"I passed all my gold level tests, I did one last competition cycle, went to provincials for one last time and then hung up the skates after that."

I think everybody has a love of skating and they just want to do it again.— Martha Murnaghan, Skate Again

It's a similar story for O'Leary's Ashton Dougan who once upon a time skated up to seven days a week and competed across the Maritimes.

"It was a big part of me growing up and it was really hard to just let it go. You almost feel a little bit guilty letting go of a sport you've put so much time into," she said. 

"A skater's career kind of ends at the university phase. There are not really many programs after that."

'Been just wonderful'

But inside of Charlottetown's Simmons Sports Centre, a program is changing that by giving former figure skaters the opportunity to practise.

"I think everybody has a love of skating and they just want to do it again," said Martha Murnaghan, the coach of the Skate Again program.

"There might be a lot of adults that want to skate but the challenging thing is finding the ice time that's suitable."

'We know we're not going to be able to do the things we did before,' says coach Martha Murnaghan. 'But it's just a good feeling to just be able to do the skating again.' (Kirk Pennell/CBC News)

The athletes range from about 20 to 60 years old, she said. Sessions are an hour-long beginning with a half-hour group lesson followed by free time to work on the skills you choose.

"Getting to skate again has been just wonderful. Getting to get back on the ice, but skating for me this time, has been really great," said Goodridge.

"It's wild that muscle memory that just comes back to you — they really say it's like riding a bike and it really is."

'It's been so nice getting to reconnect with that part of myself,' says skater Lindsay Goodridge. 'I can fall and now I just laugh about it and it's fine and really celebrating what I still am able to do.' (Kirk Pennell/CBC News)

Although Goodridge's definition of riding a bike is a little different than most — hers involves a double axel and a camel spin, twirling at fantastic speed.

"It's a lot different skating on an outdoor rink so without this, I probably wouldn't have that same opportunity," she said.

'It comes back'

Dougan was busy on the ice doing some edge work and flexibility exercises.

"Definitely some of it comes back," she said.

"Trying to do double jumps and spins, it would be difficult. I don't know if my muscle memory would allow me to do that at this stage, but maybe I'll get there soon."

'You lose a big part of you. You have all this free time and it's hard to know what to do with it,' says skater Ashton Dougan. 'It's a big loss, to be honest.' (Kirk Pennell/CBC News)

As skaters eagerly return to the ice ready to try the tricks they grew up performing, Murnaghan is quick to remind them their bodies might not be as limber as they once were.

"You just have to be careful because as I always say to people, the speed feels right, but the technique is not there like it used to be or the agility," said Murnaghan.

"Nobody ever really wants to fall but falls happen and that's always a risk, especially the older you get, you have to be more careful."

Hopes for the future

With the season coming to a close, Murnaghan and her skaters are keeping their fingers crossed that the Skate Again program is offered in the future.

"It's just awesome to have the opportunity to continue to skate — really, it is," said Dougan

"Things don't end at Grade 12 or first-year university, even if it's a recreational sport, you still have the opportunity to do it and to participate on P.E.I."

Goodridge agrees.

"It's been so nice getting to reconnect with that part of myself and really just feeling the ice again and reconnecting with something I loved so much," she said.

"I'm so grateful."


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