Balmertown rallies for Eric Radford at Olympic qualifier
Residents of Balmertown, Ont., will glue their eyes to their TV screens today, as pairs figure skater Eric Radford, who grew up in the community near Red Lake, hits the ice in Sochi, Russia at around 11 a.m. ET.
"I have 207 students, and 23 staff members, pumped that he's gonna be on TV,” said Debra Geary, Radford's first figure skating coach, and his Grade 7 teacher. She's now the principal at the Golden Learning Centre in Red Lake.
“We also have some retired teachers and community folks coming to enjoy the excitement with us.”
Geary said the whole school will be in the gym today to watch Radford and his partner Meagan Duhamel skate as pairs qualifications begin.
Radford was eight years old when he started figure skating with the Balmertown Figure Skating Club, and was Geary's first student.
"Eric loved the sport. He wanted to learn all he could learn about it," said Geary. "We are so excited for him.”
She said she keeps in touch with Radford to this day.
"Eric and I text all the time," she said, usually just before or after Radford hits the ice.
"When he comes up for holidays, he always stops by to say hello," she added.
Geary said she's excited that her former student is "fulfilling his dream" in Sochi.
"He always said, even when he was a young child, that he was going to go to the Olympics. I'm so proud of him for being a young athlete, brought up in a very small town, and ... doing everything he wanted to do."
Getting into the Olympic spirit
It's not just Radford's former school that's getting ready to support the Olympian.
Many businesses in Red Lake are getting into the spirit of the games as well.
The Chukuni Communities Development Corporation runs the Facebook page "My Red Lake," which is currently full of pictures of local businesses that have decorated their windows in honour of Radford.
Cathy Quesnel-Loessl, the corporation's business development co-ordinator, recalled when the idea was conceived.
"It was a cold January day, and we thought we should get the community doing something. So we decorated our windows, and put a call out to the community to see if they would also show their support," she said.
Red Lake Travel Services is one of many businesses that have answered that call.
Owner Karen Pace said she'll be watching whenever Radford competes.
"I'm kind of a sports enthusiast, so for me to get up in the middle of the night, and watch his performance? Yes, I will," she said.
Eric Radford and Meagan Duhamel take to the ice at 12:10 p.m. ET in the qualification round for the team pairs short program event.
For the latest Olympic news from Sochi 2014, go to cbc.ca/olympics.