By Darren Lum
Melanie Walter’s dream came true last week when she competed at the 2022 Skate Ontario Provincial Championships in Mississauga on March 24.
Walter has been skating with the Minden Skating Club since she was close to five-years-old. Although the top-30 result in a field of 54 Star 5 single women competitors was not the podium finish she envisioned, she returned with perspective and the respect of her coaches.
The experience is not something she will ever forget.
“When I walked through the arena doors I felt like I earned [my place] to be at that competition, and I felt that all my hard work and determination got me here and I felt very proud of myself and very thankful I had an amazing coach by my side ready to help me succeed, and a super supportive club back home cheering me on. I heard lots of noise constantly such as cheering, and it was the perfect amount to push me and keep me going throughout the day,” she wrote in a message, referring to coach Jane Symons and what she felt, heard and saw at the competition.
“When I stepped onto the ice, my heart was beating fast. I was of course a little nervous, but I was ready and I was ready to give it my all at this competition. I tuned out everything around me, and I focused on myself at that point. I felt my music and I skated to how I felt in that moment. I was proud of myself for making it to this competition, as it was my top goal to accomplish in my skating career!”
The provincial berth for the Grade 10 Haliburton Highlands Secondary School student was just the second berth for a solo woman skater with the Minden Skating Club since Janine Garbutt accomplished the feat 25 years ago. (The club has sent members to the provincials in other categories.)
This berth was all the more satisfying, having missed the past two years due to the pandemic. It was something she was proud about, but was also happy to have earned the berth for the supporters in her life, which included her parents, her coaches at the club, the club and the community.
This was her third attempt to reach the provincials. She credits coaches such as Jane Symons, Guy Gordon and David Hollows for the foundation of her figure skating and her present skill set. She said the difference this time compared to the last time she attempted to make the provincials was her focus on her conditioning and preparation.
At a glance, a two-minute skating routine doesn’t seem difficult, but it’s an all out effort, demanding mental focus and physical fitness. She acknowledges her advanced physical maturity, which came from her rep volleyball play in Orillia this year and her running regimen – five kilometres a day for five days a week.
“I’ve worked towards it my whole life and it was one of my goals. And, I’m glad I reached it before the end my [time at] high school,” she said.
Coach Symons said Walter was initially disappointed by the provincial result, which was influenced by the deduction during Walter’s skate, which wasn’t implemented as severely as in other competitions.
“Melanie felt bad after she skated saying that she had let Minden down and I quickly told her, on the contrary, you put us on the map and we couldn’t be more proud,” she wrote in a text.
Symons said there is room for improvement, but was happy with the figure skater she has coached for the past 10 years.
“Dave Hollows and Guy Gordon and myself have worked with Melanie as a team these last few years. I started teaching Melanie when she was about five years old and have watched her blossom as a skater. Unfortunately for me she’s very good at many sports, so I don’t get her as often as I’d like. Melanie did miss one spin in her program that she never misses and so lost a bit of a mark on that, but otherwise I was very pleased. There’s no continuation from all-Ontario’s, but [with] the last two years of COVID it was nice to see so many kids out trying their best to represent their clubs. Hopefully she will continue to work on technique and perhaps return to the championships next year. It’s too far away to determine.”
Walter has always loved skating and that won’t ever change.
“I love I can be myself out on the ice. I don’t have to worry about any problems off the ice and it feels like home,” she said.