Developing the trust, timing and compatibility needed to become a championship figure skating pairs team is supposed to take years of training and discipline.
But there was something special when 22-year-old Paris resident Alexander Sheldrick connected with his current skating partner.
“It was kind of a fluke,” Sheldrick said. “It was a lucky situation, a blessing that we kind of just clicked.”
Sheldrick and his partner, Rachael Dobson, 13, recently captured the Canadian novice championship at the 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga.
The duo only started skating together last September at the Preston Figure Skating Club.
“I didn’t have a partner last summer and a new coach came to the Preston club and brought some skaters with her from Milton,” Sheldrick said. “Rachael was one of them. We started playing around on the ice and I was teaching her some stuff. I felt like there was something there so I talked to the coach about teaming us up.”
Sheldrick had some experience as a pairs skater, including an eighth overall finish in the junior division at the nationals in 2011, but Dobson had never skated pairs before.
“It was not much time to train together and for her to learn the discipline,” Sheldrick said. “But the two of us are really hard workers and driven.”
The Brantford Collegiate Institute graduate began figure skating when his family moved to Paris 14 years ago. He began with the Brant Skating Club as an eight-year-old, eventually moving to a club in Kitchener-Waterloo to train with his brother, a competitive ice dancer.
When he decided to get serious about pairs skating, he moved to the Preston club to work with pairs coach Kevin Wheeler.
During the Canadian championships, held Jan. 13 to Jan. 20 in Mississauga, Sheldrick and Dobson were in second place after the short program.
“Our coach told us we definitely had a chance,” Sheldrick said.
The pair went out and skated a flawless long program, but had some tense moments as the first-place team skated after them.
“They skated flawlessly as well,” Sheldrick said. “When we heard the scores and knew we won, we were in shock – kind of speechless.”
Sheldrick and Dobson ended up with a combined score of 100.72 to edge out Judith Murtha-Anderson and Trennt Michaud from Prince Edward Island, who scored 98.16.
The victory means that Sheldrick and Dobson must accept a promotion next season. While they will be one of the newer pairings at the second-tier junior level, they are confident they can adapt quickly.
“We really weren’t supposed to win this year,” he said. “We surprised everybody including ourselves. We don’t expect anything, but we will put our best effort in.”
The next competitive season begins in August. Until then, Sheldrick and Dobson will perform in local club gala shows as guest skaters. They will be part of the Paris Figure Skating Club’s 50th anniversary gala on March 30 at the Brant Sports Complex.
A move up to the top level of amateur figure skating is the ultimate goal, but Sheldrick said they will take their time.
“We will probably do one or two years of junior and move up to senior,” he said. “Unless, of course, you win. Then you have to move up. Otherwise it’s a coaching decision.
“Our long-term goal is definitely the 2018 Olympics. We’ll see how we progress toward that. It’s a long time from now, but we’ll keep working for it.”