Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SMILING WITH APPROVAL - Former Olympian Victor Kraatz looks on as Arctic Edge Skater Rachel Pettitt performs a routine Sunday at Takhini Arena.

Former Olympian figure skater teaches Whitehorse clinic

Participants in a weekend clinic taught by figure skating stars Victor Kraatz and Maikki Uotila-Kraatz are hoping the couple's first trip to Whitehorse won't be their last.

By Jon Molson on March 23, 2009

Participants in a weekend clinic taught by figure skating stars Victor Kraatz and Maikki Uotila-Kraatz are hoping the couple's first trip to Whitehorse won't be their last.

For many skaters, the only thing that would have made the two-and-a-half day session better was if it was held for a longer period of time.

This clinic was put on by the Arctic Edge Skating Club, which hopes to hold more of these types of events in the future.

"It just keeps it interesting and fresh for kids and also because Victor has a high profile and so kids look up to him," said Cheryl Van Blaricom, publicist for the Arctic Edge Skating Club. "They have seen him skate on TV and those kinds of things, so it's exciting for them to work with him.

"It's funny, some of the very youngest skaters brought posters to have him autograph them, so if they didn't know who he was their parents did."

Kraatz, along with Quebec partner Shae-Lynn Bourne, made history by placing first at the world championships.

The pair was the first North American team to win a world championship title in the ice dance category.

They also brought the hydroblading technique into mainstream competitions. Hydroblading is when a skater glides along the ice in a very low position.

Kraatz has represented Canada at three Winter Olympics, placing fourth in 1998 and 2002. He retired from competitive skating in 2003 after winning the worlds title.

Uotila-Kraatz, who is a native of Finland, is also a well accomplished skater. She is a former Finish champion, retiring from competition in 1999. Since then, Uotila-Kraatz has moved on to performing in both contemporary dance and in skating shows.

The two have been putting on figure skating workshops ever since they moved to Vancouver about five years ago.

Most of the clinics are held in B.C., but the married couple have also travelled around the country, including Winnipeg, Quebec City last year and Regina.

Each year, they put on around four or five, mostly held in the spring and summer during skating off-season.

The Whitehorse clinic was made possible after the Arctic Edge Skating Club was given an approximate $5,900 grant from the City of Whitehorse parks and recreation department.

The organization attempted to bring the couple up to Whitehorse during the Christmas holidays, but conflicting schedules resulted in the clinic being pushed back to March break.

Van Blaricom said it was important to hold it during spring break, adding there is a chance that this type of workshop could become an annual tradition.

"We are hoping to just kind of re-invigorate our club with some higher profile, new techniques, doing seminars and those kinds of things," she said. "If we can kind of get funding and if we can get the time and stuff to do it, because it really helps raise the profile of skating."

The workshop was put on all day Friday, Saturday and concluded Sunday at 12:45 p.m.

With two competitions left in the season, its timing couldn't have been much better.

A group of Arctic Edge figure skaters will travel to Port Alberni, B.C. in April. The final competition will be held on Victoria Day in Surrey, B.C.

The weekend clinic was open to any skater in the club from the jumpstart program right up to its senior star and competitive skaters. There were 24 participants, ranging from six to 18 years old.

The Whitehorse clinic wasn't much different from the other workshops put on by the couple. It focused primarily on technical elements such as stroking, edges and turns and choreography.

One of its themes was in creative movement and in addition to the on-ice sessions, Uotila-Kraatz also taught some modern dance techniques over the course of the workshop.

"It's nice for the kids because in their competitive season they focus a lot on the jumps and the spins and the technical elements of skating," Uotila-Kraatz said. "So it's kind of a nice break for them to get to do more creative stuff."

Each day of the skating workshop featured two on-ice sessions and one off-ice class.

Uotila-Kraatz said while it depends on group of kids, they usually always try to have sections with hydroblading, creative movement and then more technical skating skills.

"That is our kind of thing," she said.

Uotila-Kraatz said its nice to be able to share the experience and the skills that she learned over the years.

"I think it's nice for the kids to get all kinds of coaching experience, different teachers, different types of classes," she said. "It's very refreshing for everyone's training."

Despite it being their first time up in Whitehorse, both Kraatz and Uotila-Kraatz came in with a familiarity of many of the skaters in the Arctic Edge Skating Club.

They have even taught a few of them personally in previous years and seen others at B.C. skating competitions.

Kraatz said the skaters did awesome at the clinic.

"It's great working with the kids," he said. "It was definitely nice to see some young, up and coming skaters this far north. It was just an enjoyment working with them."

He said he could see himself and Maikki coming back for a follow-up session.

"I think it's always nice to be able to see the kids develop over the years," Victor said.

"If the club and different family members think this was definitely worth it then they should ask us to come back and we will for sure come back."

Ariel House, one of the clinic participants, said it went really well.

"It was great to have them up," she said. "It was a great opportunity just to be able to work with somebody other than our own coaches."

House, 14, even had Kraatz autograph both her skates.

"Last night I was on YouTube and I saw that Victor was an Olympic pair skater," she said. "I thought it would kind of be cool just to have a memory of this."

Maddison Jarvis, 12, hopes the two will return to teach some additional classes.

"It would be nice if they came back again too and then re-do the clinic," she said. "I wish it had gone longer because it was so much fun."

Mikaela Lane, 15, said she plans to use some of the techniques taught over the weekend.

"It's good to have variety," she said.

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