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SKATING INTO FAME — Whitehorse skater Mikayla Kramer performs a routine during an Arctic Edge show in 2017. Kramer successfully auditioned for a role in Disney on Ice.

Skater Mikayla Kramer joining cast of Disney on Ice

Mikayla Kramer, 18, who grew up in Whitehorse and is now living in Kelowna, BC,

By Morris Prokop on July 21, 2021

Mikayla Kramer, 18, who grew up in Whitehorse and is now living in Kelowna, BC, has had a successful audition with Disney on Ice. She is headed to Oklahoma in late August to “learn the ropes” for her role in a show that will be touring the U.S.

“I am like overjoyed.”, gushed Kramer. “I am just so excited for the opportunity that I’m going to be able to participate in.”

Kramer explains the process that got her to this point.

“So I first started thinking about it not too long ago actually. I’ve known I wanted to do this for a long time, but I thought it might be within a year or two.

“I started by searching Disney on Ice on Google, and it said you needed to put together a skating resume, kind of like a job resume, but a skating resume, like all your accomplishments, and then you had to provide a three to six minute video of your skating, just showing why you like skating, and like really cool moments of you and your skating career, so I did that, and I sent it off, and then about in a week or two I got the email response back from the casting director that I got a part.”

Kramer has had considerable help along her journey.

“Definitely my family and my coaches, and the skating club here. The skating club in Kelowna has helped me get to where I am today with my skating career, and I would also like to thank my choreographer, who – his name’s Graham Gordon – who for the last multiple years has done shows, and I think he is now the choreographer for one of the cruise ship shows, and he has also given me lots of advice for putting together my application for Disney on Ice.

“The next steps would be to continue doing my light training so I can stay in shape, and I leave sometime in the last week of August to go start my training for all the choreography I have to learn, and that is in Oklahoma.

“Right now I’m actually recovering from a foot injury, so I’m just doing off-ice training, which is like my running and my fitness stuff. And then I’m going back to skating in about two weeks, and I’ll just be doing like light on-ice training.”

Luckily, the foot injury isn’t serious.

“It’s not too serious, It’s just a irritation from my skate, so I just needed to get new skates, and take some time off, and it is already getting much better.”

When asked about the show itself, Kramer replied that she doesn’t know too many details right now.

“I’ll know more when I get there, but my understanding of it is that it’s one show lasting an hourish, or maybe an hour and a half- I don’t know how long the show’s going to be. But you go for two weeks, you learn all the choreography for that one show, and your character in the show, or your person in the show, and then you go throughout the entire U.S. for about eight months, train all across the U.S., performing that one show. I’m pretty sure we get a couple weeks off here and there, but again, I have no idea until I get there.

“I don’t know my specific role, but I’m part of an ensemble, which is kind of like the background skaters who are there just to support the main characters. And I did get a potential understudy lead for one of the main characters. If someone is sick or injured, then I would fill in for them.”

Being an understudy sounds pretty exciting.

“Yes I’m very excited.”, Kramer says enthusiastically.

Kramer grew up in Whitehorse, but made the move to Kelowna at an early age.

“I was born and raised here (Whitehorse), and when I was about 12 or 13 years old, I moved to Kelowna to train at a more competitive level.

She has had an opportunity to split time between the two cities. Even though she now lives in Kelowna, she still calls Yukon her home.

“Yes, I’ve been like back and forth. My dad and my sister stayed in Whitehorse, and my mom moved with me to Kelowna, and we go back and forth every couple months for a couple weeks here and there. And I’ve always represented the Yukon and I’m very proud to represent the Yukon at events.”

Meanwhile, Kramer’s coaches, Jason Mongrain, and his wife Karen, are bittersweet about her departure to the big time.

“To be honest we were really excited for her, Karen and I both, her coaches, but it was a little bit bittersweet, because … she’s really a great person to have in our rink.”, says Jason Mongrain. “She’s a great student, a great role model, and she’s actually been coaching with us as well. She’s actually really valuable to us as a coach. So we were a little like, kind of disappointed she wouldn’t be with us, but at the same time really happy for her, cause it’s such a great opportunity for her to kind of continue in the sport in a totally new avenue.”

Kramer was coaching the “Learn to” skaters, who range in age from four to 12 years of age. According to Mongrain, she’s a natural at that too.

“She definitely has, I believe, a talent for coaching. So it’s something I hope she can resume at some point in the future. But she definitely has a knack for establishing a connection with kids. She’s really good at rapport.”

The Mongrains have been coaching Mikayla since she moved to Kelowna.

“We actually met her at a seminar … My wife and I used to go to Whitehorse fairly frequently to do seminar work, and we had experience coaching some other skaters that were from Whitehorse. I think we just kind of got to know each other that way, through the seminar work.

“And then eventually Mikayla came to Kelowna I believe for a summer school, and at some point thereafter she made the transition to stay here full time.”

When he first saw her, Mongrain noticed something special about Kramer.

“I can remember seeing her skating when she was seven or eight years old at Whitehorse, and I definitely thought that she was a very serious kid. Like her effort was really high, and you know with kids, a lot of them can be kind of really unfocused, and just focusing on wanting to have fun. She was fun, but at the same time I saw something in her that kind of told us that she could be a long term elite type of athlete, just with her mentality. She definitely was very focused, and she was athletic as well, we could also tell that. It wasn’t until a little bit later on that we saw her ability to be a performer, and be very musical.”

But did he ever dream that she could get this far?

“Absolutely. She had the look of a skater that could do well at the provincial level, and advance beyond the provincial level to the national level, which she did. Honestly, it’s not a surprise at all that she could get this role in a show.”

Mongrain explains how Kramer got to this point in her career.

“To get to the level to skate in a professional show, you don’t necessarily have to be winning competitions per se, but you have to have a special ability to a) You need the athleticism to have the skill set they expect to see in a professional show, but you also need to be able to persevere. That is probably the harder part. You have to be able to persevere through the changes that you go through, from child to adult.

“This sport is very difficult on the body sometimes, and staying relatively injury-free, and staying healthy and fit, these are tougher things … that you can’t necessarily predict when the athlete is younger. And you just kind of have to go through it.

“And she’s actually done a really good job of continuing to improve every year, rather than just sort of having an explosive skill set early, and then just trying to maintain. She actually kept improving every year, and she is actually a better skater today than she was a year ago. And improving every year, that helps you in competition, right? So that’s why a tiny bit of me is disappointed that she’s not competing this year. Because she is continuing to improve. But at the same time, she’s doing it on her terms, and that’s something that a lot of skaters don’t get to do. A lot of skaters just can’t get through how difficult the sport is on the body and have to quit, because their bodies tell them they can’t handle it.”

Kramer’s breakthrough came at the young age of 13 in the Pre-Novice age group.

“That was when she first broke through the sectionals. And our sectionals is like a provincials, but it’s BC and Yukon combined. So it’s really kind of not common for a Yukon skater to qualify through the BC and Yukon sectionals. And she has several times. That in itself is like a real feather in her cap.”

If not for COVID, Kramer could have skated in the Canadian Championships this year.

“She first skated nationally at the pre-novice level. This past year she had a result that was a top-16 or top-18 result at the challenge, which … in every year prior to COVID, would have qualified her to the Canadian championships. But unfortunately the Canadians was canceled this year due to COVID. So that was extremely unfortunate for her. “

As for her future in the sport, Mongrain isn’t sure what that holds, but thinks she has a promising future as a coach if she chooses to go that route.

“It’s hard to say. It depends on how much she enjoys the touring. At the beginning it’s going to be so many sights to see, and super exciting. So some skaters tend to make more of a career out of the touring with a show, while others use it as an opportunity to gain experience, like life experience, and then come back home a little sooner, and settle into whatever they want to pursue professionally. I have a feeling … Mikayla’s alway’s been pretty vocal about wanting to be involved with figure skating coaching, so I certainly hope that she wants to pursue that, and certainly being in a show gives you good experience, that can translate well to coaching as well.”

Kramer isn’t following the traditional route. But Mongrain thinks she’s on the right path.

“It’s interesting that she’s joining a professional show while she’s trending upwards. It’s not common. Usually you would see the career kind of decline a little bit before you see that. But at the same time she’s of the age… there’s no question COVID’s been tough on a lot of people in a lot of ways, but it’s definitely affected … there haven’t been as many competitions this year per se, they’ve been virtual, so … I can’t say that that contributed to the decision, but it would make it more understandable.

“But at the same time, I would way rather see a skater pursue a professional show, rather than not be feeling totally fulfilled in what they’re doing. There’s no question to me that she’s making the right decision. Because that’s what’s in her heart. Karen and I obviously support that 100 percent.”

Mongrain adds, “It’s nice that it’s not a story about something ending, it’s about a continuation of what she loves to do, and so, in that respect, we’re really excited for her. We know that she’ll be coming back to Kelowna in some capacity, with skating. So time will tell what that future holds.”

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