The Interlake Regionals are an annual competition that debuted in 1975. After researching the archives, I learned the Arborg Skating Club attended the Interlake Regionals prior to 1989, attending in the late-70s and early-80s.
When I skated, January meant one thing: the Interlake Regionals.
After a brief hiatus, the Arborg Skating Club attended the 1989 Interlake Regionals, winning a gold and a bronze medal.
Technically, the club brought home three medals.
My older sister, Jenn, and I were born 20 months apart. As kids, we were (usually) angels in public, but privately we’d – at times – attempt to maim each other.
One time, we were buckled into our car seats. Dad heard another fight ensue, and he turned around. Our heads were kinked sideways while we pulled each other’s ponytails with our tiny fists. Wailing at the top of our lungs. Dad calls this the missed Kodak moment.
When Jenn and I first entered figure skating at the Arborg Skating Club, my parents were relieved when we spent less than half a season in the same group.
During the 1987/1988 season, my sister pulled a Tessa and Scott aka, she stepped away from the sport. Meanwhile, I skidded through private lessons under the Canadian Figure Skating Association (CFSA) now called Skate Canada. By season’s end, I’d passed the Dutch Waltz, the first preliminary dance.
Jenn decided to return to skating for the 1988/1989. According to sources – aka the small town rumour mill – the Arborg Skating Club signed a highly certified competitive coach from Ottawa, Ontario: Joanne Hough. She skated with the likes of Elizabeth Manley, who was my first skating idol. Joanne wanted the Arborg SC to start competing again. I was sold, because I’m super competitive, and I like to win. I used to crumble if there wasn’t a Scratch ‘N Sniff sticker on my elementary school tests.
The 1989 Interlake Regionals were my first competition. My mom was filling out our registration form – by hand – and before she wrote a cheque for our entrance fees (and went to the post office to pop the envelope into the mailbox) Joanne had an fantastic idea. She thought Jenn and I should compete in primary dance since we were at the same level. Another shot at a medal? Sign me up!
One problem. Jenn hadn’t passed her preliminary dance – Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango. Plus, I needed my Canasta. Our competition was on January 28th, and the test day was on the 14th. I was concerned she wouldn’t pass the tests and we’d be forced to withdrawal. Rather than concentrating on escaping preliminary and working on my junior bronze dance, the Swing, I worried about Jenn’s dances rather than mine. Needless to say, skating was my life – and on the 14th we both escaped preliminary dance could focus on the goal. So I thought.
Because we barely practiced our dances together unless we had a lesson. I would skate on our rink at home, mushing around to the Dutch Waltz and Canasta music seared in my mind. With lesson time dwindling, Joanne told my mom we probably wouldn’t place because we weren’t practicing together.
Joanne instilled the fear. And by the end of our last half-hour lesson, I felt confident we had a chance.
It was January 28th, 1989 around 7:30ish a.m. when about 12 eager Arborg skaters converged at the Fisher Branch arena for the 1989 Interlake Regionals. I wasn’t prepared for the crush of skaters. Complete chaos. Skaters dressed and ready to skate, skaters registering, parents carrying dresses, vendors selling pins, dresses, sweaters, and flowers. I loved the vibe. It felt like one happy competitive family.
The primary ladies singles event was first, and the dance events dropped the curtain on the night – so we were in for a long day. At that time, medal ceremonies were at the end of the competition. If a skater won a medal in primary ladies, they’d have to stay until 8 p.m. My dad videotaped all the Arborg skaters, but cold isn’t a camera battery’s friend. He missed one skater while recharging. During our dance warm up, he also ran out of room and switched tapes.
Pretty sure my dad holds the record for watching the most black and white figure skating during a coloured television era.
Up first, the singles event. Jenn was a strong contender, and I skated before her, watching from the sidelines. At one point, she seemed to forget her choreography, and she went towards centre ice and entered a flip jump, but she slipped off her blade. There was pure devastation on her face as she approached the boards. She was handed a “participation certificate” and she headed straight to the changing room. Despite the fall, I believe she placed fifth or sixth.
My program was to the love theme from Flashdance and theme song from Fletch. My disappointment from my ninth place (second last) finish was temporary. I thought – it’s okay – because we’ll perform two perfect dances tonight.
Dad videotaped the dance event, and I swear you can see veins pulsating in my head as Joanne coached Jenn and I from the sidelines. A team almost careened into us – and I glared at them. Yes, the Manitoba Glare.
I wanted that gold medal.
And 31 years ago, that’s what happened.
I’ll never forget the crowd of people when one of the judges posted the results. The judge had to duck under the hoard as coaches, parents, and skaters, converging at the bulletin board. And how Joanne sauntering through the chaos and a pathway clearing for her.
Or when she turned, holding up her index finger: “First!”
I stared at Joanne for a brief second – in total disbelief – and then I raced to the dressing room to tell Jenn. We won the gold! Out of twelve teams. Some of those skaters were training those dances since summer school.
I burst into the changing room. A skater from our club won a bronze medal in primary singles, and she was waiting for the ceremonies while Jenn waited for our results.
“Jenn! We won!” and I started jumping. “We won!”
Jenn stared at me. “What!”
“We’re first! We won the gold!”
By that time Joanne entered the dressing room. She congratulated the three of us, and then she said, “You should’ve seen Tammy’s face when I told her.”
In hindsight, that look on my face would’ve make an awesome candid photo.
The medal ceremony seemed grand, with a red carpet leading to an on-ice podium. Nothing can replicate that moment of standing with my older sister on top spot, receiving our first gold medal. We were also given a single red rose – which I kept for years.
But some things never change.
In the footage, I say something and laugh. My sister peers at me, says something back, and then she looks into the crowd with a sweet smile.
I had told her, “I think I’m going to cry.
And Jenn responded with, “You do, and I’ll push you off.”
Now that’s a Kodak moment. This time, captured on video.
January 28, 2014: Original post
January 28, 2020: Edited post