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 17 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 CanSkate 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 dance at the preliminary level.
Jenn decided to return to skating, plus, according to sources – aka the small town rumour mill – for the 1988/1989 season, 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 be compete. For medals. I was sold, because I’m super competitive. I used to crumble if there wasn’t a Scratch ‘N Sniff sticker on my elementary school tests.
The 1989 Interlake Regionals was my first competition. We were about to mail the registration forms – yes, mail – when Joanne approached Jenn and I with an idea. Why not compete in primary dance? Another shot at a medal? Sign me up!
One problem though: Jenn hadn’t passed her preliminary dance – Dutch Waltz and Canasta Tango. Plus, I needed my Canasta. The competition was on January 28th, and the test day was mid-January. 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 it was serious business. However, we both escaped preliminary.
But another problem. We barely would barely practice the dances together unless we had a lesson. I was on our home rink, 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, skaters crying, vendors selling pins, dresses, sweaters, and flowers. And I loved the vibe.
The primary ladies singles event was first, but 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. It was so long, my dad’s video camera had to be charged at the rink, missing one skater during the recharge – and he switched to another VHS tape mid-primary dance event.
In the singles event, Jenn was a strong contender. I skated after her, and I watched as she entered a flip – and slipped off her blade. When she finished the program, she stepped off the ice ans she was handed a “participation certificate,” and she was crushed. Despite the fall though, 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 finish was temporary. I thought – it’s okay – because we’ll perform two perfect dances tonight. At 12 years old, I was extremely competitive – and I still am.
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 the judges posted the results. The judge had to duck under the hoard as coaches, parents, and skaters converged on 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 – totally in disbelief – and then I raced to the dressing room to tell Jenn. We won the gold! Out of 12 teams. Some of those skaters started to train together since summer school.
I burst into the changing room. A skater from our club, a close friend of Jenn’s, won a bronze medal. She was awaiting 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 the moment of standing with my older sister on the top spot and 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 peered 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