To The Worlds – An Interview with Donna Bergvinson

to the worlds - donna bergvinson
Donna Bergvinson/CBC POV Promotional Photo/Submitted

“I feel like I’m going through a second childhood.”

Adult skater and preschool teacher for the Boys and Girls Club in Kelowna, Donna Bergvinson, uses the lessons she teaches to the ice. “I wasn’t the best skater. I had to figure it out. I learned how to do a three-turn from a book,” said the 61-year-old

Bergvinson’s story is chronicled in the CBC documentary “To The Worlds.” The film follows six adult skaters who travel from Kelowna, BC to Oberstdorf, Germany to compete at the 2018 ISU Adult Figure Skating Competition.

Bergvinson, in a telephone interview, said there were a few factors that drew her to the ice. She wanted to do something for herself. A chance to leave the house. Bergvinson entered her daughter into figure skating, while she joined a synchronized skating team.

“It sounds like fun,” said Bergvinson. “But it was out of my comfort zone.”

However, sometimes life throws you for a loop. Bergvinson was “encouraged to leave the synchro team.” But she wasn’t about to hang up the boots. “My daughter was winding down her career,” said Bergvinson. “She had knee and ankle injuries … she took time away from the ice.”

When Bergvinson’s daughter, who at age 11 was provincial champion, returned to the ice, the other skaters in her level had advanced, and she couldn’t catch up. But, Bergvinson pulled her back onto the ice. Bergvinson needed a coach, and who better than her daughter?

Bergvinson ” …  was determined to learn everything.” She worked through the STARSkate program and achieved her Junior bronze dances – and one of three Senior Bronze dances – the Ten Fox.

Bergvinson said the ISU Adult Figure Skating Competition in Oberstdorf, Germany “was magical.”

And the experience left Bergvinson starstruck. “I’m skating along in my practices, and I see this Olympic bronze medallist (Jozef Sabovčík). He was coaching one of the skaters in the competition.” She told Sabovčík, “I’m coming back for a picture with you!”

“I had grown up (watching) and all these skating people who would go the world and Olympics,” said Bergvinson. “Karen Magnussen. Toller Cranston. You know how kids like superheros? Those were my superheros.” Bergvinson also admires Joannie Rochette, Yuna Kim, Brian Orser and Patrick Chan.

In the bleachers at Oberstdorf, Bergvinson realized she was sitting in front of three-time US pairs champion, JoJo Starbuck, who skated with Kenneth Shelley.

“She (Starbuck) was sitting by herself, and she … asked me who the next skaters were. When there was a lull in the competition … I asked did you used to skate with Kenneth Shelley. Her face just lit up.”

Bergvinson’s free skate was on the last day of the competition. She skated to “I Believe,” by Nikki Yanofsky, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic theme. When she took her opening stance, her first thought was, “I hope I remember everything.”

The atmosphere when Bergvinson stepped onto the ice was “Magical … I got to skate with all these ladies skate I’ve known for 10 to 15 years,” said Bergvinson. “The Canadian contingent was sitting behind the judges. My friends are cheering … Wendy’s (Ord) ringing the cowbell.”

Plus, Bergvinson brought home some hardware, winning the free skate and placing second in artistic. “It was pretty incredible. One of the best memories of my life. My childhood dreams were met,” said Bergvinson, an international Bronze IV skater. “I got to go to Germany, and be the best in my category.”

Rather than medals for the top three skaters winning medals, they’re award gold and crystal trophies with embedded rubies. The skaters who placed from fourth onward receive a participation medal.

Bergvinson said her kids are “pretty proud (of her).”

With her daughter, “Skating kind of kept us together … She said … it was harder to watch (me) than it ever was to be skating.”

For her son, “It’s been cool for him. He’s quite proud too.”

Proof that figure skating fame isn’t reserved for the young, Bergvinson graces the cover of the West Kelowna Recreation Guide.

Bergvinson’s preschoolers brought the guide to school for her to sign.

“One of my little skating students saw it, and her mom told me she put it on her wall,” said Bergvinson with a giggle. “This little four-year-old saw it, and tore it (the cover) off and put it on her wall.”

While skating seems like a family affair, Bergvinson’s parents never watched her skate live. However, when the 2018 Adult Worlds were in Vancouver, they saw Bergvinson skate for the first time.

“My dad was so proud. He’s 96 years old,” said Bergvinson. “He doesn’t really talk a lot anymore. After the competition, I put the gold medal in his hands, and he just said, ‘Wow.’ And it felt so good for him to understand what a big accomplishment it was … and my mom’s so proud of me. I don’t ever so proud of me.”
On January 12, Bergvinson was taking in a public session, and she saw a woman doing a sit spin to show her kids. The two skaters chatted, and Bergvinson learned the woman was from the Calalta Figure Skating Club in Alberta. Bergvinson told the woman, who was in her late-30s, that she was an adult skater and it “took five years to get that sit spin.”

The woman said, ” ‘Oh, by the way, there’s a movie on  TV about adult figure skating.”

Bergvinson said, “I’m actually in that program.”

And the woman said, ” ‘I’ll be sure to watch it now!’ “
Photos: Bountiful Films
Watch “To The Worlds” Friday, January 18th on CBC Docs POV
7 p.m. CT/8 p.m. ET/9:30 NT

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