Chanel Cabak’s figure skating season was almost thrown for a loop.
Luckily, the ambidextrous skater can perform a double in either direction.
“I can write with both hands,” said Cabak, via an email interview, “and I can do an Axel, a double Salchow, and a double loop the other way.”
The global pandemic and restrictions across Canada threw skating into a snowbank this season. Manitoba’s season was iced and competitions were cancelled due to COVID, including sectionals. However, junior and senior-level skaters could qualify for the 2021 Skate Canada Challenge – on paper.
With judge’s scorecards, Cabak qualified for her sixth Challenge. The criteria included lack of edge calls and deductions on double Axels and triple jumps, and levels on elements. When Cabak had returned to Calgary to resume training, she learned she qualified for Challenge.
Cabak said a virtual Challenge, “was expected because of the circumstances.”
The national qualifier was planned for November 23 to 29, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. Now, it’ll be a virtual competition from January 8th to 10th and January 15 to 17th, 2021. This season, the competition won’t be open to skaters at the pre-novice and novice levels.
Home audiences will watch competitors from coast to coast to coast perform from their club or pre-submitted footage from a Skate Canada approved competition.
“Without an audience, competing is so much different. I really thrive off of that competition environment,” said Cabak. “This year competing was so different just because of how silent the rink is. You can pretty much hear every little noise. Which is very strange. My coaches do clap pretty loud though so that definitely encourages me!
“A video camera isn’t quite the same!”
Cabak was four years old when she started to skate. She enjoyed the “freedom that figure skating has to offer.”
“When I was little I didn’t want to have any part in having to wear a helmet to play hockey,” said Cabak, “and I also wanted to jump just like the older girls.”
Now 17 years old, Cabak said she still finds skating “such an escape and I feel so much joy every time I’m on the ice.”
The Portage Collegiate School grade 12 student overcomes skating challenges by, “being grateful every time” she’s on the ice.
“We never knew if the next week rinks were going to close,” said Cabak. “I did a lot of off-ice throughout the spring.”
The only challenge Cabak faced was rather than skating out of her home club, Portage SC, she skated at “so many different rinks that I wouldn’t normally skate at.” However, Cabak’s “grateful” her coaches were able to make the arrangements.
Cabak skates under the watchful eyes of two-time (1993 and 1994) American champion and 1994 Olympian Scott Davis, and two-time Canadian medallist (1997, silver; 1998, bronze) and 1998 Olympian Jeff Langdon – who is also her choreographer.
This will be Cabak’s first foray at the junior level, previously competing at Challenge at the pre-novice and novice levels. Her short program is to a haunting remake of Never Tear Us Apart by Paloma Faith – made famous by INXS in the 1980s. Cabak said her coach, Langdon, thought she’d be “the perfect person to skate to it (Paloma Faith).” Cabak said while it’s one of Langdon’s favourite songs, it’s quickly becoming one of hers too.
“I listen to it quite a bit at home,” said Cabak, “and I absolutely love skating to it just because it’s a bit of a different style.”
Her long program is from the musical, Chicago.
“I love the musical and I just have so much fun every time I skate to this music,” said Cabak.
“It’s a blast!”
The junior women’s short program kicks off January 8th at 3:15 p.m. ET (2:15 p.m. CT). Cabak skates at 6:56 p.m. ET (5:56 p.m. CT).
Here are the other Manitoba skaters who qualified:
Emma King, Skate Winnipeg, Junior Women
Yohnatan Elizarov, Skate Winnipeg, Junior Men
Danae Russell, Skate Century, Senior Women
The live-stream and schedule can be found here (2021 results)