Russell heads to nationals with confidence

Kenn Oliver
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Labrador City native looking for one of two berths on Canadian Olympic team

It's been a season of firsts for Joey Russell. In November, he competed in the HomeSense Skate Canada International, his first International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix event. The next month, the 21-year-old Labrador City native followed it up with by landing his first quad in practice. And at this weekend's BMO Canadian figure skating championships in London, Ont., Russell will have a look to become the first person from this province to make Canada's Olympic figure skating team.

"After finishing last year, the goal of being at the Olympics became a little more realistic," Russell said from Barrie, Ont,. where he continues to train out of the Mariposa Skating School under the tutelage of Lee Barkell and Doug Leigh.

Labrador City native Joey Russell performs his short program in the men's competition at the Home Sense Skate Canada International figure skating championship in Kitchener, Ont., on Nov. 20, 2009. Russell is considered one of the top five contenders in th

It's been a season of firsts for Joey Russell. In November, he competed in the HomeSense Skate Canada International, his first International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix event. The next month, the 21-year-old Labrador City native followed it up with by landing his first quad in practice. And at this weekend's BMO Canadian figure skating championships in London, Ont., Russell will have a look to become the first person from this province to make Canada's Olympic figure skating team.

"After finishing last year, the goal of being at the Olympics became a little more realistic," Russell said from Barrie, Ont,. where he continues to train out of the Mariposa Skating School under the tutelage of Lee Barkell and Doug Leigh.

"I've had it in my mind ever since I finished my long routine last year at nationals and with each competition and each day of practice, I'm realizing it's a big possibility. It's pushing me that much harder each day."

Canada will send just two male singles skaters to Vancouver in February. Reigning two-time Canadian champ Patrick Chan is expected to be one of them. Russell is one of five other skaters expected to challenge for the second spot.

The others are Vaughan Chipeur, Jeremy Ten, Kevin Reynolds and Shawn Sawyer.

"There's five of us who are all in the same boat, where if we skate two clean programs at nationals, it would get your the second place.

"I know I need two clean programs ... I can't accept anything less than that," said Russell. who says a turning point in his career came when he started nailing triple axels with ease

"I feel like now it (the triple axel) is just another one of my elements and it's become more and more consistent each day."

As a result, Russell heads to London comfortable in his belief his abilities are on par with the competition.

"I had a lot of focus on getting up to their standards, but now it's my own standards," he said.In three previous trips to nationals, Russell placed sixth (2007), ninth (2008) and sixth last year, when he was third in the short program.

The long and short of it

Prior to to competing - and placing 10th - in his first Grand Prix event this November, Russell also competed in the Nebelhorn Trophy, an international senior-level figure skating competition held annually in Germany, where he finished ninth of 30 skaters. It was his best finish at the European event ,where he placed 11th in 2007 and a disappointing 15th in 2008.

Just as he did at the 2009 nationals, Russell rolled out an impressive short program in Germany, one that landed him in fourth place.

"The short was a big step for me to be considered more of a serious competitor there," he said.

"But I really wasn't ready and didn't go a great long."

And since the long program accounts for significantly more points, preparing his program for this weekend has been paramount.

"We've been making sure the long is ready in every situation, whether I'm off the ice waiting after my warm-up for 45 minutes or whether I just stepped on the ice. I've been making sure every possibility is thrown at me and I'll be ready to do it no matter what on Sunday," said Russell.

While the quad is part of his repertoire now, Russell won't break it out in either of his routines this weekend.

"We're going to stick to the plan we've had all season because I don't feel it's the most important part. But I know I would be taken a lot more seriously to have a quad in practice, show people what I've been working on and how I've improved."

koliver@thetelegram.com

Organizations: ISU, Mariposa Skating School

Geographic location: Canada, Labrador, London, Ont. Barrie Vancouver Germany London

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  • Joanne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Of course, I know that you won't be reading this, Joey, but my Good Luck wishes and prayers and extended to you anyway.
    You certainly are on par with the competition, and then some.

  • Joanne
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Of course, I know that you won't be reading this, Joey, but my Good Luck wishes and prayers and extended to you anyway.
    You certainly are on par with the competition, and then some.