Burnaby teen marks birthday with gold skate

As birthdays go, the icing on the cake was golden.

Burnaby’s Sarah Tamura celebrated her 15th birthday last week by going out and capturing the Canadian figure skating championships in Halifax.

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The teen accomplished it in style, too, with new personal bests in both the short and free programs and a total score that made it a runaway success.

“I definitely felt real confident going to Halifax and it seemed like I was in the zone,” Tamura told the NOW. “I did the (free) skate on my birthday, and how it all turned out was a really nice birthday present.”

The Burnaby Central student scored 52.48 in the short program, then aced the free skate with a powerful 102.72 – both top results in junior ladies. That gave her a total of 155.20 points, bettering Quebec’s Alicia Pineault’s 137.83. In third place was Tamura's Champs Skating International Centre of B.C. teammate Megan Yim, who posted a 134.48 total.

Tamura tore up her previous bests by a good margin, too. Her new mark in the short shattered a 16-month-old record of 41.53 set at a Junior Grand Prix event in Nagoya. Her new free skate eclipsed a Junior Grand Prix personal best set last August in Riga.

“I obviously haven’t had this much confidence going into this season but my practices of late were going very well so I knew it was possible. I was very comfortable,” she said, noting that posting a plus-50 total in the short skate was extremely satisfying.

“I kind of thought the (free skate) points were possible, so I expected that,” Tamura noted. “The short program result was more surprising, as I had a very clean skate but I missed the last spin. But when I heard my score I was overwhelmed.”

She landed all three jumps in her short skate but felt the missed spin would be costly – but in that thought she was off the mark.

“It was very disappointing because up until then my skate was super-solid.”

Champs Skating International coach Joanne McLeod noted that it was in the work Tamura put in that carried her forward.

“Her training. (Tamura) is very consistent and mature with how she approaches training, and there’s a level of confidence you get from that,” said McLeod.

This is Tamura’s second straight year competing as a junior, after injuries last year limited her training prior to the 2015 nationals, where she finished sixth overall.

Two years ago Tamura captured the Canadian novice ladies crown, with Yim picking up her first bronze at the national level.

Both skaters train at McLeod’s centre at 8-Rinks.

To see Yim achieve her podium place was gratifying.

“Megan had a truly special skate, very much from her heart,” recalled McLeod. “She overcame some obstacles to get there, but the whole team was extremely proud of her.”

Winning the Canadian title also earned Tamura a ticket to Debrecen, Hungary, where she will wear the Maple Leaf and skate at the International Skate Union World Junior championships in March.

Collecting the bronze in senior men’s was Kevin Reynolds. A member of the 2014 Canadian Olympic silver medal-winning team, Reynolds achieved last week’s result despite having hip surgery last year.

The Coquitlam native had the procedure last April and only laced up the skates again in October – a very quick turn-around, his coach said. Even more risky was his decision to push to compete at full-force at the nationals, when he was half a year of training behind his competitors.

“It was unpredictable,” she said of his recovery. “I left it to him to find his way back and I wanted it to be on his terms and no one else’s.”

The 25-year-old, who withdrew from the 2015 nationals after placing 12th in the short program, was focused on getting back up to speed as soon as possible. His bronze medal – after claiming three straight silver medals from 2012-14 – was a tribute to his determination,” said McLeod.

“The timing (of his recovery) was more suitable to focus on next year, getting back into skating midway through the season,” she noted. “But he wanted it… Coming third was like gold for him. It’s really unheard of to come back so quickly, and a credit to how determined a young man he is.”

One-time Burnaby skater and defending men’s champion Nam Nguyen finished fifth. Nguyen, who trains in Ontario now under former national champion Brian Orser, won the 2015 men’s title when reigning champ Patrick Chan didn’t enter. Chan reclaimed the men’s gold this year with a lauded performance. Coming in 13th place was Burnaby’s Mitchell Gordon.

In novice men’s, Champs’ Brian Le placed sixth, just 0.02 points back of fifth. In 16th place was Gabriel Blumental.

Another junior ladies result reflected similar perseverance.

Tilyna Pawer placed 14th overall, with a 39.39 in short and 68.86 in free. A year ago, she ended up fifth at the BC/YT sectionals, with the top-four qualifying for nationals.

“(Pawer) dreamed of making it to nationals and she tried for four years,” said McLeod. “It was special for her to reach this, to achieve this.”

Emily Bausback finished seventh in novice ladies, thanks to a sixth-best mark in the free program.

McLeod noted that the 13-year-old Bausback’s effort in Halifax drew a lot of attention from members of the media.

“She did one of the most spectacular performances in novice ladies and landed a triple lutz,” said McLeod. “That’s a jump that’s more common in juniors. When she came off the ice there was a bit of media attention there, like ‘Hello, tell us about yourself.’”

In senior ladies, Kelsey Wong skated to a 10th place finish, registering the 10th best score in both short and free events.

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