Wong finishes fourth at Skate Canada Challenge in last year of pre-novice

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Tobiah Wong graduates into the novice ranks with the goal of finishing at the head of the class.

“I’m trying to be the top Alberta man in novice,” said the fourth-place pre-novice skater at the recent Skate Canada Challenge in Pierrefonds, Quebec. “It’s a big jump though just because usually everybody has such strong jumps than in pre-novice.”

The St. Albert Skating Centre performer completed his third and last year in the U16 division with his best showing at the pre-novice nationals after placing second out of seven skaters at the Alberta/NWT/Nunavut Sectionals in Lethbridge.

“This time I felt more prepared going into it and I had more of a positive attitude,” Wong said. “It was more of an exciting moment to go just so that I can do well.”

Wong, 16, was third in the short program and 16th in the freeskate, or long program, and his 81.89 overall point total was the fourth highest out of 40 competitors.

Matthew Newnham of the Ice Palace Figure Skating Club and the top skater at sectionals was the winner with 112 points while sweeping the short and freeskate categories.

“I was definitely going for the top, like up on the podium,” Wong said. “It was not the result I wanted but it’s a big improvement from previous Challenges.”

Last year’s result was “definitely bottom half, 30th maybe,” said the Grade 11 Ross Sheppard High School student.

“This year it was different. I think it was the best I’ve done for a short program but the long program that was a bit of a stumble,” Wong added. “Just a bad skate.”

The fourth-place result bodes well for Wong in the U17 novice level.

“This year I think he will be a real solid novice in the provincial. He will be really good,” said coach Ben Ferreira. “His skating skills have got stronger. He’s acquired a few more triple jumps. The program components for him are better. The spins are better.

“He’s buying into doing the run-throughs and buying into the off-ice work and doing a lot of the stuff that he needs to do if he wants to go to the next level. He’s really improved a lot and it’s been fun to see.”

The difference from last year’s 59.35 points for 30th place to this year at the Skate Canada Challenge started in the short program.

“He was last in short (out of 42 skaters) but pulled it up in the long (23rd). He just didn’t have a good day that day,” Ferreira said. “Pre-novice is a very good level to grow his overall skating and he did a great job this year. He was third in the short and was fourth overall but for him it was that whole experience of being in that final group at a Challenge. He’s never had that before so it was a very positive year for him for sure.”

Success starts in the short program, according to Ferreira.

“You have required elements to hit but here’s the golden rule with the short program: you can’t win the event with the short program but you can lose the event with the short program,” said the 2004 Canadian senior men’s silver medallist. “You want to set yourself up in that final group of six skaters usually.

“The long program is a little bit of different. It’s more free. You can kind of choose which elements you want to go in and of course maximize a points strategy that makes sense to the reliability of the skater and what they can do.”

Wong, who is on the cutting edge of mastering the triple flip, prefers the short program, maxed out at 2:40 minutes, than the free skate with a 3:10 time limit.

“It’s just because of the music and the way I perform it,” said the former Fliteway Figure Skating Club member.

Playing to the crowd in the short or long programs with the ice as the stage as been a work in progress for Wong.

“I’ve enjoyed it more over time. As a kid I didn’t really enjoy it that much but now I’m definitely opening up to it.”

Wong started skating eight years ago and has embraced the sport with open arms.

“It’s just more of a good feeling that I get when I skate and it’s not like I’m feeling forced to skate it’s more like I get excited and happy.”

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.