Battle of the Blades all about having fun

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Jordan Vanacker's younger sister Danielle figure skates, but the 11-year-old Langton peewee minor hockey player, soon to be 12, never tried the sport.

Not until he agreed to be 12-year-old Paige Vandendriessche's partner for Langton's Mini Battle of the Blades on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m. at the Langton Arena. Ten pairs, including his sister Danielle and Paige's younger brother Stefan, will be competing in a youth version of CBC's reality TV show, Battle of the Blades.

“We got our names in really fast because we really wanted to do it,” said Paige, who has watched the CBC show every Sunday night this season. “I really like it. I like to hear about the hockey players because they're big and strong, and it's funny to watch them fall all the time when they first get their figure skates on. The one guy, his arm was all black and blue. It was gross.”

“I've watched the show two or three times,” said Jordan, admitting it was only after he signed up for Langton's Battle of the Blades. “We had our first session and it was really just learning how to figure skate, doing all the pushes, spirals and stuff. It was pretty easy at the beginning – the stroking's sort of similar to hockey. Then we watched it (the TV show) and I was thinking maybe we could do some of the stuff they were doing. Like one of the lifts.”

After the first few practices their program has come along well, he said, with a good variation of moves and techniques, including two jumps and two lifts. And that's what counts for judging, he added.

“I think it's the amount of fun that you have on the ice, the variation, and how good you do your routine. All your expression and your character.”

Vandendriessche, a member of the Langton Skating Club, has experience competing in singles, but not pairs.

“It's harder skating pairs,” she admitted, “because you have to be worrying about someone else, too. You have to really trust the other person. In the real Battle of the Blades, they always say you have to be able to trust, because if you don't trust them you're going to get down and stuff. You'll do better if there's trust. It's a lot of fun, but sometimes it's a little frustrating doing it over and over again.”

Unlike year-end carnivals, they have to learn and perfect the routine in a very short amount of time.

“We have to know what we're going to do really quickly. But we have to make it fun, so it's kind of hard. All the couples are 'fun' couples because they all know each other and that helps. If you're having fun it makes you look more comfortable. If you're not comfortable and not having fun, you look nervous.”

“There is some pressure, thinking you could miss a jump or do something wrong on the actual day of the competition,” said Vanacker. “That would lower your chances of winning, so there is some pressurre to it, but we've got time.”

“It would be good to win, and I think it would be fun to be on TV,” said Vandendriessche, “but I'm not nervous about it – I don't really care if I win or not. We're going to be doing it in carnival, and maybe Gala, maybe with all the couples together, so we still get to have fun doing it.”

HOCKEY & FIGURE SKATING

Comparing the sports, Vanacker was quick to say figure skating was harder.

Not skilled in hockey, his partner did not agree.

“I'm usually the person who gets hit down,” Vandendriessche laughed.

Both sports involve 'blades,' but it's the difference between the two that seems to provide the 'hook' for Battle of the Blades, which returned to CBC in September for its fourth season.

“It's pretty different,” said Vanacker. “In hockey you're focused on the puck. In figure skating you're focused on your technique. It's quite a transition for me.”

After trying it, Vanacker admits he now has more appreciation for the sport – and maybe even more respect for his sister.

“Kind of,” he smiled. “But it would be funny watching my sister trying to do hockey, trying to push through all that and have to be good at stickhandling. Or body contact. It's a different mindset.”

Not that injuries don't happen in figure skating, as he quickly found out in the first session.

“The first day, I taught him how to do a waltz jump,” said Vandendriessche. “And he kept doing it and doing it, and the last time... I didn't even see it because I was off for a second, and he fell.”

“I was doing a waltz jump and I got my footing wrong at the end,” said Vanacker. “I was focused on height on my jumps, so I lost my footing, fell, and got a cut on my lip. What you want to do is get off the (ice) and transition feet – jump from one foot and land on your other foot. I got too high high off the (ice) so my leg was straight when I landed. So it did like a wobbly thing and I fell forward.”

On Friday, it was Vandendriessche who took a bit of a knock while they were working on a pull-through.

“I went under, but I'm a little bit taller than him, so he fell on my head,” Vandendriesshe laughed. “So we're not doing that, because we're the same height. We have something else in the program.”

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