Until this season, Langton Skating Club's Abby Koot has only skated 'singles.'
“But I want to be a pair,” said Koot, a 10-year-old figure skater.
“Uh... don't ask me every time!” said Langton's Maddox Callens, a 10-year-old atom hockey player who is partnering with Koot to compete in a Mini Battle of the Blades on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 7 p.m. at the Langton Arena.
“A figure skating pair,” she laughed. “Not with a hockey player!”
But that's exactly the kind of 'pair' they will be for the youth version of CBC's reality TV show Battle of the Blades. Koot/Callens are one of 10 Langton pairs, combining figure skaters and their chosen hockey partners.
Practices started last week for each pair, and learning from the Langton coaches, Koot has already noted the main difference between solo skating and pairs.
“It's a lot of holding and different lifts,” said Koot, who has enjoyed learning some of the techniques watched during season four of CBC's popular Sunday night TV show. She's caught the show a few times more than Callens, who's Battle of the Blade viewing experience was limited to only one.
“It was cool,” said Koot.
Only one Langton pair will be selected for the online voting portion of the Mini Battle of the Blades, where the Langton's winner will go up against eight other pairs from other Canadian regions. It's a friendly competition, but at the same time they know there's going to be some pressure on the 29th of October.
“Yes,” Koot nodded.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Callens agreed.
“It's just like when I do my solo, I kind of put pressure on myself,” said Koot. “I just feel it.”
The hardest part of the routine, so far, for Koot?
“Doing a kick-up,” Koot laughed, recalling a spectacular centre-ice fall during Friday afternoon's training session.
Subsequent attempts to do their 'karate kick' were somewhat modified. Insteading of kicking with both feet while balancing on Koot's back, Callens kept one foot in close proximity to the ice.
“Just because we fell... and he's not sure about it,” said Koot.
“I don't want to get cut in the head,” said Callens, who said for him, the waltz jump had the greatest difficulty level.
“I'm supposed to jump and turn.”
For figure skaters it's a basic, routine jump. A beginner's jump.
“It's just kind of plain... Sue (Plewes) said it doesn't matter,” said Koot.
But it's a jump Callens, who plays AAA hockey in Brantford, has not attempted in a hockey game.
Comparing hockey to figure skating, Callens said hockey was the easier sport.
“A lot easier. Well... no. Hockey has harder battles. I don't know which is harder, I'd just say they're different.”
“It's hard,” said peewee hockey player Ryan Jamieson, who is teaming up with Langton figure skater Haley Burger. “Lifts and jumps – it's just generally hard. We have three jumps, I think.”
“There's only two jumps,” Burger corrected. “And one lift... so far. It's not finished yet.”
It didn't take Jamieson long to realize he was out of his element skating pairs.
“There's no hockey stick,” he noted, “and I skate faster with a hockey stick.”
It's also a new experience for Burger, who has skated singles, but not pairs.
“You have to be hanging on a lot,” said Burger. “You have to keep up with them, stay with them. Do the same steps at the same time.
“It's kind of scary when they lift you up because you don't know if they're going to fall,” she added, noting a higher risk factor training with first-time figure skaters.
“Especially for us, because for us hockey players because normally when we fall we hit the helmet and go,” said Jamieson, noting there were injuries to Jordan Vanacker and Guerin Greenfield in the first practice session.
Merging the two skating styles has been a challenge.
“Hockey players skate really fast and we try to take our time,” she said. “So it's kind of hard to catch up to Ryan.”
“Slow is not the way to go,” Jamieson smiled.
Burger was not willing to suggest either skating style was better than the other.
“I don't know,” she laughed.
“Jumping, figure skaters,” said Jamieson, breaking it down to two basic elements. “Speed, hockey players.”
While Jamieson has watched Battle of the Blades on one occasion, Burger is a regular viewer, having watched the show every season.
“In the beginning, Kurt Browning does a whole bunch of stuff,” said Burger. “I enjoy seeing them progressing, when they just get on the ice and begin to skate and seeing them skate at the end of the show.”
The two 11-year-olds admit there will be some pressure skating on the 29th in front of the judges.
“This is more nerve-wracking (than hockey),” said Jamieson. “Because it's...”
“Because it's different,” said Burger.
“Because it's figure skating,” Jamieson nodded.
Success, she said, will come down to how entertaining it is for the judges.
“How many tricks and how neat it is,” said Burger.