Isabella Arney skating at Richmond Olympic Oval. (Contributed file photo)

Amid COVID-19, elite White Rock figure skater has been honing her craft

Despite not having access to ice, Isabella Arney stayed dedicated to her sport

Many elite athletes had their lives upended with the unexpected cancellation of competitive sports over the past six months, but while some looked at the opportunity as a break, others used it as a time to hone their skills.

Decorated White Rock figure skater Isabella Arney, 16, is being lauded by Connaught Skating Club for her drive to improve during COVID-19-induced sport hiatus.

Connaught director of skating programs Keegan Murphy said the young athlete, who has won a number of provincial and national titles, has advanced her skills despite missing out on the key component of her sport – access to ice.

“It should be recognized that Isabella’s dedication and commitment to the training during such a strange time was really remarkable,” Murphy told Peace Arch News Monday. “As a coach, these are the times that you really see which athletes are truly dedicated.”

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In phase 1 of COVID-19, Isabella’s training consisted of virtual Zoom classes with her coach, including ballet class, Pilates, jumping class, fitness class and flexibility.

From there, she moved outdoors, with in-person training sessions in phase 2. And phase 3 brought the opportunity to get back on the ice.

“Being away from the ice, for just a weekend, is sometimes difficult for an elite figure skater. However, over three months was something none of us had ever experienced,” Isabella told PAN, adding that typically, competitive skaters are on the ice for three hours a day.

Isabella said her desire to get back on the ice was the key to finding the motivation to keep up with the physically-demanding off-ice training.

“In these classes, I would work my hardest because I knew how much it would benefit me,” she said. “These classes gave us hope that we would get back on the ice sometime soon.”

The Connaught club is currently training out of Burnaby, but members hope to get back into their home rink, the Richmond Olympic Oval, sometime next month.

What remains an uncertainty is what competitive skate will look like, and how it will be judged, when that time comes.

“We’re starting to be very creative with that process. Can it be judged? Can we have a couple of judges in the ice rink and then do some of the accounting part virtually? It’s all very experimental right now. I believe there will be competition starting in October, but the details of how those are run are really to be confirmed.”

Isabella said she’s most looking forward to the opportunity to showcase her new short program, which was choreographed by former national figure skating champ, Joey Russell.

“Also, I am looking forward to that amazing feeling you get when you compete. The ice to yourself, just everyone watching you do what you love most,” she said.

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