At the tender ages of 12 and 14, Sophia Kagolovskaya and Kieran MacDonald sprung into the spotlight this season – winning medals at both the provincial and national level.
Ice dancing, in which the skating emulates ballroom dancing on ice, differs from pairs figure skating in that the competitors don’t include throws and overhead lifts in their routines.
Carleigh MacDonald has been coaching the pair for five or so years now – with a special connection to the two, being Kieran’s older sister.
The former skater picked up coaching around the same time the young athletes made their switch from Kitchener Waterloo Skating Club to someplace a little closer to home, Ayr.
“They were at the same club, coached by the same coach before me and they both actually had partners before they started skating together,” she said, explaining they were put together based on size, skills and aesthetics.
The partners medaled at every competition they entered this season. Among their achievements, the two were selected to travel to British Columbia and represent Ontario at the BC Summer Skate event, where they proudly took home the gold.
Rounding out the season, the two competed against 30 teams from across Canada at a three-day 2018 Skate Canada Challenge Event held in Pierrefonds, QC just last month, taking home the silver medal.
To qualify, the pair had two options: place top-five overall in the Skate Canada national summer series, which they did, or qualify through sectionals, where the pair also received gold.
During the national competition, the first portion saw the pair do two pattern dances.
“They were in first after that and got two personal-best scores there,” said the coach.
The following day was their free dance.
“They placed second on that, but their total score was a three-point personal best and had they skated earlier in the event they would have had a Canadian record. The team that beat them by 0.26 had the record, so it was very, very close, but it was really good experience for them,” said the coach.
A good experience indeed, having competed in the national competition only once before – placing eighth – the silver-medal finish showed a big improvement in their skills.
However the most recent success didn’t come overnight, as it’s been a long road.
“It is funny to look back. We laugh about it because their very first season together they got last at every single competition that they did; we joke about it all of the time, that year compared to the last few seasons, because they have had so much success from pre-juvenile all the way up to pre-novice,” said MacDonald. “It makes me happy and it makes me proud that they do so well.”
The two have skated together for six competitive seasons, having started individually at the ripe age of 4.Kieran’s origin was more circumstantial.
“Kieran had no choice, I guess, he was there since birth, so he just wanted to skate,” explained Sandra Couper, Kieran’s mom, noting that in addition to Carleigh skating, her eldest son had as well.
“I kind of grew up in the rink,” Kieran confirmed.
Sophia, however, sort of fell into the sport. Or, rather, she didn’t, so to speak. After a pre-school visit to the Wellesley arena for a skate, her steadiness on the blades garnered some attention.
“I noticed that she hardly ever falls. She was very cautious, and in general she is cautious, but she didn’t fall,” said her mother, Natalia Trubochkina. “She would just stand and then walk a little bit very, very slowly, and somebody said, ‘Well, when did she start?’ and I said, ‘It’s her first time.’”
“I called my husband and said well I think we found a sport for her.”
Sophia still remembers her first skates she wore: pink, with Velcro straps.
However, those days are long gone. Now, the two train five days a week for a total of 20 hours. The dream has not come without sacrifices and hard work on a strict schedule that sees the two with a jam-packed day on ice before school, online classes for school, dance, a second on-ice training session and off-ice conditioning stint daily throughout the week.
In addition to their daily training, the two also travel across the border to Novi, Michigan twice a month where they train with Olympic-level athletes under coach Igor Shpilband and his team. After seeing a tape of the two skating, he warmly invited them to come down and skate this past spring.
“They work with his team of coaches there. It is absolutely great that they are on the ice with the world medalists and junior world medalists – it’s an amazing atmosphere for them to go down to,” explained the coach, noting they are by far the smallest ones. “It is good for them to see where they have to get to and more eyes are always good as well.”
As for the goal, it’s unanimous: the Olympics.
Although the season is wrapped up for now, and the Olympics are still a few years off, the pair is preparing to move up from pre-novice to novice, which will see new dances and components added to their résumé.