Monday, December 21, 2015

Shae Zukiwsky receives honours from Pincher Creek Skating Club

Shea Zukiwsky and Coach Sherry Mackenzie
Toni Lucas

The Pincher Creek Skating Club has close to 60 skaters in their ranks this year.  Those members plus their families were invited to attended the club's annual Skating Christmas party on Monday, December 14 in the lobby of the MCC Arena.

The gathering was a pleasant casual way for the families to get to know each other better.  This year they had a special guest speaker, Shae Zukiwsky.  Zukiwsky grew up in Pincher Creek and has competed in 11 national figure skating championships.  He is well respected and sought after for his technical expertise in skate dance, dance, coaching, and choreography.  He learned a few things on the ice and in life which he shared with the crowd: Focus on what you want, even when you love what you do there will be obstacles, do not let others negate your path for you, and do not give up.

Zukiwsky was an engaging speaker
Zukiwsky said he was honoured that an area on the wall in the MCC Arena will be hosting a commemoration to him which was dedicated at the event.  "This is where I learned to skate, I was born in Pincher Creek.  My dad put me into CanSkate to make me a better hockey player, because all boys were to play hockey." During one of the annual Pincher Creek ice carnivals the future of his life was changed forever.  He saw a woman performing and watching her do a sit spin in her performance struck him, hard.  "Something inside of me just turned on.  I had never seen anything like it, the music, the spotlight on her, and I was a completely mesmerized."  Zukiwsky dropped out of hockey to pursue this new interest.  "It wasn't easy at first.  There were no black skates. I had to get white skates with boot covers and I was teased relentlessly for having girl skates." Another adjustment that had to be made quickly was learning how to skate with toe picks.  He said that adjustment collected him many, many bruises and made him question if he had made a good decision.

"Figures are actually the 'figure' in figure skating.  It really started with artistic designs on the ice.  Back in the day to compete as a free-skater, you needed to pass a certain level of figure test."  Zukiwsky admitted he failed to pass his figure tests multiple times.  Determined, he practiced figures for 1 to 2 hours a day at 6:00 am until he did pass.  "The last Nationals that I competed in while figures were still in, I placed third and that was a pretty big deal, but there was a time when I simply could not do it.  It was a huge obstacle and I had to figure out how to get past this obstacle, and it really was time and effort."

There was fun at the social
He spoke about his own career in ice skating, and one of the personal challenges that he faced.  During one Junior Western Canadian competition he had to follow Elvis Stojko, who later became a three-time World champion, two-time Olympic silver medalist, and seven-time Canadian champion. "Now, Elvis is really good, and I wasn't as good, and I was terrified." The bedlam that followed Stojko's performance was disheartening.  "The media was nuts, there were flowers everywhere, and I was literally this skinny blond kid who had to push his way through because it was my turn to compete.  It was a really awful experience for me.  That spark I felt watching my first carnival was gone."

Zukiwsky started to pursue ice dance.  "The first year was like the white boots-toe pick year all over again.  I wasn't used to skating with another person, there were new skills I had to learn."  During this difficult time a judge discouraged him from continuing down this path as it was her belief that he was starting ice dance too late in his career and it would be a waste of time for everyone involved.  "I just remember thinking 'This woman doesn't know me, she doesn't know anything about me, who is she to decide how good I can be at the sport?  Who is she to decide the limit that I can achieve with something that I had really had so much joy with, and pride in doing?'  Four years later I was on the national team competing internationally."

"I got recruited to be a technical specialist in the ice dance.  As a technical specialist I have a officiated at every major Canadian ice championships including the World Championships." Zukiwsky said he had the opportunity to work with a number of young competitors including Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford.  Zukiwsky coaches, monitors, and does choreography.

Evan Mahli enjoyed the potluck
"I have got to meet a lot of young athletes who have come from very, very small communities." Moir came from a town of about 10,000, while Radford's community hosts a population of approximately 4,000.  "There are so many talented kids who come from very small rural communities and all of them found their success because they found something they've really enjoy doing, and they have the family and community to help them achieve their goals.  My story is no different.  Without having the support of this community and without having the coaches that I had, you would never be sitting here listening to me."

Zukiwsky looking at the commemoration

From the dedication hung in the MCC Arena:
Pincher Creek Skating Club Honors Past Member:  Shae Zukiwsky 
Like most male skaters in Canada, Shae started out playing hockey in Pincher Creek. To improve his hockey skills he tried figure skating at 11 years old.  Within a few years, he had moved to Calgary to train full time.  Shae competed nationally in singles first in Junior mens then Senior mens.  He then made the switch to ice dance pairs and began taking off-ice dance training seriously as well.  Once paired up with Judith Longpre in 1999, Shae moved to Montreal to train.  In pairs came more success both nationally and internationally.  Shae competed in 11 national figure skating championships – 6 as a single skater and 4 in ice dance. 
It is important to also note Shae’s pursuit of higher education. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Contemporary Dance from Concordia University and Master of Fine Arts from Simon Fraser University in Interdisciplinary Studies. He is also finishing his PhD in Dance at York University. 
Also, on the resume, is current International Skating Union Techincal Specialist in Dance, NCCP Level 3/National Coach, chair of the National Sport Coordination Council, former athlete representative on the Skate Canada Board of Directors, former member of the officials coordinating committee and technical officials committee. As well as, choreographer for CBC’s Battle of the Blades. 
Currently, Shae judges, choreographs and coaches competitive figure skaters in singles, free-skate pairs, and ice dance disciplines working with national and international competitors, taking him all over the world. 
Pincher Creek Skating Club is so proud to be able to say, “Shae Zukiwsky is a hometown hero”.
Austin and Alan Kaupp at the presentation

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