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Nervous but nervy

Whistler’s C.J. Derpak is ready to compete with the best in the west on home ice

It’s a mixed blessing competing at home, says Whistler’s Caleigh Derpak.

"It’s kind of an advantage because it’s my home ice and I’ve been training here all my life, but the nervous part is that my family and friends will be coming out to watch me and see me skate."

Caleigh, or CJ to her friends, is the only Whistler skater with the results to qualify for the inaugural B.C. Cup Invitational figure skating competition taking place at Meadow Park Arena this weekend. She’ll be facing some of the top skaters of her age from around the province in the short and long routines, as well as skaters from as far away as Manitoba.

"I know most of them from competitions, but there are some from out of B.C. coming I haven’t seen or competed against yet. Overall if I do my best and don’t make any big mistakes, I think I could do pretty well," said CJ.

CJ currently trains five days a week, three evenings and two mornings that get underway at 5:30 a.m. She also spends a week a month in Kelowna training with elite coaches, one of the perks of being in Whistler Secondary’s flex-ed program.

She will compete twice over the weekend, a long program that’s four minutes and a short program that takes 2:15. Her coaches helped with the choreography and the music for both routines, which will feature classical and Egyptian-style music respectively.

CJ says she enjoys the theatre of figure skating, as well as the more athletic demands.

"I like all of it. I love performing, but jumping is really a rush, it gets you really pumped up," she said.

Her best trick is the double toe loop, a double spin which she says she "can do in my sleep if I want." She also has a few combination jumps in her routines, which she says are more difficult to do.

As one of the older skaters in the club, CJ says she is getting a kick out of being a role model.

"It’s lots of fun, all the little girls ask me to help them if they can’t do a jump or have trouble with something, and I try to do what I can for them. (This competition) is good because it will get more girls into skating, and hopefully get them to push it a little more in practice.

"For a lot of the girls this will be their first chance to see a really good competition like this."

CJ currently has a personal trainer to help her with conditioning, and plays soccer and runs with her dogs to keep herself in shape – four minute routines take a lot of fitness.

The event is sanctioned by the B.C.-Yukon Territory section of Skate Canada and funded by 2010 LegaciesNow and the provincial government through Game Plan B.C., part of a program to develop elite skaters for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and beyond.

That’s where CJ wants to be.

"It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen down the road but I would love to go to 2010," she said. "I’m going to be 22 then, which is the perfect age to skate at that level."

She already has the commitment, putting in long hours at the rink training to learn new skills and get her routines as close to perfect as possible. A few months from now she’ll skate in the Western Canadian Championships, and if she does well there she has a chance of skating into the nationals.

"I’ve been working up to that, so this weekend will be a good learning experience for me," said CJ.

"I used to get nervous before competing, but you get used to it after a while. Some kids freak out before an event, but I never really had that problem – you have to get over it if you want to skate your best."

CJ is in the pre-Novice competitive category, and will be skating at 2:05 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The entire competition will run from Friday through Sunday, Oct. 8-10. Admission is free, and spectators are encouraged to come out and cheer on our future Olympians.

The Whistler Skating Club will provide volunteers and organizers for the event, which will take place every year in Whistler through 2010. The organizers hope to make it an international tournament in the future, giving Canadian athletes a chance to experience a higher level of competition at a younger age.