Airdrie figure skaters Ben Vatcher and Heather Nunn were still grinning from ear to ear, a week after returning from their first national-level competition.
Vatcher and Nunn, both 15, were among Alberta’s representatives at the Skate Canada Challenge, held Dec. 1 to 5 in Regina, Sask. Competing at a national meet for the first time, the ice dance duo skated to a 13th-place showing in the pre-novice age group, in a field of 14 competing pairs.
Though they ultimately finished near the bottom of the standings, Nunn said the opportunity to skate against some of the best ice dance pairs in Canada for the pre-novice (U16) age group was a great opportunity. Vatcher and Nunn amassed 41.05 points in the tango, blues, and free dance.
“For it being the first time, we weren't exactly super proud of our skates, but as competitor skaters, you can't always be super satisfied with your skates,” Nunn said. “For our first time, it wasn't terrible, but we definitely know we could've done better.”
“There were areas we don't normally mess up on, but when the pressure is on, the more common mistakes we have do seem to come out more,” Vatcher added.
Nunn and Vatcher qualified for the national meet on the back of a strong performance in Edmonton Nov. 4 to 7 at Skate Canada’s Sectional Championships for Alberta, North West Territories and Yukon, where they garnered 54.14 points.
Making the step up to nationals less than a month later was “nerve-wracking,” but undoubtedly exciting, according to Nunn, who added it was neat to see what it’s like to compete at a higher level of competition.
“We kept on being told by our peers and coaches that we were meant to be in that category,” she said. “We did fit comfortably, but it was definitely more nerve-wracking. You could definitely tell we were new to that level.”
With both skaters on the cusp of their 16th birthdays, Nunn and Vatcher have officially been skating together for more than three years. In that time, they say they’ve constantly developed and improved their chemistry, both on and off the ice.
One interesting character trait that helped the two bond in their early days working together is that Nunn is a triplet, with two identical twin brothers, while Vatcher has a twin sister.
The two also attend the same high school – Vatcher is now in Grade 11 at Bert Church High School, while Nunn is in Grade 10.
“We definitely have bonded more but we also had that relationship first,” Nunn explained, adding Vatcher is like the “brother I never asked for.”
“When you watch other partners get together at first, it's usually a little awkward – holding hands and stuff. For us, it was too, but we kind of clicked and became close friends as well. Having his siblings be my friends, we know each other's families and our moms are good friends as well.”
Vatcher agreed, adding the commonalities the two shared made forming a solid on-ice bond easy.
“It's just that little bit easier [whereas] other teams might not have that ease,” he said.
With the Skate Canada Challenge now in the rear-view mirror, Nunn said the pair is already busy training for their next competition, which will be hosted in Airdrie in February 2022. She said they practise about five hours a week at the Plainsman Arena in Airdrie, though that training regimen can ramp up during the peak competition season for figure skating, which is in the summer and fall.