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Airdrie ice dancer cracks top 10 at nationals

Competing against some of the best young figure skaters in the country, Airdrie’s Savanna Martel capped off her season by finishing eighth at Skate Canada’s 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships, held Jan. 13 to 19 in Mississauga, Ont.

Martel was skating in the novice ice dance competition alongside Kobi Chant, of Olds. Though the pair was relatively pleased with the eighth-place showing, Martel – a Grade 9 student at W.H. Croxford High School – said they were aiming for higher.

“At the qualifiers for nationals we got sixth, and we were hoping to [make the top five] at nationals, so we weren’t extremely happy with it,” the 14-year-old said. “But it was really good for our first time – there were positives and negatives.”

Martel and Chant garnered 86.92 overall points across their three programs, which included a starlight waltz, quickstep and free dance.

The starlight waltz was their competition highlight, according to Martel, as they collected 15.51 points – the sixth-highest score among the 15 competing pairs.

“It was just an overall good dance,” she said. “The arena was bigger, so it helped me project more. It felt like a bigger place and competition. It helps me, with bigger competitions in the future, to know how to deal with that.”

Given the fine margins of securing points in figure skating, Chant said he and Martel were not far off their goal of finishing in the top five.

"In the skating world, it’s very close with the points because of the way it’s judged, so between first and second, there was [just nine one-hundredths] of a point between first and second," he said. "And then, between third and fourth, it was [seven tenths] of a point."

While this was their first time performing together at Skate Canada’s national championships, Martel and Chant are familiar with high-level competition, having earned bronze at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer last February.

A year on from that early-career highlight, and after about two years of skating together, Martel said her on-ice chemistry with Chant continues to grow.

“Overall, it’s a great partnership and we love skating together,” she said.

“I feel we have really improved as a partnership, and we’ve been able to connect more. There’s still a lot of progress to go, but we’ve improved on that, and all my skills have improved over the last year in many ways.”

The trip to Mississauga concluded the pair’s 2019-20 season, which included a trip to Lake Placid, N.Y., to compete at the North American Cup in the summer, as well as a silver medal in November 2019 at the Sectional Championships for Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Though competitions are on hiatus until July, Martel said she and Chant have resumed their intensive training regimen, which includes practicing nearly every day in Calgary under the Calalta Figure Skating Club banner.

“We’re just going to focus on the details and making sure our programs are all really clean and better than last year,” she said. “We want to try to improve on all the things we struggled with and try to get on the podium at nationals.”

Martel began figure skating at the age of six. While her early focus was on free skate, she said she took up ice dance in April 2017, and hasn’t looked back.

“I just feel my love for skating keeps growing every single day,” she said.

-With files from the Mountainview Albertan