Women in Sport

July 26, 2018

Local figure skating champions Cynthia Benson and Susan Taylor

Ask anyone who is passionate about figure skating, and they’ll tell you that watching a competitive event in person is completely different than viewing it on TV. Spectators in the arena hear skate blades cutting across ice, and see beads of sweat dripping from determined faces. They feel the tense hum of anticipation in the crowd when a skater sets herself up for a jump, and the crescendo of relief when she lands cleanly.

That’s exactly what Cynthia Benson and Sue Taylor want for Saint John audiences, and it’s part of the reason the two women worked so hard to bring the 2019 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships to the port city this January. The National Championships will feature over 250 skaters contending for spots on the Skate Canada national team and berths at prestigious competitions like the World Championships, the Four Continents Championships, and the Junior Worlds.

Although Saint John has hosted Skate Canada International events on three occasions, most recently in 2013, this is the city’s first time rolling out the red carpet for Nationals – and it could never have happened without the tireless activism of event co-chairs Sue and Cynthia.

Both ladies have extensive backgrounds in figure skating. Cynthia, who grew up in Ottawa and is currently a partner at Stewart McKelvey, has been in the top echelon of Canadian figure skating judges for almost a decade now. She’s an accredited International Skating Union official, and actually judged skaters at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Cynthia is passionate about skater development too, which may be a partial consequence of being a newly minted skating parent to her twin 5 year olds!

Sue’s resume within the skating community is also pretty impressive. After watching her daughter Emily skate for years, she decided to get involved herself by becoming the president of the Saint John Skating Club. That translated into busy gigs as regional director and later region representative for Skate NB, all while simultaneously working for Horizon and raising her four kids in east Saint John.

When the subject turns to the upcoming Nationals, both Sue and Cynthia speak in enthusiastic bursts. The competition is expected to provide an economic boost of $2.5 million to Saint John, but the real excitement lies in the potential for community involvement. Competitors will skate at beautiful venues like Harbour Station and the qPlex, staffed by over 250 incredible volunteers from the area. Special school programs sponsored by Skate Canada will allow local kids to watch senior practices (and maybe even meet Olympic medalist Kaetlyn Osmond!) And Saint Johners will get to see established stars like Olympian Keegan Messing and rising performers like New Brunswick’s Ellie Fisher soar and twirl right here in their own city.

The 2019 Nationals bring with them a changing of the guard. Senior events will crown new champions,  younger champs will take a step closer to the Olympics – and perhaps some young spectator in the crowd will take a first step toward their own record-breaking skating career. To Sue and Cynthia, that possibility alone makes all of their hard work worth it.

Tickets can be purchased online at harbourstation.ca or skatecanada.ca/2019-canadian-tire-national-skating-championships, by phone at 1-800-267-2800, or in person at the Harbour Station box office.