New West's Bausback shines as new national champion

Grace, poise and a steely resolve helped carry Emily Bausback to her finest moment.

The New Westminster resident was crowned the 2020 Canadian Tire national senior women’s figure skating champion last week in Mississauga following a powerful performance that saw the teen leapfrog from fourth overall to first on the final day.

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“It’s taken a few days, but I think it’s definitely sunk in that I won such a big competition,” Bausback told the Record Tuesday. “Now I’m recognized as one of those skaters that are part of a prestigious group as Canadian champions. It’s such a great feeling.”

Bausback’s celebratory moment was due to years of hard work, perseverance, training and faith. That it all was reflected in just 4:10 of ice time Saturday, where she delivered a near-perfect performance in the free skate, was poetic.

Coming off a strong skate in the opening day’s short program, where her score of 58.90 placed her fourth, but just 4.7 points back of second-place Madeline Schizas, and 7.2 behind leader Alicia Pineault, was promising. Still, so many things needed to come together to take another step to get to that coveted podium spot.

“Ever since the beginning of the season, that’s the one thing we wanted this year – to be top-three in Canada and make it onto the podium at senior nationals,” she said. “The whole year, that was my only goal. My coach Joanne McLeod and I were really striving towards this goal and dreaming about it. … . I’ve been training super hard and very consistent for the last six months or so. I knew if I just kept training everything would fall into place, and I’m so glad they did.”

Already having posted the best score for a Canadian woman in the free skate this season – achieving a personal best of 117.19 (also total score of 172.48) last November at the Warsaw Cup in Poland – Bausback knew it was possible.

Then she delivered it on the final day.

Her free program, to the sound of Julia Westlin’s rendition of My Heart Will Go On, from the film Titanic, was an emotive piece, filled with various jumps and challenges.

It began smoothly, with an opening triple lutz, double toe, followed by a double axel triple toe. Then the Burnaby Central Secondary student had a minor setback when she skated through her program’s triple flip, but she came right back into step with a triple loop, then a spectacular triple salchow, triple toe combo that sparked a large ovation, setting the tone for her final minute.

“That was a silly error. I was super surprised that I missed my flip – I was in shock in the moment, but I knew I had to keep going,” Bausback reflected. “I couldn’t change the past, I couldn’t change that – I made that mistake; I just had to keep going and try to perform the program to the best of my ability despite having the small error.”

The missed triple flip wasn’t going to keep her from putting on her best skate – a new personal best free score of 116.64, which carried her past three other skaters in to first place.

“She was pretty well spot on, just a triple flip which was her third jump, and she kind of got ahead of herself and that didn’t go,” remarked McLeod, head coach of the Burnaby-based Champs International Skating Centre of B.C. “It’s one she usually has under her belt but she settled down after that. She certainly showed the judging panel that she wanted it, and she was very well prepared.”

The skater noted that part of her preparation work with McLeod and assistant coaches/choreographers Neil Wilson and Meumi Seki is on being resilient, flowing through the program even when a hitch appears.

“It all leads back to the training. If I wasn’t as well-trained as I am I wouldn’t have been able to bounce back as quickly as I did from that error.”

As she sat and absorbed her accomplishment, achieving another personal best on the nation’s biggest stage, Bausback still had to wait for four other skaters to go through their free programs.

It was nerve-wracking but also exciting as each other skater’s marks fell short of her mark, making her the 2020 champion.

“When I was sitting in the back watching the skaters on live stream, I saw them sort of making mistakes, the feeling of keeping my first-place position, the excitement and bubbliness sort of kept rising. As I kept seeing their marks come through and my name was still on top, the excitement was building up inside. It was so crazy.”

Layers of experience, even as a teenager, helped steel Bausback for the intense spotlight of a senior national showdown. Her free program had been the focus and centre of her life the past year, building the jumps and emotional performance that would translate into a powerful skate.

When it comes together and garners the crowd and judges’ response like it did last week, it’s euphoric.

“What was very special for Emily at this championship was that she was a little more into the ice and took the time to tell her story within her choreography and her movements. She was drawing the judges into her performance. I had quite a few compliments from the judges on her short program performance,” said McLeod.

In some ways, it isn’t so far removed from the three-year-old who fell in love with skating.

“I just fell in love with the ice. I loved it so much, and the feeling hasn’t changed,” she recalled.

It led her to some golden opportunities, after she placed second overall in junior women’s in 2017. She represented Canada at Junior Grand Prix competitions in Estonia, Japan, Croatia and Lithuania, with 10th place in Tokyo the top finish.

Her first year eligible as a senior, Bausback was forced to withdraw from the nationals due to injury. Then last year, she placed 10th overall.

Now, she’s the first B.C. skater since five-time champ Karen Magnussen – who won the Canadian senior women’s title last in 1973 – to be crowned the national champion.

Inspired by Canadian champions and international stars Joannie Rochette – Olympic medallist and six-time national champion – and three-time national champion and Olympic gold medallist Kaetlyn Osmond, Bausback is now thrilled to have an opportunity to represent Canada again, beginning in two weeks at the 4 Continents championships in Seoul, Korea, as well as lock up a spot on the national team.

As she catches her breath and enjoys some relaxing time with her best buddies – the family beagles Buddy, Bailey and Bella – she knows that the moment to shine continues. Back on the ice, it’s all business. Spending time with her dogs is therapeutic.

“They’re definitely my comfort dogs,” she said. “If I’m having a bad day, I come home and all three of them are wagging their tails and running towards me. I love them with all my heart.”

In showing her best foot forward in Warsaw last November, Bausback unlocked a world of potential. Lacing on the skates for Canada is truly a wonderful honour, she noted.

“It was really special (in Warsaw). I’ve represented Canada a few other times in past seasons, but representing Canada this season it just felt so special to me, because it felt I really deserved to carry the Canadian flag with me overseas,” she said. “I was super trained going to those events and felt confident that I could do something I hadn’t done before.”

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