When Shallen Bear, 16, and Marty Haubrich, 17, competed at the 2019 Canadian Tire Nationals in New Brunswick this week, they had only been skating together for eight months and knew they had lots of room to grow as pair skaters.
But that would have come as a surprise to audience members in St. John (and around the world watching online) who saw them skate two solid programs and finish with 96.42 points, or fourth place, in the Novice Pairs category.
Their first performance was Tuesday when they skated a playful short program to the theme music from Austin Powers, with Shallen suitably costumed in go-go pink and Marty in blue velvet and ruffles.
Afterwards on the kiss-and-cry bench, they appeared pleasantly surprised with their marks. In the post-skate analysis, commentator and former pairs skater Meaghan Duhamel observed, “They look as surprised as I am!”
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Duhamel, “then they started with a nice, big double twist, double axels, and a nice death spiral at the end. It was a character-driven program. That was fun!”
The next day, Wednesday, they performed well again in their free (long) program to a mix of flamenco and orchestral music. Their sixth place finish in that program combined with third place in the short gave them fourth overall, right behind two pairs from Quebec and one from Ontario.
Coach Patricia Hole told the Empire-Advance, “The kids have never been here before, so they were all excited… they’re happy their best skate of the year was here, in the short program. Nothing like putting out your best score at Canadians!”
She says the pair’s strength on the ice is their side-by-side elements like jumps and spins but she knows their lifts need more work.
“Our lifts are only very basic… In the long program, the competition can gain a lot of points with their two lifts and we can’t. We just haven’t had enough time.
“But now people are talking about them and that’s why we’re here.”
Shallen and Marty were competing for Saskatchewan, where they’re both from, even though they train in Virden.
Hole, who was with them in St. John, is a veteran of many competitions over the years including her trip to the Olympics with Rudy Swiegers and Paige Lawrence in 2014.
So what’s next for her new pair of future champions?
“We’re going to enjoy what they’ve done already,” said Hole from St. John, “and from then on, we go back and try to get things a little stronger.”