When Annika Duguay first decided this season would be her last of competitive figure skating, she wanted to go out with a bang.
Being sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t what she had in mind.
"It obviously didn’t turn out as planned, so I plan to skate for the rest of this winter season and then be done," Duguay said.
"I can’t see there being any competitions this season as they’ve already cancelled Canadians, which is a national event … they’ve cancelled the big events for the elite, elite athletes, so I can’t see there being anything lower than that happening."
The 17-year-old was practically born on skates. She began the CanSkate program in her hometown of Carberry at four, moved into Star Skate — Skate Canada’s figure skating program — at six, and has stuck with the sport ever since.
"I like to perform … (and) be on the ice by myself. It’s like my moment, my thing, the thing I can show everyone that I’m capable of doing," Duguay said. "It just feels special to me, like when I’m on the ice I feel free from everything else in my life."
Duguay competes in singles skating, which means there’s a lot of jumping and spinning involved in her routines.
"It’s very artistic and athletic at the same time, where a lot of other sports are just athletic sports," Duguay said.
"You have to be really well-rounded. You have to have the extension and flexibility of a dancer, the athleticism of all other sports and you also have to have theatre, to be able to perform and use your face."
The figure skater has come a long way since her days at Carberry Skating Club. She trained there until she was eight or nine, then moved over to Skate Brandon to pursue skating more competitively.
Even still, she loves visiting her hometown rink when she has the chance.
"Carberry kept me involved in the sport. I’ll still volunteer at their seminars and competitions here and help out," Duguay said.
"It’s so nice to have the opportunity to skate in Carberry when I want to because the ice is always open there, I can go on their club ice and be welcome, but I went to Brandon for the coaching and more ice-time opportunities."
Those opportunities led to a gold medal at the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games in Thompson.
The following year, it also led to the highlight of Duguay’s figure skating career: the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
To date, it’s been the biggest competition she’s ever attended. It was also one of the first times she was completely away from her family during a competition.
The event was a learning experience, where she was able to showcase her talents and put out the best programs possible.
"It definitely a highlight and something I’ll always remember," Duguay said.
Since rinks across the province shuttered in November because of COVID-19, Duguay has been doing off-ice workouts, jumps, and dances — all things to help improve her form and artistry once she does get back on the ice.
She’s also been going for casual skates at the lake but hasn’t completed major on-ice training in months.
While the Grade 12 Carberry Collegiate student is relatively OK with it, considering she’s moving on from the sport to focus on university next year, she can’t help but feel horribly for the younger skaters, currently in their prime and missing out on valuable competition time.
"If this would’ve happened in 2019, my Canada Games year, I don’t know what I would’ve done. I wouldn’t have been able to function as a person without skating," Duguay said.
"So for the younger girls who are 14, 15, or even younger right now, I just feel so bad for them all, that their opportunities in the peak of their skating career have left them."
Duguay has loved her time on the ice but is also looking forward to what’s to come.
She’s already applied and been accepted to the pre-nursing program at Brandon University, but she’s waiting to hear back from direct-entry programs at the University of Regina and the University of Calgary.
The teen is following in the footsteps of her mother, who’s a public health nurse.
"I see what she does for other people and how passionate she is about her job. She really motivated me to go this way," Duguay said.
"I also like helping people and I find an important part of my life is that I like to communicate with people and talk with them. You’re always around people in nursing and you can always help people, there’s always something you can do."
Even though she’s taking a step back from competitive skating after this season, she plans to stay part of the skating community.
Duguay has already started her CanSkate coaching course and has just a few more things to wrap up before she can officially become an instructor.
"I’d really like to still be in the community as they are like my second family," she said.
She plans to coach CanSkate for a while, moving on to Star Skate and competitive coaching down the road as a side job in future years.
Before her own competitive career wraps up, Duguay hopes she’ll have at least one more opportunity — perhaps through an ice showcase — to perform her talents for friends and family.
While she may look like a natural when she glides across the rink, Duguay noted it wouldn’t be possible without her years and years of practice.
"I don’t get nervous or anything though because it’s what I’m good at, it’s my thing," Duguay said.
"There’s no nerves or anything, it’s just freeing."
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