05 April 17 The Straits Times by MAY CHEN
Singapore's budding figure skaters will train under the best in the business next week, when acclaimed coach Brian Orser conducts a three-day development camp here from April 11-13.
It will be the first time that athletes here - about 30 ranging from age seven to 25 have registered - have the chance to be guided by the world-renowned coach from Canada.
Most of the participants are Singaporeans, with a handful of slots opened just this week to skaters from Malaysia and Australia.
The Singapore Ice Skating Association (Sisa) has been working on this camp since last October, but had to wait until the international season started to wind down for an open slot in Orser's schedule. The world championships concluded last weekend.
Sisa president Sonja Chong said: "Brian has always been a proponent of working along with developing skating nations, and has worked with the International Skating Union Development Commission on various camps to strengthen the core skating skills of newer members.
"When we first approached him, he never hesitated in wanting to come and spend some time imparting his skills to our skaters and coaches."
She hopes that Orser will help strengthen the core foundation skills and quality of basic skating skills so that the skaters can progress more quickly to mastering more difficult elements.
Orser, a former world champion and a two-time Olympic silver medallist (1984, 1988), is arguably world figure skating's top coach, having led skaters to Olympic, world and continental titles.
His star pupils include Yuzuru Hanyu, who broke his own world record in the free skate in Helsinki en route to a second world championship last weekend. The 22-year-old Japanese is also the reigning Olympic champion.
Spain's Javier Fernandez, a two-time world champion (2015, 2016) who also trains under Orser in Toronto, finished fourth in Finland.
Orser also previously worked with South Korea's Kim Yuna, who remains one of figure skating's biggest names despite hanging up her skates after the 2014 Olympics. She won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games and two world championships (2009, 2013).
"I hope to pass on some skills and basic techniques," Orser told The Straits Times, "but mostly motivate and inspire the athletes to be the best they can be. I'd like to encourage the coaches and share some ideas as well. Having champions from 'non-traditional' skating backgrounds is becoming more common now, why not Singapore?
"Anything is possible. I'm really looking forward to my few days there, meeting the skaters, coaches and the administration staff."
Robi Chalmers, Sisa's skating director for development, said that the association is already planning another development camp in June with other guest presenters.
She said: "We're really looking into bringing in that strong foundation, with an aim to making Singapore a regional hub for training and development."
The camp is also timed to take place immediately after the national championships this weekend, when many of Singapore's skaters based overseas will return for competition.
With camp starting as early as 5am and ending as late as 10.45pm - to work around the time that The Rink @ JCube is open to the public - skaters like Zelia Koh will have to endure long hours on top of classes during the school week.
But having spent hours watching videos of skaters such as Kim and Hanyu excel under Orser, the Primary 6 Temasek Primary School student knows it will be worth it.
Said the 11-year-old, who will compete in the nationals this week: "I'm very inspired by him (Orser). He's been training all the top Olympic skaters and I really want to see him in action and experience what it's like to train under him."