Two Osoyoos figure skaters have returned from Europe with medals around their necks after competing in the Winter World Masters Games in Innsbruck, Austria.
Local skater and coach Corliss Robb brought home two gold medals in her age bracket, one in the free skate competition and one in the artistic category, from the games held from Jan. 10 to 19.
“It’s amazing. The real thrill is just to be there and participate and meet people from literally all over the world who all hold the same passion for their sport of choice. It feels like you’re at the Olympics, but for people who are a little older,” Robb said.
She made the trip with fellow Osoyoos skater Wendy Morris in a group of 11 skaters from the area as part of Team Okanagan who travel as a team but compete individually. “It’s actually quite amazing that there is now two of us (from Osoyoos),” Robb said. Robb competed in figure skating when she was younger, but it had been some time since she had taken to the ice at this level.
“This is 40 years later and you’re stepping out on the ice for the first time and feeling like a little kid and standing up in front of people, just doing what you do,” Robb said. “It’s pretty amazing you’ve got cameras there and judges and everybody is watching. So you have to rise to the occasion and do your best job.”
Robb has been a coach and helper for local skating clubs for a number of years and helps coach her daughter.“Normally as a coach you don’t have time to do any personal skating, but because I moved here and wasn’t as busy with a number of kids, so I had a little extra time,” Robb said.
After seeing the CBC documentary on Team Okanagan, To the Worlds: Mature Women Who Figure Skate, Robb decided to lace up the skates again. “It just struck me that skating has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, why wouldn’t I consider doing something like that?” Robb said.
She was the oldest in both of her skating categories out of 554 figure skaters in Austria, being born in 1962. It was the first time figure skating has been included in the Winter World Masters Games. “It was a real inaugural experience and I’m really happy I was able to be there for the first go with that,” Robb said. “I don’t know where it will be in five years, but we will see.” She plans on continuing training and heading to a provincial competition in March.
“It will be kind of unique because my daughter will be competing. For her and I to be competing in the same event, that’s something because I’m an older parent,” Robb said.
Fellow local figure skater Wendy Morris already had her mind on Austria after returning from a competition last year in Germany — coming in sixth place in her free skate and placing 11th in the artistic category at the 2019 competition in Oberstdorf. “Everything was like the first time for me so it was very overwhelming, even when I got home it took me a while to adjust,” Morris said.
With a bit more experience with international competitions under her belt, Morris returned from Austria with a silver medal in her free skate and an oh-so-close fourth place finish in the artistic category. “So I moved up,” Morris laughed.
The experience was an Olympics-esque one for the team of Okanagan women, who in total brought home 13 medals in figure skating. “They had chandeliers above the buildings as we walked through the town, they had bands playing every night, award ceremonies every night. There was a lot of free entertainment for the athletes,” Morris said. “We all enjoyed it but I couldn’t go out all the time because we’re practicing. Everybody is still focused on what we are there for.”
After likely becoming the first skater in her sixties to take up beginner lessons with the local skating club, Morris has been hooked ever since she took to the ice to spend more time with her 12-year-old granddaughter. “Once you start, I tell ya, you really enjoy it,” Morris said.
And while her granddaughter was not able to make the trip, that didn’t stop her from cheering on grandma. “When I was skating in Austria she was up at four in the morning online she just wanted to see her grandmother skate. She was texting me when I was there, cheering me on,” Morris said.
Morris hopes her story will help more people get out and try something like figure skating at the local club, no matter what age.
Article first published 29 January 2020 in Osoyoos Times