Mackenzie Poland glides onto the ice at Oak Bay recreation centre arena and starts carving a figure-eight on the clean white surface.
Her bright yellow outfit – offset by a red plaid skirt, white lace overlay and puffy shoulders – glimmers under the lights. Her long brown hair is slicked back into a tight ponytail; a smile beams across her face. When Mackenzie skates, her every move seems elegant and effortless.
Twelve-year-old Mackenzie is a student at Pacific Christian School. She’s also a figure skater with the Oak Bay Figure Skating Club.
Mackenzie started skating when she was five years old. She became interested in the sport after watching her cousin skate.
“I like that it’s not a sport that everybody does. It’s something that’s really unique,” she says.
In person Mackenzie is reserved, but on the ice, her confidence soars.
That confidence may be the reason why her latest accomplishments include finishing in first place in her last two competitions.
Mackenzie scored 24.02 points at the Barbara Rassmussen Memorial Competition (March 9 to 11) in Courtenay and 24.79 at Skate Canada’s first Super Series STARSkate Final (March 23 to 25) in Surrey.
Coming in first at the Super Series earned Mackenzie the title of provincial champion of the Junior Bronze Women 12 and under.
“It feels really good because I haven’t won in a long time,” she says. “I was excited because I knew it was (for) the whole province, and it was going to be a hard competition.”
Since Mackenzie was the last to skate, when her score was announced right after her performance, she knew she had won.
Going into the competition, keeping her nerves down was the hardest part. Taking deep breaths, and support from her friends and family, kept her strong, she says.
The most challenging part was, “going out there and smiling and having a good time (and) making it look easy, ‘cause it’s not,” Mackenzie says with a smile.
Since switching coaches about a year ago, focusing on her technical skills has helped her excel, she says.
“It’s more (focused) on the skills now and just having fun when you go out there.”
The thing she needs to work on is making her moves bigger and stronger, she says – making the jumps higher and the moves look more effortless to gain more points.
Jamie McGrigor, Mackenzie’s coach, and the director of skating at the Oak Bay Figure Skating Club, says he is amazed by Mackenzie’s recent performances.
She’s become a stronger athlete and tougher mentally since changing coaches, McGrigor says.
“She was a little prone to not getting the job done under pressure,” he says, adding that last season he and his staff worked on developing her confidence.
“I would say she’s at the top of her game, she’s pretty confident now,” McGrigor says. “I think she’s ready to take on anybody.”
Not getting discouraged and keeping up the hard work all year long has taken Mackenzie to where she is today, says to Mackenzie’s mother, Laura Poland.
“We’re so proud of her,” Laura says. “She’s worked really hard and it’s just an amazing thing to be able to see your daughter be successful.”
Mackenzie’s ultimate goal is standing on a podium on the ice, with a medal around her neck.
“What I really want, I know this sounds silly, but I’ve always wanted to have a medal ceremony on the ice, where everybody’s watching,” she says with a laugh.