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Top skaters in Whistler this weekend

CJ Derpak the only local skater in competition



Many of the top figure skaters in Western Canada, and possibly even some of the top stars in the country, will be in Whistler this weekend for the second annual Whistler Skating Challenge.

The Whistler Challenge runs over three days, with more than 100 participants. The event is by invitation only, and just one Whistler skater made the cut. Caleigh Derpak, who moved up to the Novice Women category this summer, was fourth among B.C. girls at the recent SummerSkate competition in Burnaby.

Derpak will skate her short program at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, and her freeskate, or long program, at approximately 5:50 p.m. on Saturday.

Because of the number of competitors and categories, the Challenge will run from 1:30 to 8:50 p.m. on Friday, from 2:45 to 10:35 p.m. on Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Spectators are welcome at no charge.

The Whistler Skating Challenge is hosted by Skate Canada, B.C. and Yukon section, with funding from 2010 LegaciesNow. It was created to showcase young talent and identify skaters with the potential to represent Canada in the 2010 Winter Games. The program will be funded through 2010.

"It’s definitely a much bigger event this year. Last year it was new and things were kind of disorganized, but this year the municipality and Meadow Park are really stepping up," said Jan Derpak, Caleigh’s mother and spokesperson for the Whistler Skating Club.

And while Caleigh is the only local skater involved, skaters and parents with the club are volunteering to ensure that the event goes as well as possible. The goal is to have more local girls compete in the next few years – "they’re just coming up now, so maybe by next year we’ll have more of a presence at home," said Jan Derpak.

Hosting the event has also given local skaters an opportunity to see some of the best in the province and should push local athletes to do better.

Athletes are coming from as far away as Saskatchewan. Some are from Alberta, but the majority were invited from around B.C. For the skaters it’s a chance to measure themselves against the top skaters from Western Canada, and to prepare for section competitions to qualify for the Western Canadian Championships.

"It isn’t an international event yet, but in a few years with this kind of support we’ll definitely see some skaters from the U.S. and maybe even some other countries as well," said Derpak.

As for Caleigh, or CJ as she prefer to be called, she has modest goals for the Whistler Challenge – to do her best and land her tricks.

Moving up to Novice from Pre-Novice this year, CJ is now working on her double axels and triples. She’s got the doubles down and is close to landing her triples.

"I don’t have it yet but I’m working on it. Hopefully I’ll have it down soon," she said.

While she practices her spins in dryland training, most of the work has to take place on the ice where she can use her momentum to launch her spins. It’s bruising work.

"You fall, then you get up, then you fall, then you come close, and then you think maybe this time, and you fall again," she said. "Some girls get it right away, but most of us need to practice it over and over until you have the perfect technique."

Results from the competition will be posted online at .

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