When it comes to teaching the next generation of aspiring figure skaters in New Brunswick, the Sussex Skating Club called in the experts on Saturday.

Over 120 youth from all across the province showed up to the 8th Hussars Sports Centre for a one day clinic that featured three-time World champion, two-time Olympic silver medallist and seven-time Canadian champion, Elvis Stojko, four-time World champion and Canadian national champion, Kurt Browning and professional show skater, Gladys Orozco.

“Gladys is specializing in the dance aspect, whereas Kurt does a lot of the improv and then Elvis is out there doing a lot of the jumps and the technical skills, which is all very important,” said Club president, Brittany Gahan.

“They all bring something unique and different to the clinic which is what we really wanted to be able to offer the athletes.”

She says the day featured kids as young as eight-years-old and up until graduating high school and participants were divided into different star level groups.

“We wanted to be able to give New Brunswick athletes the same opportunities as other provinces,” she said.

“That was really important to us. In the past they’ve only really offered it in Nova Scotia or a lot of Ontario clinics, obviously that’s too far to travel for families. We really wanted to give the opportunity right here to our local athletes.”

The idea was to provide a well-rounded day for athletes to improve their skill, get inspired by some of Canada’s most well-known figure skaters and gain knowledge both on and off the ice that will help improve their overall performance.

“We have a clinic with our nutritionist, she’s a physio therapist here in Sussex so she’s offering session upstairs as well as the yoga instructor and that’s all off ice and then we have the three on ice sessions for each athlete as well,” she said.

“So they’re walking away with five different sessions [Saturday].”

Elvis Stojko

For Elvis Stojko, he just hopes the kids learn at least one new thing that really sticks with them by the time they leave the rink on Saturday.

“I always say there’s so much information, a lot of time it’s hard, but to be able to write stuff down that resonated with them immediately and they’re thinking ‘wow, Kurt said that or Elvis said that or Gladys said that and that one really resonated with me. I’m going to write down and remember that,’ and that to us is huge,” he said.

Elvis Stojko and Kurt Browning

As for why Stojko and Browning thought it was important to come to a smaller New Brunswick town to put on a clinic, they both pointed to opportunities that they got when they were young skaters growing up.

“When I was growing up I had a number of named skaters like Don Jackson from back in the day or Brian Orser that I grew up watching and would come to the rink and do seminars and that inspired me when I was just a little guy and now to be able to do that, especially with Kurt today and my wife Gladys on the ice, it’s a lot of fun,” said Stojko.

“[…] It’s wonderful to be able to pay it forward and share a bit of our knowledge with the kids and inspire them.”

Kurt Browning has a similar experience growing up in Alberta.

“We had a club carnival and I don’t remember his name, but we had a guest skater come and […] I can remember watching him skate and thinking ‘oh it’s real, it’s not just on TV,’ so basically just getting out to smaller communities has been something that I think is really important,” he said.

“I go all over Canada and you never know who the next Toller Cranston, Elvis Stojko, like where they’re going to come from, but also just to motivate and share my love of the sport.”

Throughout the seminar there was a big focus on technical skill, however, both Stojko and Browning say that wasn’t the main take-away for the young athletes.

“I hope they’re inspired,” said Browning.

“That’s the biggest thing that we’re trying to do here is inspire. Seminars are not like coaching, you give them a whole bunch of tools and then they have to go home and use them. A coach works with them every single day. We’re here to inspire.”

Kurt Browning

Sport New Brunswick and the KidSports Program was also on site Saturday, which is a national charity that help families facing financial barriers the chance to register and buy sporting equipment across the province.

Program coordinator, Alex Lussier says the program can offer up to $400 per child per year so that everyone has a chance to participate.

“Last year after the whole of 2023, we helped 796 kids across the province register for sports,” said Lussier.

“Some of them just needed help buying equipment, others needed help with equipment and registration or just registration and so far this year, just based on numbers, we’re likely to at least have a third more applications than we had last year.”

Applications are open year round and Lussier says it’s helped a lot of children be able to try sports like figure skating, hockey, basketball and cheerleading to name a few.

“The cost of sports has risen incredibly in the past decade or so. I remember when I was playing hockey, registration was $350 for the year and now $350 maybe gets you like one piece of equipment and half a season of hockey, so it’s really a big help for families, especially the ones that have multiple kids that all want to do the same sport,” said Lussier.

Figure Skating clinic

As for what comes next, Gahan hopes this high-profile clinic is just the start of what’s to come for the Sussex Skating Club and skaters across New Brunswick.

“I’m just hoping that it opens the door so we can offer more clinics in the future and be able to support the athletes and bring in people that they want to skate with and opportunities for these kids to remember their skating years,” she said.

Meanwhile, Stojko and Browning are hitting the road with the Stars on Ice tour.

Browning has taken on the role of a choreographer and says he’s having a lot of fun putting the show together and taking on a behind the scenes role.

Stojko will be going to the World Championships in March in Montreal where he says he’ll be skating in front of the International Skating Union for the first time since 2002 before going on the Stars on Ice tour.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.