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Figure skaters continue their climb to top at nationals in Halifax this week

Trennt Michaud warms up before his junior men short program performance Jan. 18 at the Scotiabank Centre in downtown Halifax.
Trennt Michaud warms up before his junior men short program performance Jan. 18 at the Scotiabank Centre in downtown Halifax.

METRO HALIFAX - For Canadians climbing to the top of the skating world, this is where they're about to reach their peak.

The 2016 National Skating Championships kicked off Monday, Jan. 18, with novice and junior programs, continues Friday and Saturday with senior programs and concludes Sunday with an exhibition gala, at the Scotiabank Centre - right here in Halifax.

"They've refined their program," Skate Canada communications manager Emma Bowie said Jan. 18 of the quality of performances expected at this point in the season, when elite figures skaters from across the country take to the ice for nationals.

"It will be executed with all those extra special little nuances," Bowie explained.

"So then, when they leave here and head to worlds in March, things are very, very polished."

The 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships are set for March 28 through April 3 in Boston Mass., their mountaintop for the 2015-16 season.

The 2016 National Skating Championships kicked off Monday, Jan. 18, with novice and junior programs, continues Friday and Saturday with senior programs and concludes Sunday with an exhibition gala, at the Scotiabank Centre - right here in Halifax.

"They've refined their program," Skate Canada communications manager Emma Bowie said Jan. 18 of the quality of performances expected at this point in the season, when elite figures skaters from across the country take to the ice for nationals.

"It will be executed with all those extra special little nuances," Bowie explained.

"So then, when they leave here and head to worlds in March, things are very, very polished."

The 2016 ISU World Figure Skating Championships are set for March 28 through April 3 in Boston Mass., their mountaintop for the 2015-16 season.

Eric Liu performs at the Scotiabank Centre Jan. 18

But first comes this week's competition, featuring 250 skaters, including some of the biggest Canadians in the sport.

That includes three-time world champion Patrick Chan, current world pairs champs Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, as well as current national champion Nam Nguyen, to name just a few.

"It's a chance for the public to come out and see some of the best skaters in the world,"

Skate Canada high performance director Mike Slipchuk said Monday afternoon, while watching the junior men short program.

"But also we have a lot of depth and a lot of skaters coming up," Slipchuk said. "We're going to have a lot of good competition."

Halifax is no stranger to hosting the skating world's cream of the crop.

"Halifax is special to all of us," Slipchuck said. "It's always nice to come back out east."

The national championship last came to town in 2007, held out of the same venue, then known as the Metro Centre, which also welcomed the 1990 World Figure Skating Championships.

Slipchuk himself remembers those worlds well; after all, he came in 11th in the senior men's competition. Kurt Browning, meanwhile, claimed the gold medal.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Eric Liu performs at the Scotiabank Centre on Monday.

Skating expected to leave positive mark on Halifax

The 2016 National Skating Championships are expected to have an economic impact of between $4 and $5 million on the Halifax area.

That's the estimate from Skate Canada, the sport's national governing body, which will be a result of everything from filled hotels to busy restaurants.

This week's high-calibre event at the Scotiabank Centre will have other positive outcomes, including on the number of Nova Scotians lacing up their skates, according to the national organization.

"With an event like this, the next year, we'll see an increase in registration," Skate Nova Scotia and local organizing committee chairman Ross Ashbourne said Monday.

In addition to an increase in competitive skaters across the province, more folks will likely step onto the ice for recreational purposes, he added.

In fact, the learn-to-skate CanSkate program and the Skate Canada schools program are both being held in Halifax this week to help encourage kids to give the sport a try.

For those more inclined to take in the excitement from the stands, Skate Canada communications manager Emma Bowie said there are plenty of great seats left, but added ticket sales are going well.

"The senior events (are) trending upwards. We're definitely over half sold, probably closer to around 60 per cent," she said Monday. "We're hoping to have a packed house by Saturday night."

The national championships provide an opportunity to see Canada's next Olympians in action, Bowie said, explaining this event takes place just before the country's best skaters start "peaking" this season, which ideally happens at worlds.

"It's a chance to catch them now and cheer them on."

Nationals by the numbers

30 Skate Canada staff members 60 officials 200 coaches 250 skaters 250+ volunteers 3,500+ hotel rooms

Skating schedule:

Monday: novice ice dance pattern dance, novice women short program, junior men short program, CanSkate showcase, novice men short program, juinor ice dance short dance.

Tuesday: novice ice dance free dance, novice men free program, novice women free program, novice pair short program, junior pair short program, junior ice dance free dance.

Wednesday: junior women short program, novice pair free program, junior pair free program, junior men free program.

Thursday: junior women free program.

Friday: senior women short program, senior ice dance short dance, welcome ceremony and CanSkate showcase, senior men short program, senior pair short program.

Saturday: senior women free program, senior ice dance free dance, senior men free program, senior pair free program.

Sunday: exhibition gala, hall of fame induction.

Get your tickets:

Novice and junior: $15-20 per day

Senior: $30-55 per day

All-event package: $125-$175

* Children 12 and under are free.

* Scotiabank Centre box office, 1-877-451-1221 or ticketatlantic.com to order.

* More at skatecanada.ca

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