It’s not easy to succeed as a figure skater in Iqaluit.
Kaniq Allerton has learned that the hard way, but will have an opportunity to take his career to the next level when he moves to Winnipeg for a year of intensive training—at just 15 years old.
“I am really excited,” he said just a few days before his departure.
Allerton has been figure skating since he was nine years old, and loved the pastime from the moment he first stepped onto the ice.
“It’s a beautiful sport,” he said. “I love watching figure skating when they glide gracefully on the ice, and I love the feeling the weightlessness when I jump.
“I like the feeling of cool air hitting my face while I skate, and I love spinning around the arena.”
Despite his affection for the sport, Allerton quickly began to encounter challenges. Chief among them was the limited ice time in Iqaluit. He and the other athletes on the city’s small figure skating club were only able to practice at the older, downtown arena, which is considered inferior to the Arctic Winter Games Arena across town. They had to find openings in a schedule dominated by hockey teams and the local speed skating association.
When Allerton and his training partners were able to get time on the ice, the surface was often in bad shape from previous use, which can lead to mistakes and even serious injuries.
His coach has gone so far as to cancel practices due to poor ice conditions.
“The ice quality is not that great,” he acknowledged. “We can still skate on it, but it’s unsafe ice, I would say.”
Dealing with isolation
Being a figure skater in Iqaluit is also somewhat isolating. There are only a few other skaters in town, and even fewer male skaters.
All of this contributed to Allerton’s decision to move to Winnipeg.
In the Manitoba capital, he will have access to Skate Winnipeg’s experienced coaches, and more importantly, increased access to superior ice.
He will also be surrounded by skaters his age. He has already met some of them during previous competitions in Winnipeg, and has enjoyed getting ice cream and Vietnamese food with them in the city.
Allerton has also connected with the Manitoba Inuit Association and its CEO Nastania Mullin, who will be able to provide important support, should he need it.
The move to Winnipeg, of course, comes with some trepidation. The 15-year-old will be living with a host family, and starting at a new high school. He also admits he’s “a bit sad” about leaving his family.
There may be tough days, particularly in the early going, but Allerton will ultimately return to Nunavut a stronger, more experienced skater.
While he still has plenty of his own competitive goals, he hopes he can one day share his experience with the next generation of skaters in the territory as a coach. In fact, he’s dreaming even bigger than that. After some encouragement from his social studies teacher, Cory Allen, at Inuksuk High School, Allerton is considering opening his own figure skating school in the city some day.
He’s off to a good start in that regard. While he’s not yet qualified to coach older kids, he recently had the chance to teach a three-year-old boy, whose parents are from Zimbabwe and South Africa, how to skate for the first time, and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“I do like teaching children,” he said. “Honestly, I love it. I love teaching children the sport I do and love.”