Article by: Ryan Keliher
Team Alberta’s figure skater, Lia Cho, is this year’s youngest athlete at Canada Winter Games. She is only 10 years old and stands just over four rulers high.
She may be little, but the soft-spoken elementary school student is proving to be a fierce competitor this week.
On Wednesday, Cho finished the Female Pre-Novice Singles Short Program in second place out of 21 skaters, with a score of 45.43.
The Free Skate portion of the competition took place on Friday afternoon at the Eliyahu Wellness Centre at Canada Games Place in North Rustico where combined scores from the Short Program and the Free Skate determined the overall winners.
The 10-year old came back to finish first in the Free Skate program for a combined score of 125.94, earning her way to a silver medal for Team Alberta.
For Cho, being the youngest athlete at the Games is a dream come true.
“It feels like a miracle to me. I had a dream when I was little when I was six. I had a big dream to compete in these Games and I am now competing in it, so I’m really happy about it right now.”
At six years old, Cho had the opportunity to participate in the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer as a flower girl. The flower girls skated around the rink gathering flowers while the audience applauded them. That opportunity motivated Cho to start figure skating competitively with the goal to participate as a figure skater in the 2023 Canada Winter Games.
Cho was inspired watching her counterpart, Kaiya Ruiter, compete at the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Ruiter and Cho skate together and are coached by Scott Davis at the Calalta Club in Calgary.
“Watching Kaiya and all those other amazing figure skaters made me go into competitive figure skating,” said Cho.
Ruiter, age 16, is competing this week at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Calgary - perhaps a sign of what’s to come for the 10-year-old Calgary native who is moved every time she watches Ruiter perform.
While Cho’s strong jumping skills and flexibility could land her on the podium this week, her goals are to achieve a personal best score, perform a clean program, and have lots of fun.
Competing on the ice is Cho's favourite place to be, but she is also having lots of fun hanging out with her older teammates and "maybe some pin-trading," she said with a laugh.
She appreciates the support and encouragement she’s received from her senior teammates. “Especially my roommates, saying that I could do it and saying positive words to me that made me have more confidence in my skating.”