Dreams on Ice

By Lynn Rees Lambert
Photos by John Major

By now, Analisa Love-Tedjoutomo has her routine down cold. Make that routines, plural, that take the 14-year-old figure skater from ice rink to classroom to dance floor in a sequence of scheduling that would make most others dizzy. For this girl, it’s all part of a journey she envisions with a focus that is skate-blade sharp.

School for the Grade 9 student in the gifted program at Lisgar Collegiate Institute consists of a half day. Before and after her agenda is packed, starting with a 5:30 a.m. wake-up time to put her on ice by 6:30 a.m. and finishing with a ballet class at 8:30 p.m. Analisa’s mother, Lisa, pulls a colour-coded spreadsheet from a binder that helps the family—including dad Tjandra and brother Anders—keep on top of who is going where and when.

The novice figure skater has a second home at the Minto Skating Club, a familiar spot since she was enrolled in the Canskate program when she turned four. Here, under the banners celebrating the club’s legendary stars Barbara Ann Scott and Donald Jackson, Analisa spins and twirls—all before hitting the ice. She’s easy to spot; look for the bundle of energy who knocks off perfect cartwheels in the lobby while waiting for ice time.

The teen dynamo is focused on achieving her dream: a spot at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, Korea, in 2018. Before then, of course, there’s a lot of work. And sacrifice. For her that means not too many sleepovers (they never really get any sleep, says Lisa) and not too much junk food. “She would love a Starbucks frappuccino every day if she could,” her mom adds. There’s also the none-too-small task of fitting in school assignments.

Not to mention the family’s financial sacrifice. It amounts to about $35,000 per year directed to a coach, choreographer, personal trainer, sports therapist, physiotherapist and occasional chiropractor and nutritionist. Add in ballet and jazz classes and years of piano and violin lessons, and the toll is bracing. Managing all of it is “nearly a full-time job” for Lisa, an engineer with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

But worth it, she says. After all, this local family took a broad-based approach of enrolling the kids in a variety of extra-curricular activities, hoping “something would stick.” For both Analisa and Anders, something has. From the age of four, Analisa showed skating skill and quickly progressed through the levels. Then she was invited to join the Minto Juniors. That’s when the family chose Gordon Forbes as her coach. “We picked him because he seemed to make the kids work hard and he focused on detail,” Lisa explains. He’s still her coach “and he is still tough. It is his way or the highway, but Analisa and he seem to get along like two peas in a pod.”

Forbes’ approach is “old school” and he believes in establishing a strong foundation, Lisa points out, “which is why Analisa is such a solid skater and – why she will be able to make it through the tough times as she finishes growing. She has been with him for 10 years now and she has been very successful, qualifying the last two years to compete nationally at the pre-novice level.”

“He can be tough, he makes me work hard,” Analisa admits. “But I really like him.”

Maybe not as much as she likes Hedley, the Canadian Idol runner-up with a successful recording career. And maybe not as much as she likes makeup, which is something her mother doesn’t think she needs. (Imagine how much earlier she’d have to get up in order to apply mascara and lip gloss just so?)

Still, her figure-skating dream has plenty of lustre. Two years ago on a plane returning from nationals in Regina, it crystallized, Analisa explains. She decided she wanted to do something big, like aim for the Olympics.

“I want someone to know my name.”

Getting there will be no small task, she realizes, but it’s a challenge she is willing to tackle. “It’s all about the journey, right?” adds Lisa.

And what a journey—for the whole family. As Analisa’s skating levels have advanced, the family involvement with the club has increased. Lisa has been a board member for the last two years, serving on the nomination committee, Canskate review committee, program committee and a strategic planning group. Now, she is a newly-minted Minto test chair, which means if you want to find her, she’ll be at a desk in the Minto office. She’s also running for president this year. So we know where Analisa gets her attention to detail and organizational skills. For artistic flare—evident in her grace on the ice—look to her father, Tjandra.

The federal government employee and native Indonesian was somewhat reluctant to immerse himself in the skating world but has since been recruited. Tjandra does the photography at the club and pitches in with the heavy lifting during the annual skating competition. His artistic side emerges in a hand-painted skating dress he designed. Both wife and daughter consider it “a masterpiece.” On other outfits “Analisa has asked me to add some crystals,” and detailing work, he says. “I’d like to sew more, but there’s no time.”

There is another child in the family, remember. Eleven-year-old Anders took a stab at figure skating as well, enrolling in Canskate at the Minto Club. When one of his coaches suggested he take ballet, he signed up for a beginner class at The School of Dance in Ottawa.

It changed his focus entirely. “Ballet kind of took over his life,” says Lisa. After a summer school program at National Ballet School in Toronto, Anders competed for a full-time spot at Canada’s distinguished ballet school. “He worked very hard,” says his father, “and he was up against some very tough competition from dancers from across Canada,” knowing full well that admission—should he achieve it—would likely put an impossible financial burden on the family.

“He said, ‘I know Dad,’” and was accepting of the situation. What happened next is what Tjandra calls “a Christmas present.” Anders, another goal-oriented youngster, received a grant.

As for Analisa’s dream of going to the Olympics, it doesn’t come as a surprise to her father. “She works hard, and as long as she enjoys it, we are going to support her.”

The year-round training, save for a week or two here and there, is interspersed with competitions that start in the spring. Then comes summer training and competitions at the Minto Skating Cub and Thornhill Figure Skating Club, leading up to the last fall competition prior to Eastern Ontario qualifications in November. Only the top four get to go on to the Skate Canada Challenge in Regina in December. It’s the competition that qualifies athletes for the Canadian Figure Skating Championships. Analisa has competed in the Challenge for the last two years at pre-novice, a level that does not compete in the national championships. This year, as a novice, she will show them what she can do with her double axle. Several triples are “close.”

Music is a huge part of the experience for Analisa. “Expressing myself through the music … is one of the most important things to me,” she says. But it’s no small feat to make the jumps, spins and moves look easy while conveying emotion and keeping time. After all, the same music is used over and over again and her coach has the final say in selecting it. “Even if it isn’t my favourite piece of music I am stuck with it for two years,” she points out. “You still have to look like you love it.”

As for the dreaded fall to ice-crusted earth— and everyone does it, from beginner Canskater to Olympic medallist—Analisa is nonplussed: “You gotta put it behind you and get back up as fast as you can and continue on. If you start thinking about it too much you start to mess up more. To be able to recover from a bad fall is what separates the athletes from the figure skaters.”

As the busy life, both on and off ice, continues for Analisa, her club is also gearing up for a special year: 2014 marks the 110th anniversary of the Minto Skating Club. “We are all excited about that,” says Lisa, “as it means there will be a big anniversary ice show on April 12, and lots of the more senior kids will get to show off their talent. Likely we’ll have special guests as well.”

Between now and then, expect to find Analisa doing what she loves. As her Instagram photo declares, “No words can describe the way I feel on the ice.” But she’ll try, just this time, for us: “When I am skating it feels like I am in a dream and it hasn’t gotten to the end but I am halfway there. And every day, every practice, every program makes me one step closer. That feeling when you first step on the ice at 6:30 a.m. and you can hear your blade cutting through the ice, listening to the lights buzz, and breathing in the cool crisp air is a feeling that nothing else can replace. It’s magical.”

This entry was posted in People and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.