The B.C. Centre of Excellence is sending a strong group of novice figure skaters to the upcoming Canadian championships in Mississauga, Ont., beginning this Sunday.
Eleven-year-old Eric Liu of Burnaby, the winner of the novice boys' singles title at the Skate Canada Challenge in Regina last month, will lead a four-member team all with aspirations for a podium showing next week.
The other up-and-coming novice skaters include 15-year-old Adonis Wong and 13-year-olds Kelsey Wong and Belvina Mao.
"I think that all four have an opportunity to represent Canada one day," said Level 5 centre head coach and program director Joanne McLeod. "This internationally bound group of athletes are all dedicated - no nonsense - they all work very hard and throughout the year have shown signs that merits them being on the podium."
There is little doubt that strong freeskating is the hallmark of this up-and-coming group.
Liu was fifth after the opening short program, but put together a highlight moment in his skating life to score 81.37 points in the free program to win the men's event by more than 10 points.
Adonis Wong also skated his best in the long program, coming back from ninth place to post the second-best score in the free skate and finish fifth overall.
Kelsey Wong showed even more resolve, coming back from 15th-place following the initial skate to post a 69.06 score in the free program and place just off the podium in fourth spot in the novice women's final.
Mao placed eighth overall at the Challenge and was one of four B.C. skaters to finish in the top eight.
The group will be accompanied by centre of excellence coaches Jill Marie-Harvey, one of only three Level 4 coaches in the province, and former British men's singles champion Neil Wilson.
Liu, whose father is a former ice dance champion from China, "has very quick feet and very musical," McLeod said, adding Adonis is a strong competitor. "When he's on, he's a powerhouse."
Kelsey, no relation to Adonis, has got all the tools, McLeod said.
"She can go quite far and is following in the footsteps of a Joannie Rochette. She's special and very athletic and flexible. She just needs to believe in herself."
Mao is a joy to watch, added McLeod. "She has a very angelic feel on the ice, you never get tired of watching her," she said.
For these four young skaters, it is their moment to shine.
The novice level is also the real gateway to serious competition.
"The sport is a wonderful hobby that provides recreation, fitness and a passion. But novice is like the margin between that and not losing that game face," said McLeod.
The centre of excellence will also be sending arguably the strongest novice ice dance contingent to the nationals.
Challenge champions Danielle Wu and Spencer Soo of Burnaby will join podium partners Alexa Linden and Tyler Miller in Mississauga. Also joining them at the nationals are sixth-place finishers Brianna Delmaestro and Graeme Gordon.
The novice men's and women's short programs and ice dance pattern dance begin on Monday.
Junior and senior finals are scheduled from the following Thursday to Sunday.