Canada has such a long history of fantastic figure skating talent that to cover it all would take several volumes. “Taking the Ice: Success Stories From the World of Canadian Figure Skating” is a wonderful overview of stories of skating from a wide selection of Canadian skating stars. As a coach, PA announcer, commentator and blogger, Ms. Kwong has seen the sport from all angles, seen all the major events first-hand, and is the perfect figure skating insider to write this compilation and share her views with us. Her own enthusiasm for the sport is evident on every page.
The book is broken down initially into covering each discipline of Ladies, Mens, Dance and Pairs, with a the landing page of each section covering notable milestones from that group. The next section covers other Canadian skating legends, including coaches and choreographers. Third, there is a section of stories regarding the 2002 Olympic Pairs scandal, with the perspectives of all those Canadian legends who saw it live and their impressions of the events that transpired. This covers skaters, coaches, commentators, judges and more. Lastly there is a chapter covering the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Each person interviewed is given the same amount of page space of about four to five pages, and is asked to define themselves by finishing the statement “I am . . .” Ms. Kwong explains in her introduction that tough choices had to be made in editing, since many of these personalities easily warrant a book all unto themselves. Some of the omissions are obvious: Bob Paul, Francis Dafoe, Lloyd Eisler to name a few. Additionally, I found it odd that such major players as Elvis Stoijko and Don Jackson were not included for the Mens section but rather are placed in the Living Legends section. But as she explained in my podcast interview with her, the intention was to start with a single person who made strides in Canadian skating in the early days of each discipline, and who then directly influenced the skaters that followed.
The stories range from funny (Tracy Wilson asking everyone “How is your sex life?”) to heartbreaking (the loss of Joannie Rochette’s mother just before the Ladies Short Program). Some of the stories might be repetitive for the hard-core skating fan who has read every autobiography of every skater, or follows skating news closely. But even the seasoned fan will find something new to learn from this book. For the newbie skating fan, “Taking the Ice” is the perfect introduction to Canadian skating, and will help get them hooked on learning more about the intriguing figures in the sport.