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A bright flame on the glistening ice

by Alexis Deleon-Giron November 24, 2020
A bright flame on the glistening ice

Student-athlete Kalena Korbiak is a three-time vice Canadian figure skating champion

Did you know that Concordia University’s psychology program holds a second-year student who is also a figure skating sensation?

At just 21-years-old, Kalena Korbiak is a three-time vice Canadian figure skating champion with her Montreal-based synchronized skating team, Les Suprêmes. In this context, “vice” means that the team stood second on the podium at the national level.

Korbiak has been an avid skater since she was four, when she was introduced to the sport by a family friend at the Aréna de Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts in the Laurentians.

“We were just sitting there at the arena, watching, and she said ‘Oh mommy, mommy! I wanna go shkate too. I wanna go shkate,’” said Vera Korbiak, humoristically imitating her then-four-year-old daughter.

“It’s something I connected with. It automatically became part of my identity since I was placed in it at such a young age,” said Korbiak.

From that day on, Korbiak joined the Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts skating club as a freestyle skater, and competed regionally in that category from the age of nine until she joined her elite synchronised skating team at 17.

Her loyalty to the sport was tested numerous times as she enrolled in other disciplines throughout the years, like downhill skiing, horseback riding, and even Ukrainian dancing. However, none could compete with the feeling she got once strapped in those skates.

“I was always placed into something else in order to help me with figure skating, particularly ballet,” said Korbiak . “Me and my mom decided that I was going to be doing ballet and I did so for six years until the end of high school to improve my core and skating skills.”

As a child, Korbiak would head to skating practice right after school. Korbiak and her mom would then drive from their hometown of Sainte-Adèle to Montreal for karate lessons; a Ukrainian dance class followed. If that isn’t exhausting enough, she would sleep at her grandmother’s in the east end of Montreal so that she could attend Ukrainian school on Saturday mornings, and Girl Guides later.

That lasted for three years until ballet replaced karate. Two years later, she stopped Ukrainian dancing.

During her last year of high school, in 2016, her devotion to figure skating finally paid off. After obtaining the highest regional score in her different freestyle elements, she earned an eight-minute solo at the Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts 2016 Fantaisie sur Glace Gala.

“The people there were saying ‘Oh my god she’s such a beautiful skater,’” said Vera. “I always told them the secret is ballet because that really brings out the beauty in a skater.”

This was Korbiak’s first year with Les Suprêmes.

“I found out about Les Suprêmes when I was about to go to Dawson and was staying with my grandparents in the east end,” Korbiak said. “So, I did my research and found out they were doing synchro in Saint-Leonard, and that the team was looking for skaters, so I tried it out.”

At that point, Korbiak had only been doing freestyle and was completely new to synchro. The audition period had already ended, but the team had still not found the number of skaters they required. When Korbiak showed up, she was thrown right into a practice to see if she could keep up with the choreography.

“We were and are always looking for skaters that can show different technical skills and are well rounded,” said Geneviève Rougeau, the team’s head coach for the last two years. “I think Korbiak fit in that category perfectly.”

Rougeau explained that right out of the gate, Korbiak demonstrated exemplary skills, executional versatility, and quick adaptation, which is exactly what they were looking for.

Not only was she quick to adjust, but she was quick to make new friends.

“I am actually pretty shy, so I don’t usually talk much to new people, but I noticed right away that [Korbiak] was super bubbly. She came up and started talking to me right away. I learned very quickly that she is a really nice and friendly person,” said Aly Bernardo, a fellow Les Suprêmes skater who has been on the team for 15 years.

Ultimately, Korbiak aspires to become a renowned national figure skating freestyle coach. As for synchro, she wants to take it up a notch and enter the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships (WSSC) in the senior division and become an international Canadian champion.

 

Photos courtesy of Kalena Korbiak

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