The Lethbridge Figure Skating Club had its beginning in 1939 when a group of parents asked Helen Cantwell to come from Calgary to form a figure skating club. Shortly after arriving in Lethbridge, Helen met and married Glen Little and gave up her career as a skating coach. As a result, Ethel and Don Higgins took over and taught until the late 1940’s. During this time, the Club was not affiliated with the Canadian Figure Skating Association (CFSA) and concentrated solely on free skate. Each season ended with a carnival. In 1948, Beth and Ralph Fogal took over as ‘Club Pros’ for four years and under their guidance, the Club as we know it was born and finally became a member of the CFSA. The Club carried on for a few years and then disbanded due to a lack of funds.
In 1959, Sonja Jacobson and her mother, Peggy Currie, together with a group of interested people reactivated the Club. Since that time, the Club has enjoyed many successes starting with the first annual summer school in 1966. It was hoped that the extra training would raise the caliber of skaters from Southern Alberta. Currie was a particularly outstanding coach, her students passing averaged 90%.
In 1968, the Club hired Sonja Davis as head coach until 1978 when she retired after her marriage to Art Batty. Sonja had a creative flair for producing ice carnivals and the show was always an enchanting event for the skaters and audience. 1962 World Champion, Donald Jackson guest skated in the club’s carnival four times during this decade. In 1970, the Club had an overwhelming increase in membership from 150 to 230 skaters over the previous season, making it necessary to hire three full time coaches. 1971 also saw the beginning of an adult skating class in conjunction with the City of Lethbridge. Response was so great, enrolment had to be limited to 75 skaters. In 1974, the Club hosted the Alberta/NWT Championships. The fall of 1974 brought coach Jan Ullmark (former Swedish National Champion) to the club (he later coached Jamie Sale and David Pelletier to Olympic Gold in 2010). In 1975, Cori-Jo and Bill Petrunik won the Gold medal in Novice Pairs at the Jeux Canada Games held at the new Sportsplex. They became Gold Medalists in Novice Pairs at the 1976 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. In 1976, Nesta Davies (1954 World Silver Ice Dance medalist) was hired, putting some deep edges in our dancers. In 1979, Natalie Reimer was the Canada Winter Games Gold Medalist and in 1982 she placed second at Canadians in Junior Ladies.
The skating season was extended in 1981 when a fall school was added. The first precision team (Synchronized Skating) was formed in 1980 under the guidance of Maureen Hitman and they competed at the Big Sky Championships in Great Falls. In 1983, a second team was formed. In 1986, the Novice team qualified to compete at Canadians in Vancouver with their coach, Lori David. In 1987, the Novice team also qualified to compete at Canadians in Laval, Quebec under coach, Katherine Webb.
In 1991, Stephen Bourque was successful in winning the Alberta Sectional Juvenile Men’s title under coach, Cathy Webb while representing the Lethbridge Figure Skating Club. He continued to compete as a member of the Royal Glenora Club (Edmonton) winning the 1993 Alberta Sectional Pre-Novice Men’s title and competed in the 1998 Canadian Junior Men’s event. Jason Turner, a former Lethbridge skater, and his partner, Jamie Salé, competed in France and Germany, winning a bronze medal. They competed at Canadians, winning two Golds and one Bronze, then headed to Worlds in Tokyo in 1993. In 1994, they competed at the Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Other Club skaters who placed well on the Canadian scene during this time were Jennifer White, Candace Daku and Jamie Beresnak.
The New Millennium
More recently, the club has seen success in its competitive program, with Jazlyn Tabachniuk earning the title of 2011 Alberta-NWT/Nunavut Pre-Novice Sectional Champion, and Brynley Gross earning the title of 2014 Pre-Juvenile U11 Women’s Sectional Champion. The LSC’s Synchronized Skating Program has also seen growth and success, sending teams to compete at the Skate Canada National Championships in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017. In 2013, the club officially changed its name from Lethbridge Figure Skating Club to Lethbridge Skating Club to more accurately reflect its diversity. In the fall of 2013, the club launched an inclusive skating program as a pilot program with Skate Canada Alberta-NWT/Nunavut. The program saw great success, growing to 21 skaters in the second season. With a wealth of experience in skating, coach Angela Mann, who loves to pass down her love of skating, celebrated 25 years of coaching with the Lethbridge Skating Club in 2016. 2016 also brought a new home to the Lethbridge Skating Club. After decades of operation in the Civic Ice Centre in downtown Lethbridge, the club moved to the new ATB Centre in West Lethbridge.
The Club continues to provide group and individual lessons to skaters of all ages, including a power skating program for hockey and ringette players. The tradition of ending each winter season with a carnival is still being carried on today.
Lethbridge Sports Hall of Fame Inductees
- 1985 Yvonne ‘Sonja’ Currie Jacobson (Builder)
- 1985 Peggy Currie (Builder)
- 1988 Natalie Reimer Shaby (Athlete)
- 1988 Bill & Cori-Jo Petrunik (Team)
- 1996 Don & Ethel Higgins (Builders)
- 1999 Colleen Gunnlaugson (Builder)
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