By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s been a long road, but hard work is now paying off for Emma Cullen.
The Oshawa freestyle figure skater is set to compete at Skate Canada’s national championship in Halifax on Jan. 22 and will be up against 17 of the country’s best skaters at the senior level.
The O’Neill CVI grad spent several years with Oshawa Skating Club before moving her training to Richmond Hill last year. Cullen has several accolades in the skating world, including the Eastern Ontario Senior Ladies champion in 2014/15 and a silver medal at the 2014 Ontario Super Series.
As she awaits her flight to the east coast on Jan. 20, the 18-year-old says she’s more excited than anything else.
“I haven’t hit the nervous stage yet,” she tells The Oshawa Express with a laugh. “I’m just excited right now.”
When she hits the ice in Halifax, it will mark her second appearance on the national stage, having competed at the novice level two years ago in Ottawa. She placed sixth in that appearance.
To make it to the national level, skaters must carve out a name for themselves at a pair of other tournaments in order to qualify.
The first is the sectional championships and for Cullen’s eastern Ontario section, that meant travelling to Napanee at the start of November to compete.
Only the top four qualify for the next stage. Cullen placed second.
The result punched her ticket to the Skate Canada Challenge in Edmonton. There, Cullen competed with 36 of the country’s best skaters, hoping to be one of the top 16 to move on to the national championships.
She skated to a seventh-place finish.
Now, sitting ninth in the rankings heading into the competition, Cullen is training six days a week in anticipation of the event. The top two skaters in Halifax will move on to the world championship in March in Boston.
However, Cullen says she doesn’t like to look too far ahead, and the same goes for any future Olympic dreams.
“I’m just taking it one year at a time, trying to better myself each year, each competition, getting a better personal best, but obviously that would be the ultimate dream,” she says.
Currently, Cullen is waiting on word of her acceptance to York University’s dance program, where she hopes to fuel her passion for choreography. However, before that, she plans to take an extra year at O’Neil following this semester, which she has taken off to train.
The national championship is set to get underway on Jan. 18 with Cullen slated to skate on Jan. 22 and 23.