MONTREAL, MARCH 19, 2012 – When Sasha Cohen was skating towards her Olympic silver medal at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, a young Julia Sagaria was sitting at home, watching her in awe….One day… she thought to herself.
“I always liked the way the girls on the ice looked like they were flying across the ice and that they were having a good time,” said Julia, thinking back to her first taste of figure skating. “I was young, around four or five years old and I used to watch it on television. Then my mom used to take me free skating in Montreal North. There were always club skaters who got onto the ice after free skating and it inspired me.”
Flash forward more than a decade since her toe pick first scratched the ice, the now 17-year-old Sagaria has her sights set directly on earning a trip to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, however, she credits the Lester B. Pearson High School Sports-Études program for helping this dream become so close to reality.
“It was a lot of hard work. In high school, it helped a lot to be a part of Sports-Études,” she said. “That allowed me to go to school and train a lot. I used to finish school every day at 12:00 and then I used to go to the rink and train from 12:30 to 5:15 every day. That really helped me out.”
“I always had a very busy schedule, but the program is so well done that everybody really helped me,” added Julia. “Casey Gagné and the teachers always kept me on track. When I had a competition, I would e-mail the teachers and they would send me my work ahead of time.”
Yet, while qualifying for the world’s grandest stage is the most important goal for Julia, she realizes that it will take a tremendous amount of hard work and effort to ensure that she earns one of the two available Canadian spots.
“Starting in the summer, there’s the provincial competition. Once school has already started, there are two competitions: the Quebec Sectional Competition, and from there, you have to qualify to go to the Divisional Competition. After the Divisional Competition, you must also qualify to go to the Canadian Championships,” said Julia. “In 2011, I finished first in Quebec at Sectionals. Skate Canada took the top eight for the Divisional Competition, where I also finished first. In the Canadian Championships, I finished third.”
With a final score of 115.34 last year, less than six points behind second place Kitty Qian of British Columbia/Yukon and nine points behind first place Roxanne Rheault of Quebec, Sagaria was certainly focused, putting the pieces in place to qualify for Sochi.
“The Olympics are my big dream, but I know it takes a lot of work, and that’s what I’m working towards right now. But for sure, it’s a big dream of mine,” she said. “I just have to continue to work hard and hopefully it will pay off in the way I want it to. Hard work always pays off.”
The hard work is certainly paying dividends for Sagaria as at the 2011 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, she was ranked second following the short program, however, a fourth ranked free skate allowed her to walk away with a bronze medal.
It is this drive and determination which will undoubtedly make this LBPHS graduate a contender for 2014, and if she has one word of advice for students considering Sports-Études or those currently enrolled, it’s to appreciate the wonderful opportunity they have.
“My advice to my fellow students is that it’s a great program. Trust it,” said Julia. “You can go to school and practice your sport at the same time, so take advantage of this and work hard in both aspects.”