Canada’s Justine Brasseur, assisted by partner Mathieu Ostiguy, is aiming to emulate her aunt Isabelle, a bronze medallist in the pairs figure skating at the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994, by securing a podium berth at this year’s Winter Youth Olympic Games.
On 13 February, Justine Brasseur (CAN) and her figure skating partner, compatriot Mathieu Ostiguy, will take to the ice in the Hamar Olympic Amphitheatre to showcase their short programme, in the first instalment of the pairs competition at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016. Remarkably, almost exactly 22 years earlier, at the same venue, her aunt Isabelle Brasseur – in tandem with her partner, Lloyd Eisler – earned a bronze medal for Canada at the Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 1994, under the watchful eye of her brother Dominique, Justine’s father.
“Ice skating was always a big thing in our family,” recalls Justine Brasseur. “My parents started to take me to the public rink when I was still in a pushchair. I hadn’t even turned two, and I was still learning to talk. I pointed to the ice, making it clear that I wanted to skate too. My aunt Isabelle gave me a tiny pair of made-to-measure skates and I started skating with a club and then got private lessons a bit later. Since then, I’ve pretty much skated every day.”
The precocious 14-year-old, who is enrolled in a sport-and-study programme at her high school in Montreal, is able to train every afternoon. “As well as skating, I also take part in ballet and off-ice training,” she explains. “I usually put in around 25 hours of training a week. I love dancing and music. I’m also quite studious – for me, education is incredibly important. Despite my busy schedule, I’m doing pretty well at school.”
Selected to represent Canada in the pairs event rather than in the ladies’ singles, in which she picked up a bronze medal at the 2015 Canadian Championships (novice category), Brasseur has not yet made a definitive decision about concentrating on one discipline more than the other. “I’ve still got a few years ahead of me to choose,” she points out.
“In the meantime, I want to push myself hard by continually learning new aspects of the sport. I want to go as far as possible. I tell myself that if I aim to be among the best in my country, I’ll have a better chance of being picked for international events. There could well be better figure skaters than me on the international stage, but it would still be a fantastic experience, and I’d meet lots of great people from all over the world,” she continues.
Before all that, she has the winter YOG to focus on, two decades after her aunt Isabelle and Lloyd Eisler, who also won bronze medals at Albertville 1992 and were crowned world champions in Prague in 1993, impressed on the same rink. “It’s difficult to believe,” says the young Canadian. “My parents were there then, and they’ll be back in the same place this year – to support me this time. My aunt has some wonderful memories of the 1994 Games, and I hope to gain some as well.”
Although she is too young to have witnessed her aunt’s exploits, Brasseur has been able to watch video footage of her performances. “Some of the moves she pulled off back then are really impressive,” she says. “She didn’t seem to be afraid of anything.”
Her more illustrious relative is also a constant source of support. “Isabelle lives quite far from us, but she still comes to cheer me on at each of my competitions. She has a daughter, my cousin Gabriella, who also does pairs skating, so we try to encourage each other. My parents give me a lot of help and support too – they’re there for me in good times and bad.”
Like her aunt before her, the Quebec-born skater will soon get to experience the thrill of Olympic competition for herself. “It’s such an honour to represent my country,” she says. “I’ve received the Canadian team kit, and I’m going to be so proud to wear it. Mathieu and I are the only skating pair competing for Canada in Lillehammer, so we’re going to make the most of the experience!”