The best-known figure skater ever to come out of Kelowna no longer competes on the ice.
Still, four years after retiring from the sport, Craig Buntin remains one of its most passionate advocates.
Buntin, 34, is back in his hometown this week for Skate Canada International, a three-day competition at Prospera Place featuring many of the world’s top skaters.
Buntin, who is serving as the event’s athlete ambassador, said skating fans in Kelowna are in for a treat.
“For the fans here to see the skating live, to see the speed of these pairs coming out of the corner into these big lifts…it’s a chance to catch the bug,” said Buntin, who lives in Montreal.
“If you’ve watched the world championships or the Olympics, this is the calibre of skating, this is as good as it gets in the world. This is the best of the best. If you’ve never seen it, just come to watch at least one event.”
Among the 56 competitors from 12 countries are four of Canada’s most renowned skaters—Olympic team silver medalists and world pairs bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford; and world ice dance silver medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
While Buntin—a former Olympian and Canadian silver medalist in pairs—won’t be competing this weekend, he will put his own stamp on the event.
Buntin has designed a computer program called VeriSkate which tracks and analyzes the movements and tendencies of skaters like never before.
VeriSkate will be used for the first time at Skate Canada International.
“Things like who’s the fastest skater, who’s covering the most ice…suddenly for the first time in the history of the sport we’re actually going to be showing that at this event,” said Buntin. “From a skater’s perspective this has the ability to totally change an athlete’s ability to train and compete.”
As for the residual impacts of the event, Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray said Skate Canada International is expected to generate about $4 million in economic spinoffs for the city.
CTV and TSN will be providing live television coverage of the event throughout the weekend.
For more information on the event, visit skatecanada.ca